The Ulster Farmers’ Union says its first Women in Agriculture conference was a success, attracting over 200 delegates to learn, network and debate the contribution of women working in the agri-food industry.
Keynote speakers included Joyce Bannerman-Campbell, co-chairperson of the Scottish government’s Women in Agriculture taskforce who urged delegates not to be “shrinking violets” and to be proud to work in the industry as a ‘driver of change’.
Jennifer Hawkes, chair of the UFU’s rural affairs committee, said the event recognised the reality that women have always played a key role in farm businesses and the wider industry – often behind the scenes.
“With farming seen historically as predominately male-led, the conference raised the profile of women working in agriculture and the valuable contribution they make. The event was a real success and we hope to build on what was achieved – not least how the speakers inspired and motivated women who despite their contribution, can feel ignored in the farming equation,” said Hawkes.
The conference also saw the launch of the UFU’s new partnership with Women in Business. This new partnership will help to pave the way for more women from rural areas to take up business and leadership training opportunities.
“We want to see more women involved within the structure of the UFU, but we do recognise the barriers. Training is one issue, but there are other barriers such as lack of opportunity, access to childcare and employment responsibilities off-farm. There’s a lot of hidden work that women do on farms to keep the farm business going and that will not change. However, there is clearly an appetite to move the role women play in the agricultural industry further up the agenda,” said Hawkes.