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Rural women represent more than a quarter of the global population. She cultivates land, plants seeds and feeds nations. She is an indispensable part of agriculture, but it is still searching for her space: a space with easy access to technology, property and financing. A space full of opportunities and free of prejudice.

Women in Agriculture say barriers to equality persist, removal could take decades, study reveals. In a survey conducted by Corteva, women say they see progress but that it’s too slow. In addition to citing financial disparities, fewer than half feel acknowledged, heard, or empowered to make decisions.

In partnership with Corteva Agriscience Kreative Koalas is inviting young Australians to help build bridges over the barriers and create a fairer world for all.

To deliver on all the Sustainable Development Goals, including quality education, poverty alleviation, clean energy, reduced inequalities, good health, and wellbeing, and zero hunger, it is critical that we achieve the goal of gender equality. This will have a positive influence on the collective goals that we aim to achieve by 2030.

As well as representing 49.5% of the global population, women represent half of the total agricultural labour force in developing countries. Yet the truth is that women still face greater constraints than men in accessing land, technology, markets, infrastructure and services.

With a radical change in thinking and collaborative community efforts, we can all contribute to narrow the ongoing gender equality gap and realise a prosperous and sustainable world where women are recognised on the same footing as men. That is an equal world we all want to live in sooner rather than later.

Taking a positive stand for gender equality doesn’t just impact women too. For example, studies show that if we provide female farmers with the same access to resources as their male counterparts, they could bring 100-150 million people out of hunger: that’s men, women, and children.

“Female farmers comprise 43% of the developing world’s agricultural labour force. Despite this, the yield gap between men and women averages 20-30%. In addition, women only receive 5% of all agricultural extension services worldwide. Evidence shows that when women are given the same access to resources, services and economic opportunities, there is a significant increase in agricultural output and immediate and long-term social and economic gains, all contributing to the reduction in the number of poor and hungry people.” (FAO, 2021)

By providing resources and opportunities to both men and women and uniting together, we can globally achieve our sustainable development goals at a faster rate. Not only would this increase productivity for all, but it would establish a wider knowledge base in the decision-making process. Improving inclusivity and accessibility to resources by giving all rural people the opportunity to share information and experience from all sectors and roles gives everyone a voice and means everyone is heard and included.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of achieving gender equity and empowering all women and girls is near on the horizon and we are making significant improvements. Yet there is more we can do by uniting together and aligning community efforts in the same positive, equitable direction. FAO has taken great strides to tackle the root cause, and we can all contribute further by supporting the move forward in local and community organisations.

To deliver on all the Sustainable Development Goals, including quality education, poverty alleviation, clean energy, reduced inequalities, good health, and wellbeing, and zero hunger, it is critical that we achieve the goal of gender equality. This will have a positive influence on the collective goals that we aim to achieve by 2030.

Gender equality and women empowerment in food and agriculture

Author: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | Citation: (FAO, 2020)

FAO recognises that both men and women can make a significant contribution as allies to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Goals. The force behind the positive impacts comes from the rural industry as a whole:

  • Women comprise, on average, 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries.
  • Women in agriculture and rural areas have less access than men to productive resources and opportunities. The gender gap is found for many assets, inputs and services and it imposes costs on the agriculture sector, the broader economy and society as well as on women themselves.
  • Female farmers produce less than male farmers, but not because they are less-efficient farmers – extensive empirical evidence shows that the productivity gap between male and female farmers is caused by differences in input use.
  • Closing the gender gap in agriculture would generate significant gains for the agriculture sector and for society. By provisioning women the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30%. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4%.
  • Production gains of this magnitude could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17%. The potential gains would vary by region depending on how many women are currently engaged in agriculture, how much production or land they control, and how wide a gender gap they face.
  • Policy interventions can help close the gender gap in agriculture and rural labour markets.
  • In addition to these constraints, prevailing gender norms and discrimination often mean that women face an excessive work burden, and that much of their labour remains unpaid and unrecognised.

(FAO – Interview with Terri Raney, editor of The State of Food and Agriculture)

“Gender equality and women’s empowerment are central to achieving the CFS vision to achieve food security for all, by raising levels of nutrition, improving agricultural productivity and natural resource management, and improving the lives of people in rural areas with full and equitable participation in decision-making. Without gender equality and rural women’s economic, social and political empowerment, food security will not be achieved.”

CFS Forum on Women’s Empowerment in the context of Food Security and Nutrition, Rome, 2017 (CFS 2017/Inf 21)

Gender Equality Globally

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, it is a critical foundation for creating a world that is harmonious, sustainable and full of growth and equal opportunity. There has been progress over the past years and decades, with more girls attending school, women serving in more leadership roles, law reforms to address gender equality and women being recognised for their efforts. However, there is room for more to be made.

The Sustainable Development Goals for Gender Equality are a compass to help navigate the change the world recognises that we all need to make in the right step towards gender equality. This is a change for the better! Now the momentum needs to keep building to ensure that the goal of gender diversity is kept as a high priority so we keep moving forward.

This has been a significant milestone, particularly in countries where, historically, inequality followed girls and women through life where they were disadvantaged in education which led to less opportunity in the labour market. Improved work opportunities in the future will reduce the possibility of females ending up in unpaid domestic roles.

Elizabeth Broderick, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission, said in 2010, “Experience shows us that access alone is not enough – that we also need to dismantle the stereotypes and relationships which limit the social and professional realities of girls and boys (and ultimately men and women) if we’re to achieve genuine and lasting change”.

As figures show, this is being achieved through the possibilities and opportunities that are now available to girls and women, primarily through education.

According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021, Education Attainment has the smallest global gender gap. In fact “121 countries have closed at least 95% of their educational gender gaps and 64 countries (more than one-third of the sample) have already achieved at least 99.5% gender parity.”

Following on from education, another important factor in gaining equality between men and women is how they are represented in the labour market. “Participating in labour markets has been an important channel for economic empowerment of women and for building diverse, inclusive and innovative organizations.” (World Economic Forum 2021)

In comparison, it is important to note that whilst we have seen improvements in these areas, Australia has dropped to 50th place in the Global Gender Gap index, as highlighted by the Global Gender Gap Report 2021. Previously a driver for change, we are now falling behind.

“When the index commenced in 2006, Australia was ranked 15th. By 2013, we had dropped to 24th, a fall of nine places in seven years. In the eight years since, however, we have fallen another 26 places, to now rank 50th, putting us behind the vast majority of comparable OECD nations.” (Sydney Morning Herald, 2021)

Research has shown that Australian women begin to fall behind their male counterparts once they leave formal education. At this point the differences are apparent in income, contribution to domestic work, career progression and under-representation in parliament, in the media and on the sporting field.

    2021 statistics of the Australian economy profile show that:
  • Economic participation and opportunity (Legislators, senior officials and managers): Males 62%, Females 38%
  • Political empowerment (Women in parliament): Males 69%, Female 31%
  • Work participation and leadership (Boards of listed companies): Males 69%, Females 31%
  • (Global Gender Gap Report 2021)

“Australia is one of few developed nations that does not actively set targets for gender equality and measure progress towards nationally agreed goals. As a result, we are falling behind.” (Percapita, 2020)

Whilst Australia’s drop in ranking was relative to the commitment to measuring gender equality, globally gender equality was improving. Other countries put plans in place to address gaps, and at the same time overtook Australia on the Global Gender Gap Index. It is clear that constant monitoring and taking action is required in order for Australia to get back on track.

“Ultimately, what is required to rescue Australia’s deteriorating global gender equality performance and deliver meaningful progress towards achieving gender equality in Australia is a bi-partisan commitment to the necessary legislative framework, and the reinstatement of the machinery of government to measure and track progress towards that commitment.” (Percapita, 2020)

To ensure the move to close the gender gap continues to move in the right direction, gender positive recovery strategies are going to be critical in the coming years. This is the time for leaders to grow inclusive workplaces and ally up to give women the opportunity to take on leadership roles in order to build more resilient and gender-equal economies.

This is especially important in light of the setbacks that have occurred. Globally, the World Economic Forum has predicted that achieving global gender parity will take an additional 36 years due to the Coronavirus pandemic, from 99.5 to 135.6 years. Progress in this area has been affected due to women being employed in some of the hardest hit industries, whilst also having the added pressures of providing care at home.

At the World Economic Forum, the Centre for the New Economy and Society recognised Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators. These work with economies to create collaborations “for rapid acceleration to economic parity, focusing on increasing women’s participation in the workforce, closing the gender pay gap, and helping more women advance into leadership roles and develop in-demand skills”.

    This work is important in improving on the statistics which currently show that:
  • Globally, the average distance completed to parity of the gender gap worldwide is at 68%.
  • The proportion of women among skilled professionals continues to increase, as does progress towards wage equality, albeit at a slower pace.
  • (The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021)

The facts about gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals

Author: UN Women | Citation: (UN Women, 2018)

Global movements such as HeForShe and The Spotlight Initiative are already taking affirmative action to tackle these challenges and to end gender violence, provide equal access and opportunities in quality education and health to ultimately achieve equal opportunities in employment, positions of leadership and decision-making.

Gender Equality in Agriculture Globally

To address both gender inequality and the impact it has on food security, there are a number of different programs and organisations that are aimed at addressing the gender gap between men and women specifically in the global agriculture sector. As women often have difficulty in gaining financial support and land ownership, organisations and online platforms such as GrowHer and WOMAG provide resources and education, along with inspirational stories of real-life stories to empower women in agriculture.

Corteva Agriscience are working with women in agriculture across the globe.
They search the globe for stories of women who struggled, overcame obstacles, and won.

Ten women, ten countries, ten stories of love and dedication to agriculture. Watch the first global web series "This Is My Story."

27 Inspiring Women Reshaping the Food System

Author: Foodtank | (Foodtank, 2021)

Gender equality will open doors not only for rural women but also for entire communities. However, for women in particular, land and property ownership reduces their vulnerability, and provides the opportunity to create a solid foundation for a more certain economy. Equality means power over decisions and greater scope of opportunity for future generations.

Already we have seen positive changes to laws relating to gender equality in land ownership. International legal and policy frameworks have been the catalyst for this change. Look to the affirmative action of the Women2Kilimanjaro demanding for more inclusive land rights, along with the 2016 AU pledge to ensure that women make up 30% of landowners by 2025. This movement has resulted in the African Union endorsing the Pan-African Women’s Charter on Land giving rural women legal recognition. In time this will be a positive step towards more inclusive land laws.

Australian Action

The 50/50 by 2030 Foundation has taken the local initiative to support the global gender equality need providing a resource for governments locally, nationally and internationally, to support the move for better gender equality in leadership by 2030. The 50/50 Foundation’s vision is that “By the year 2030 men and women will be equally represented in leadership and key decision making roles at all levels of government and public administration throughout Australia, and across our region.” (50/50 Foundation, 2021)

The progress that has been made is significant and has such a positive impact not only on individuals, but also on other organisations as this diversity leads to better decision making and long-term business outcomes.

Positive changes in gender diversity have been standing out, not only in government and organisational leadership, but also in other areas of the Australian labour force. Agriculture plays a huge role in Australia’s identity and its importance to the economy. It is also a diverse sector!

According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics Sciences (ABARES), “While those working in agriculture are older on average than the general workforce the proportion of under 35-year-olds has risen over the past five years to 24% in 2016. Of those young people, 30% are women, up two per cent from 2011.” (ABARES, 2016).

In 2019, women comprised an estimated 32% of workers in agriculture (ABARES, 2019). Here we are seeing the gender balance forming. In education, women currently comprise 55% of the students studying agricultural science.

Statistics like these highlight how the agriculture sector in Australia is evolving and changing. Supporting, upskilling, and empowering women today will keep narrowing the gap for the future and give equal voice to females in the industry.

Whilst Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality) has not been highly prioritised by the Rural Research and Development Corporations, as seen in the image below, gender equality is viewed as having the potential to leverage in sustainability collective action.

The Invisible Farmer Project

Invisible Farmer is the largest ever study of Australian women on the land. This three year project (2017-2020) was funded by the Australian Research Council (LP160100555) and involved a nation-wide partnership between rural communities, academics, government and cultural organisations.

    The project:
  • Created new histories of rural Australia;
  • Revealed the hidden stories of women on the land;
  • Educated communities about the diverse, innovative and vital role of women in agriculture;
  • Stimulated public discussions about contemporary issues facing rural Australia and its future;
  • Developed significant public collections that will enable far reaching outcomes in research, industry and public policy.

Read the Invisible Farmer blog stories here and featured stories here and here.

The National Farmers’ Federation is committed to making meaningful change towards gender diversity and provides mentoring opportunities for women who want to play a leading role in shaping the future of agriculture and regional Australia.

Australian Women in Agriculture is committed to improving knowledge sharing so that women can take an active, informed role in agricultural decision-making processes.

The Rural, Regional, Remote Women’s Network of WA engages with women in the agricultural sector to advocate for them, support their leadership and growth, and aims to influence government by undertaking research that affects change.

Individuals are also making a difference. Meet Francesca Earp who is hungry for equality. Francesca knows empowering women in agriculture benefits everyone, and she has a strong belief that gender inclusivity is the future of food security. She is a great example of how change can begin with just one person. Francesca blogs on gender equality in agriculture and “believes that inclusivity in agricultural extension programs won’t just improve their equality, but also their successes.” (Francesca Earp, 2020)

“Gender inequality continues to be a major barrier to the realisation of rights and access to opportunities for girls and women in Australia.” (Equality Rights Alliance, 2020). In addition to empowering women, it is important that the younger generation is aware, and is raising awareness of this critical issue. An example of an organisation taking a lead on breaking down the gender inequality barriers through collaboration and education is Young Farming Champions. They share their stories through social media.

With half of all food in Australia produced by women (Visible Farmer, 2021), the Visible Farmer Film Project has brought to light the women behind the scenes in agriculture. The series takes us around Australia to discover what goes on in an industry where women face many challenges due to gender inequality. By focussing on two very important issues in the agricultural sector; gender equality and food security, Visible Farmer provides real-life stories that support why the Sustainable Development Goal of narrowing the gender gap and empowering all women and girls.

The main aim of the project is to “change perceptions and inspire new generations of women to help shape the future of Australia's sustainable food production.” (Visible Farmer, 2021). By educating young women and girls about the challenges that are faced in Australia in this sector, we enable young women and girls to make a difference and become changemakers for future generations.

Take a moment to investigate the fabulous women who play a vital role in the agriculture sector in Australia.

Episode 9: GROWN WITH LOVE - Melissa Charlick, market gardener, Roly Poly Farm, Perth

Author: Visible Farmer | Citation: (Visible Farmer, 2020)

To complement the above video series, Visible Farmer has recently created a new study guide that provides a deeper understanding of the huge variety of roles, careers and pathways open to men and women in agriculture, whilst looking at important and engaging topics such as the environment, sustainability and new technologies.

Schools can register via the website to find out more and to receive the guide, as well as stream the films and host a classroom or workplace screening.

It is heartening to see the positive changes made in Australia. It is clear that we are reaping the rewards from the efforts made and the support given. Not only will doing our part locally support our rural farmers, but such efforts contribute to the significant changes we want to support on a global level.

The Crawford Fund is a wonderful example of Australians supporting women overseas. The driving force of the Foundation is that “Food security increases peace and security. Aid in the form of agricultural science benefits us all. Enhancing food security, increasing farm incomes, and alleviating poverty in developing countries helps regional peace and security.” (Crawford Fund)

Through research on farming techniques, the Crawford Fund provides benefits globally. By providing systems in farming that are more productive, we enhance economic growth through more produce, more jobs, better incomes and better standards of living. Importantly, Australia also benefits from this knowledge for increased productivity.

Building Enterprise in the Pearl Industry for Women in the Pacific

Author: Crawford Fund | Citation: (Crawford Fund, 2019)

What originally started as a quest to improve quality of life in times of poverty and starvation, the Foundation is now focussing on providing training and resources that “emphasise food and nutritional security and sustainable production systems.” (Crawford Fund).

To further raise awareness of the Fund’s work, the Crawford Fund developed a series of videos to showcase the impact of their work. These videos show the projects being maintained to improve agricultural development in Vietnam, with a focus on the training and the volunteers.

My work’s really important here

Author: CrawfordFund | Citation: (CrawfordFund, 2015)

The Future Is Bright

Growing the Next Stories intro

Author: Art4Agriculture | Citation: (Art4Agriculture, 2020)

As we look towards a future where there is no gender gap and women are treated as equals with men, the work to educate and empower women and girls continues. With both global and local initiatives working collectively to support the Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality and empowering all women and girls, we continue to see barriers being broken down.

Since 2015, FAO has worked to achieve goals alongside the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to tackle global challenges such as poverty, hunger and gender equality.

“The revised Policy, which will be implemented over the next ten years, is a solid instrument to drive FAO’s efforts towards addressing the inequalities that are still pervasive in agriculture and food systems and to unleash the ambitions and potential of rural women and girls.“

Progress has been made. It’s up to us all to push for an equal future.

We thank Corteva Agriscience for investing in the agricultural workforce of the future and developing solutions that overcome climate change, declining rural youth populations and inequality for women.

Corteva Agriscience is helping growers produce an abundance of nutritious food by leveraging the knowledge and experiences of people from a wide range of professional fields, such as biotechnology, finance, nutrition, ecology, information technology, genetics, and manufacturing, just to name a few.

Today’s agricultural workforce is poised to improve the economic livelihoods of farming communities. Corteva Agriscience is working to increase access to education, infrastructure, and technology. This will require a work force with curiosity, passion, and a drive to enrich the lives of future generations.