Academic journal article Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management

Increasing Women's Participation in Agricultural Leadership: Strategies for Change

Academic journal article Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management

Increasing Women's Participation in Agricultural Leadership: Strategies for Change

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper uses data from a survey of women involved in the Australian sugar industry to present evidence of the strategies which could be introduced by agri-political groups to increase women's involvement in agricultural leadership. Of the 181 positions of elected leadership in the Australian sugar industry's agri-political group, CANEGROWERS, none is held by a woman. Factor analysis of the 233 returned survey responses revealed that there are five types of strategies that could be implemented to address this inequity. These are: organisational strategies, education and training strategies, remuneration strategies, support strategies and practical strategies. The paper concludes by drawing attention to the fact that few strategies have been adopted by agricultural organizations to address men's numerical dominance of positions of leadership.

INCREASING WOMEN'S PARTICIPATION IN AGRICULTURAL LEADERSHIP: STRATEGIES FOR CHANGE

While women are under-represented in leadership positions across a range of areas (Adler & Izraeli 1988; Harris 1998), their presence is particularly limited in certain sectors and industries. One such sector is that of agriculture. For example, Conroy (2000) notes that while women's representation on Commonwealth Government boards in Australia is at 28%, the majority are within areas such as social security, immigration, education and health. In contrast, within agriculture women hold just 17% of positions and no woman holds any of the forty positions of elected leadership within Australian's premier agricultural lobby group, the National Farmers' Federation (Alston 2000). This is despite the calls for greater equity from farm women (Alston 2000) and the adoption, in 1998, by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, of a policy to increase women's representation on producer groups (Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management 1998).

Despite the fact that gender inequity continues to define the farm sector, little attention has been given to the strategies that could facilitate women's increased involvement in agricultural leadership. In order to address this gap in this literature, this paper reports on findings of a survey of women involved in the Australian sugar industry to present evidence of the strategies which could be introduced by agri-political groups to facilitate women's participation in decision-making positions. The paper is divided into six main sections. The first section of the paper situates the few studies that have been undertaken on women and agricultural leadership within the broader literature on the subject of women and management. The second section of the paper outlines the methodology of the study while the following provides some contextual information on the Australian sugar industry. Survey results are presented in the following fourth section of the paper. In the discussion that follows, the data is reviewed in terms of the literature including work which provides insight into the rural culture and context in which producer groups are situated. The concluding section of the paper highlights the need for a holistic approach to the adoption of change based strategies.

WOMEN IN AGRICULTURAL LEADERSHIP

The literature on women and management has typically focused on gender relations in urban organizations and the experiences of city-based women leaders (Pini 2002a). Despite the urban bias of much of this work, it still offers some useful insights to understand the constraints to farm women achieving decision-making positions in producer groups. One such insight is explained by Acker (1990: 139) as 'a theory of gendered organizations'. According to Acker (1990), even feminist literature on the workplace has tended to accept the assumption that organisations are gender neutral and obscured the reality that men and male sexuality dominate the public sphere of paid employment. Using interviews with women and men store managers and senior human resource managers in three large supermarket chains in the United Kingdom, Acker (1990) reveals the assumptions about gender contained within the informants' views about careers, paid employment and the roles of managers. …

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