Is agriculture spending enough time thinking about who our customers are and what they are becoming

Women represent 56% of graduates of agricultural science university courses yet Young Farming Champion,  Australian Young Farmer of the Year and co-owner of Summit Ag Agronomy Emma Ayliffe tells me she can count on one hand the number of female agronomists over 35 working fulltime.

Emma is 30 and it will be interesting for her to reflect back on the agronomy sector in 10-15 years time and see if this is still the case

Research shows that the previous generation of women who decided they had to make a choice between career and children chose children. This generation of women are choosing career.

To learn as much as I can about why current agricultural sector workplaces are not meeting the wants and needs of women over 35 I have been doing a lot of reading and learning a lot.

The research tells me

We need to look at the blueprints of our workplaces, to understand how the policies, processes, structures, employee behaviours, leaders, and culture in our workplaces can value women and their contributions 

My reading has also opened my eyes to the importance of the language we use when promoting the sector to next gen agriculturalists and next gen consumers. Speaking of next gen consumers did you know 80%  of purchases made today are by women. So women are important for both talent management and the business bottom line.

In today’s world we are led to believe men have an unwavering belief in the machine – the ability of technology to solve the world’s problems. Women on the other hand see people as our greatest resource and women around the world are standing up to save the planet.

As our board is all female and the majority of consultants we work with are also female, it’s very important to us that the language we use appeals to all genders

The ultimate challenge of gender bilingualism, both in terms of understanding consumers better and of better talent management, is a skill we can all learn.

During a recent strategic planning meeting our all female board were comfortable with this description of how to promote careers in agriculture as an opportunity to:

  • make a humanitarian/environmental difference locally and globally
  • build capacity to act on issues that are important to regional communities and
  • have a positive impact on the lives of others

On learning about gender bilingualism and reflecting on the previous version below ( written by a male consultant)  I felt this version might have  broader appeal. What do you think?

Promoting agriculture as an exciting industry:  

  • where innovation, disruption and creativity are fostered,
  • where careers with purpose can grow limitlessly and
  • where partnerships across sectors are encouraged and nurtured

Our industry is changing. I often find myself having conversations with people in the livestock sectors who are bewildered that livestock industries are attracting  young women 2:1 where as young men are attracted to cropping industries.

I have always been concerned that the Australian dairy industry has an over reliance on promoting the high level of technology in the industry and a reticence  to talk about its huge environmental gains

There is an exciting opportunity to reframe gender balance as one of the century’s most obvious business opportunities. But first we have to acknowledge, understand and maximize the complementary differences between men and women. The challenge here is not to treat everyone equally and the same, but to treat everyone equally and different, with a deep understanding of what those differences are.

With so many opportunities in our sector its the perfect time to thinking about who our customers are and what they care about.

Books I am reading and referencing

  • Brandsplaining by Jane Cunningham and Philippa Roberts
  • The Fix by Michelle King
  • Seven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox


Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

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