A team from Griffith University have been working with the Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance (RJSA) on research looking at rural and farm businesswomen’s needs in aspiring to leadership roles within the industry. The research looks at understanding the role of women and the contribution they make in agricultural and rural businesses in order to identify the training and development needs to enable these women to develop their leadership potential.
In Queensland, more than half of all women working in agriculture are employed as farmers or farm managers, and they contribute 33 per cent of all on-farm income. However, women play a major role in contributing to day-to-day living and farm survival through their off-farm earnings, which is estimated to contribute an estimated $2,715 million* or 84 per cent of all off-farm income. Women must also be recognised for the unpaid domestic work, and the volunteer, civic and governance activities that they undertake.
A report by the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) found that farming businesswomen actively carry out leadership activities both in agriculture and within their communities, and these activities include mentoring, being a spokesperson or advocate within industry and the community, and being members on committees or boards. Women are also active in diversifying, innovating and value adding to existing businesses, developing new commercial opportunities within farms or initiating new business ventures.
While many women are active both economically and in leadership roles, the research identified that minimal support exists to enable them to achieve greater leadership potential. The QFF report was based on a survey which identified that the aspirations of farm businesswomen are varied, but we do not yet know what their priorities are and how these differ between different sectors and regions and development needs, and at different life and family stages.
What we do know is that women are a vital part of the agriculture industry, both economically and socially, especially in rural communities, and are the driving force behind business expansion and entrepreneurial activities. These women want to expand their roles and undertake opportunities that will help them realise their leadership potential and importantly be recognised by their partners and industry for the role they play as farm businesswomen. Therefore, training and development plans need to consider the complexities and priorities of women who manage the mix of farm, family, location and community, and recognise that women are important economic and social contributors to the wider agricultural industry.
Contributors: Susan Ressia, Glenda Strachan, Mary Rogers, Kim Ball and Ruth McPhail
*based on 2005-2007 data.