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“Breaking The Grass Ceiling”: Committee launches report on the barriers faced by women in the local agriculture sector

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 08 March 2022

Reference: AERA 05/21/22

The Assembly’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee has today launched its ‘Breaking the Grass Ceiling’ Report which highlights the barriers faced by local women working in agriculture. The report also makes a number of recommendations on practical and policy measures that could be introduced to promote, encourage and support women in the sector.  

Speaking after the launch of the report, the Committee Chairperson, Declan McAleer MLA said: Local women play a crucial role within the farming and agriculture sector and are, in many ways, the backbone of family farms, often spearheading diversification and modernisation. However, unfortunately, their role has been overlooked for decades and issues including traditional practices of farm inheritance have prevented women from entering and thriving in what is typically seen as a male-dominated environment.

“In carrying out this review it was vitally important to us that we heard from women directly. We were therefore delighted to receive nearly 180 responses to our survey from women living or working in the local agriculture industry. Our findings highlight the complexity of challenges faced by women and the range of practical, social and cultural barriers which prevent them from taking on opportunities and progressing in the sector.

“While 98% of respondents agreed that women help improve farm productivity, a staggering 70% told us that the culture within the sector is a challenge, that women are often not treated equally to men and that there is a lack of acceptance of women farmers in some quarters.

“Our survey also found that as well as undertaking hands-on tasks, many women in the sector juggle their work with running the household, managing finances and paperwork as well as looking after children and older relatives. Some 67% of respondents noted that they also hold down jobs ‘off the farm’.”

Mr. McAleer continued: “Unlike other jurisdictions, the role of women in agriculture here has received comparatively little policy attention. Scotland for example has implemented a series of effective measures following the recommendations of a “Women in Agriculture Taskforce”, while the Irish Government has pledged to increase grant support for women farmers to upgrade their machinery and equipment and to establish women-only knowledge groups. We are now calling on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to follow suit by implementing our recommendations and to begin this process by commissioning an independent, academically-led review to understand further, the issues affecting women in the agricultural sector.”

Mr. McAleer concluded: “While we realise that this review will not level the playing field for women overnight, we are confident that it will shine a light on the key issues and provide a clear path towards developing a holistic approach to policy change within the sector.

“On this International Women’s Day, we will also be bringing a motion to the Assembly calling on MLAs to recognise the practical, social and cultural barriers faced by women in the industry and to acknowledge the crucial and valuable role that women play in running farms and agri-businesses.”

The Assembly’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee has today (International Women’s Day 2022) launched its ‘Breaking the Grass Ceiling’ Report which highlights the barriers faced by local women working in agriculture. The report also makes a number of recommendations on practical and policy measures that could be introduced to promote, encourage and support women in the sector. Pictured (left-right) are Clare Bailey MLA, Rosemary Barton MLA, David Brown, Deputy President Ulster Farmers' Union, Declan McAleer MLA, Committee Chairperson and Louise Coyle, Director, Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network.

ENDS

Notes to Editor:

  • The full Committee Report is available here and a Summary Report can be accessed here:
  • The Committee survey ran from 03 December 2021 – 14 January 2022 and received 178 responses.
  • The Committee Motion was debated during the Assembly Plenary Session on Tuesday 8 March. You can watch the debate here via https://lk.cmte.fyi/bgc22

Committee Membership:
Mr Declan McAleer MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Philip McGuigan MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Ms Clare Bailey MLA
Mrs Rosemary Barton MLA
Mr John Blair MLA
Mr Thomas Buchanan MLA
Mr Harry Harvey MLA
Mr William Irwin MLA
Mr Patsy McGlone MLA

For media enquiries, please contact:
Sinead Murphy
Deputy Communications Officer
Northern Ireland Assembly   
Tel: 029 90 52 5938 Mob: 07899 864368
Email: Sinead.murphy@niassembly.gov.uk 

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