Girl boss

Of course this sort of shit happens on a Monday. And by shit I mean I literally drove for an hour for no reason.

I had a reason, an interview with a farmer. Who actually called me on Friday to say he couldn’t make Monday. Due to phone number switch over (and some lovely people not forwarding my old phone to my new one) I never got that message. Ugh!

Anyways. On wards we go.

I did think of writing something relating to recent environmental debacle that has resulted in dairying once again being the Rickon Stark to Ramsay Bolton (#ShouldaZigZagged) *If you don’t get this reference you seriously need to watch Game of Thrones*

However, over the weekend  while I was blog planning I had a sudden thought. Gender. Specifically the question of gender imbalance in agriculture. Now, I know women have played a large role in agriculture since the dawn of time and that we have many amazing women in industry right now doing incredible things.But lets be real. In many ways, farming and primary industries is still a mans world.

Anthropology perhaps comes into play. Since before we evolved from  Homo Erectus or even Homo habilis to Homo Sapiens there have been (apparently) specified gender roles. Man make fire, women make babies – that sort of thing, so we could be fighting against nature a bit in a bid to cross gender roles.

Before anyone goes biting my head off, I genuinely believe we as a country have made some big strides forward in this space, we have a number of women in positions of leadership in our primary industries and many more up and coming leaders and top notch farmers.

BUT I do wonder though why is it the Young Farmer of the year contest is highly male dominated. Same thing for Smedley.

Now there are a few trains of thought around this, firstly that females are more likely to go down the avenue of a university degree over a practical course, you only need to look at the vet school intake at Massey to see this. Whether or not this is because females in general have a high level of intelligence or are more inclined to go down the scholarly route in life seems to be up for debate but could be a valid argument.

Secondly,  the very old school adage that women aren’t cut out for physical labour (codswallop in my opinion). I also wonder if we aren’t making enough of an effort to attract and encourage young women into agriculture. The positivist in me says various institutions are putting a large effort into this, but somewhere, are faltering. The pessimistic in me says people are continuing on with the status quo.

Drawing from my own experience, I have a thirdly. Other peoples attitudes. During my time as a sales rep (which many will know can be a highly male dominated area) anytime my male boss was with me on farm visits, he would automatically get the attention of the farmer, regardless of the relationship I had with them. I even had one guy tell me he wouldn’t deal with me because of my age and gender. To be perfectly honest, it made me feel like I didn’t have a show in hell of being a success in that sort of job because of gender (cue, “you’re too soft, harden up” comments).

Now although I know these attitudes aren’t overly common, clearly they are still there. Are these old school attitudes putting off our bright young women from getting stuck into farming  and rural related jobs and making it harder for them to feel accepted, respected  and ‘heard’ ?

Part of me thinks that this element in farming will die out as our aging rural population does (could not think of a nice way of putting this- sorry!) and as the younger generation comes through attitudes will change too. The other part of me thinks that changing peoples attitudes takes time, and perhaps the efforts being put into acknowledging the amazing women we have running farms these will not be fruitless after all, it will just take a bit of time.

Lets be real here for a second. How attractive does our farming industry sound right now? Not very enticing for young people to step up into an industry that is surrounded by so much bul*sh** (no pun intended). We have mainstream media to thank for much of this. Oh and Greenpeace, can’t forget them. Oh and Safe.

Now, aside from this image issue we have (which to be fair is another issue entirely), I heard not so long ago that women were told at a gathering that their job was to “support their farmer husbands”. It’s great to support one another, but where is the encouragement to go out there and run your own show if YOU want to?  I can think of only two women in my journalism career who have been the “boss” and running their own properties, stats which I find a bit sad really.

Don’t get me wrong, all the other farmers I talk to aren’t just blokes running the show themselves, there are countless husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends running the show TOGETHER, which I 100% support. What I don’t support is the suggestion a women’s place is in the kitchen, a supporter. Which leads me to a question: are others blocking women out of the industry? or are we inadvertently blocking ourselves out with this kind of talk ?

Let me reiterate the “if YOU want to bit” because I can hear you all shouting at me from here. I know not every woman has the desire to be out there at #4.31am milking cows, fixing fencing and keeping track of the million things that happen in a day, some are happy with their out of farming jobs and raising a family and taking up the role of supporter. But I’m sure there are some women out there, who have always wanted to be a girl-boss on the farm, but hasn’t felt that it was something she could do out of lack of support and encouragement from those around her and the greater industry. It’s all about having a choice and not feeling blocked out because you’re a female.

I am in no doubt many people will disagree with some of my comments, which you are more than welcome to. I think in recent years with the likes of the Dairy Women’s networks,Rural Women and the Agri-Womens development trust there have been big improvements in encouraging and supporting our women in industry but perhaps we still have a ways to go to breaking through our biological natures.

But who knows – perhaps Mrs Homo habilis ran the show all those thousands of years ago, and Mr habilis  merely a bystander in the whole thing. And lets face it, he probably stood there scratching is manhood while the Mrs invented fire.

2 comments

  1. I think it has a lot to do with gender stereotypes. You grow up influenced by the role models that you encounter. For most of us our families play a huge part in this. Most little girls want to be princesses at some stage or like to play at being a Mum. While there is nothing wrong with this, sometimes it’s because they can’t imagine themselves in a traditional “male” career because they have never seen a woman in that role. I have two daughters, and recently took one to see nano girl’s show. She is a scientist, and has a passion for inspiring children (especially girls) to pursue careers as scientists or engineers. She is on twitter if you search. Her show involved lots of very cool experiments, often featuring explosions 😀 After the show I was blown away by the fact that the kids treated her like a rockstar! They lined up for autographs and selfies. She was selling tee shirts and little lab coats that the kids were getting her to sign. Very, very impressive. That was probably the first time most of them had met a scientist, and what a great first impression. I think maybe we need more visible female role models in our industry.

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