Queensland's Farm Business Women: Developing Their Potential

Issue

Women contribute about half the total value attributable to farming communities through their paid and unpaid activities (Sheridan and Haslam McKenzie 2009). The focus of this research is women who live and work on farms, often as part of a family unit. While their role is vital, their career paths, training needs and aspirations can be different to those of men, an issue that is found across all industries. Initial research through a small survey conducted by the Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF) has shown that women on farms and in farm businesses are highly educated and they aspire to making further contributions both economically through their business development and socially in their communities, to the wider farming community and to state and national policy development. The QFF 2018 report Cultivating the leadership potential of Queensland’s farm businesswomen surveyed 149 women and clearly showed that these women are highly educated, the majority with university qualifications, and are keen to extend their training and education.

In order to utilise this untapped potential, it is necessary to understand the characteristics and diversity of women in farming in Queensland, their current contributions, aspirations and training and organisational needs that will assist them in attaining their business, social and leadership goals.  The recognition that women are a vital part of farming businesses is increasing, and the potential for women to add value to their farm businesses and the economy is great, but further investigation of their specific needs is required. There is little current research which specifically examines women in farm businesses in Queensland and examines their roles and future business needs.

Proposed research

The aim of this research project is to understand the characteristics and diversity of women in farming in Queensland, including their current contributions, with a focus on their aspirations and the training and development that will assist them in attaining their business, social and leadership goals.  It builds on previous research conducted by QFF and seeks to refine the questions for future detailed research.

The research questions that the report addresses are:

  1. What are the roles of women in farm and rural businesses in Queensland?
  2. What are their leadership and development aspirations and training and development needs?
  3. What are the enablers and barriers to reaching these goals and accessing training and development?
  4. What are the implications from these research findings for programs and policies?
  5. What are the priorities for future research and action? What future research needs to be done to support the development of Queensland farm and rural businesswomen?

Questions 1 and 3 will draw on academic and statistical information. In addition, information from the QFF 2018 report, Cultivating the leadership potential of Queensland’s farm businesswomen, will be used to assist the research for question 3 and question 2. The research team will use the resources at Griffith University and the QFF to conduct this research, including statistical sources, current literature and recent reports.

The QFF 2018 report identified that farm business women hold a wide range of leadership roles and have a wide array of leadership aspirations including industry spokesperson, mentor, new product developer and participant in community groups. As a result of this research critical gaps were identified including lack of investment in women’s leadership development, lack of processes for mentoring and assistance to take up leadership roles, insufficient succession planning within boards and committees, and insufficient sharing of rural women’s success stories, our innovators and leaders.

Outcomes

This project will complete a report which provides an initial picture of women in farm businesses and their contribution, reflects the diversity of agricultural businesses, focuses on the strengths the women possess and their needs and aspirations. A vital part of this report will be the generation of a series of policy issues and possible implications for programs as well as research questions which can form the basis for applications for external grant funding.

Chief investigators

  • Emeritus Professor Glenda Strachan (Griffith University, Australia)
  • Professor Ruth McPhail (Griffith University, Australia)
  • Dr Kim Ball (Griffith University, Australia)
  • Dr Sue Ressia (Griffith University, Australia)
  • Dr Mary Rogers (Griffith University, Australia)

Partner investigators

  • Dr Georgina Davis (Queensland Farmers' Association)
  • Jane Muller (Queensland Farmers' Association)
  • Dr Diana Saunders (Queensland Farmers' Association)

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