Closing the gender gap in agriculture to promote STEM careers

Young Farming Champion Emma Ayliffe is presenting at the PIEFA Conference in Canberra today.  As a young person working in Agriculture Emma knows how exciting it is and loves to spread the word to all the young people she meets in schools. Emma’s presentation looks at the elephant in the room –  industry image.

This is what Emma will share with the audience ………….

The future of our world starts off in the classroom today.

Teachers have a major impact on student learning and career choices.

We have all heard stories about teachers discouraging students from following career pathways in agriculture. Why is that?

Industry image plays a key role in the ability to attract young people into agriculture

Sadly Agriculture has a reputation as the King of Gender Inequality.

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With statistics like these we can see why

  • For 100 years Australia’s agricultural secondary and tertiary colleges were MEN ONLY
  • It wasn’t till the 1970’s that they opened the door to women
  • It took until 2003 for the ratio of men to women studying agriculture at university to become 1:1
  • Whilst women now generate 49% of on-farm income they earn 8% less than men

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  • Women only hold 13% of industry leadership roles (compared to 28% across other industries) .
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  • In fact farming decision-making bodies have been described as “closed social networks” with men over 35 years still the most likely to be elected to boards, despite 40 per cent of Australian farmers being women, with an average incidence of tertiary education that is double that of men. An industry with a men’s club mindset.
  • Agriculture STILL has the least gender diverse board rooms with only 2.3% of women in CEO positions compared to 17% in other industries.

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  • It wasn’t till 1994 the Australian Law Reform Commission reviewed farm women’s legal status and finally defined them as “farmers” instead of
    • Domestics
    • Helpmates or
    • Farmer’s wives

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My name is Emma Ayliffe and I am 26 years old

I am VERY proud to say I am a member of a group of young people changing the face, image and gender diversity of agriculture

As you will have noticed I am female

What you might not know is I am

  • a farmer,
  • an agronomist,
  • a business owner and
  • a Young Farming Champion

I also sit on

  • The Southern Valley Cotton Growers Association Committee
  • Australian Cotton Conference Youth Committee
  • The Irrigation Research and Extension Leadership Group
  • And I am the Vice-Chair of the Youth Voices Leadership Team

As a Young Farming Champion, I go into schools as part of the project-based learning program The Archibull Prize. The Archibull Prize has gained the awesome reputation as being the Queen of Gender Equality

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My role as a Young Farming Champion in schools is to share my career journey in agriculture and inspire others (both men and women) to follow in my footsteps

Like me, many of our Young Farming Champions have STEM based careers.

As part of my agronomy business I am involved in crop research trials and conduct research myself. We test new and evolving farm technology including automation and advanced crop managements and many other areas of agricultural STEM.

AGRICULTURE HAS A LOT OF WORK TO DO TO CHANGE THE IMAGE OF CAREERS IN OUR SECTOR

As you can see from this word cloud from The Archibull Prize entry survey at the beginning of the program young people in schools struggle to identify careers in the sector beyond farming related activities. This is despite 82% of careers in agriculture supporting farmers both behind and beyond the farm gate.

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Talking about agricultural careers to teenagers in conjunction with The Archibull Prize comes at an opportune time as students make crucial decisions on their educational future.

Year on year The Archibull Prize evaluation shows us the key to success is exposing teachers and students to exciting young professionals working in diverse roles in agriculture.

To have young farming professionals share their experiences only makes the decisions better informed and raises excitement about STEM-based careers.

A key hook for both teachers and students is the innovation, science and technology that drives 21st century farming.

The Archibull Prize exit survey highlights the success of this approach

By the end of the competition students have a specific and varied repertoire related to actual career classifications rather than jobs around the farm. This is evident with more technical words being used like agronomist, vet, engineer, scientist, geneticist.

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With a large cohort of our Young Farming Champions being scientists and agronomists, their impact is evident through the high numbers of students who listed ‘Agronomist’ or ‘Scientist’ role. This is further confirmed as students listed their top three choices of careers in agriculture that THEY would consider.

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The full extent as to the endless opportunities and career options cannot be described in the short 5 minutes that I have here today but working with students participating in the Archibull Prize for SEVEN months in schools allows them to immerse themselves in every aspect of the farming industry as they study and explore ALL of the exciting career options.

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Women (like me) are key agents of change and innovation and offer significant leadership in sustainability, food security, rural communities, natural disasters and policymaking.

If we are going to have a profitable, productive, resilient and sustainable agriculture industry into the future the sector must been viewed as a career of first choice that promotes gender equality.

Young people are doing amazing things in agriculture – both young men and young women – we have a chance to model gender equity to the next generation when going into schools

The Archibull Prize model shows how far we have come.

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We invite you all to join us in The Archibull Prize to create a future where men and women work together as partners on farms and on boards and where the conversation is no longer about gender, but how we are building a better agricultural future for Australia.

Watch Emma talk about her career journey at the Sydney Royal Easter Show Secondary School Careers Workshop