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Women in the Ag Workforce

By Sonya Buck, Australia


The workforce participation rate for women is 59.5%, and for men is 71.0%. 


Women working in Agriculture represent only 28.5% of workers working full or part time. This does not include the enormous contribution that women make on the land, with their labour and administration on the family farm which is rarely reported.


So many factors affect women’s workforce participation, and the cost of child care and its availability has to be one major influence.   Like the well-reported gender pay gap, absence from the workforce to care for children impacts the amount of superannuation accrued for retirement and progression to more senior positions.


In 1984, the Sex Discrimination Act came into force, making it against the law to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender, sexuality, marital status, family responsibilities or while women are pregnant.


Despite the introduction of the Act, in 2014 one in two (49 percent) of mothers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work. This is just one of the statistics available to prove this assertion.  From reports in the recent media, discrimination seems to have remained the same.


Although changes such as employers not being to include a particular gender in their advertising, anecdotally you hear that this can drive discrimination underground, with some employers simply disregarding women’s applications.


It’s not all doom and gloom as there are many organisations now supporting women working in Agriculture. 


These fantastic groups encourage women to fly and embrace their role in the Agricultural workforce with their support through professional development, events, social media interaction and so much more.  Just Google ‘Women in Agriculture Australia’ and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Women in Agriculture can support each other by participating in groups including the Rural Women’s Network and Women in Agriculture, just to name two.


As an employer what can you do to improve workplace gender issues?


As an employer ensure you follow best practice and this can be found on the Fair Work Ombudsman website. 


Employers need to ensure you have the appropriate policies in place to address equality issues and make sure you provide training for your Managers.   Ensure roles are assigned on ability, not gender.


If you are allowing your male employees to work from home, why not allow your female employees?


It’s evident that employees, whatever gender, just want to be treated fairly and equally and if you achieve this, you’ll have a happy and more productive workplace.


Sources: * Workplace Gender Equality Agency | Feb 2016

**Human Rights Commission Face the facts: Gender Equality