A new report entitled ‘Breaking the Grass Ceiling – Challenges Women Experience in the Local Agriculture Sector’ has explored issues relating to childcare costs and perinatal and pregnancy support for farming women.
The Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ publication highlighted these as two of several “wide-ranging” issues that women in the farming field can face.
Its report states that “the costs associated with childcare and provision in rural areas is an important barrier”. “Women are expected to take primary responsibility for looking after the family”.
Challenges women experience
In terms of perinatal and pregnancy support, “as self-employed workers, there is no statutory maternity payment/leave for women farmers or support through pregnancy”.
The report adds that “due to health and safety risks for pregnant women on farms, a women farm manager may have to incur additional costs of employing temporary labour to maintain operations while pregnant and in the initial weeks following childbirth”.
The report authors also carried out a survey, securing 178 responses from women living or working within the agricultural sector.
Just under 18% of those who participated in the survey highlighted that that expectations of women to be responsible for childcare (and other caring responsibilities) hinders opportunities, both in terms of a time commitment and, for pregnant women, participating in physically demanding tasks.
They also noted the health and safety risks for pregnant women working on farms close to livestock, chemicals and pesticides and animals in gestation.
“Women are seen to be the main caregiver in the home. This can greatly reduce the time they can spend on-fam.”
Women’s role within the agricultural sector
The committee asked participants for their views on statements in relation to women’s role within the agricultural sector.
Some of the findings were as follows:
- 92% strongly agreed/agreed that farming offers a viable career opportunity for women.
- 50%strongly disagreed/disagreed that farming offers equal opportunities for men and women.
- 98%of respondents strongly agreed/agreed that women help improve farm productivity. No respondents disagreed with this statement.