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How to diversify your recruitment in Agriculture

about 2 months ago by Natalie Smith

Farmers Weekly recently got in touch for our insight into women working in agriculture as part of their Level the Field Campaign; “Our campaign, Level the Field, will engage all people and organisations across our industry, men and women alike, to bring about change that will make agriculture fairer, more equitable and more inviting for women.”

We were sent some questions, take a read of responses from some of our team…

What are the benefits of having a diverse range of staff in the farming sector, particularly women, at all levels of the business?

Firstly, different ways of thinking. It's a fact that men and women don't think about, or approach, things in the same way. Having a range of people at different levels, especially in senior management positions will mean that when a new idea is being discussed, different factors, implications and outcomes will be brought to light. By having this range, changes within businesses will have been thought through more, with other and differing opinions, reaching the best outcome. 

What steps do farm businesses need to take before placing a job advert to ensure the best chance of success in recruiting women?

Firstly, change job title names. 'Foreman' (although historical) should be changed - supervisor is a suitable alternative. By using phrases such as foreman, you're already leaning towards men. 

Have facilities suitable for women on site. We don't need much, but make sure you do! 

Remember women are just as capable as men. When looking at hands-on, physical roles I think there can be an automatic assumption a man would be better suited, but that's not the case. 

Create an environment for diversity. Some smallest businesses may only have one female employee.

Reflect honestly on your requirements for the role – are they all achievable for applicants regardless of gender? Are your expectations achievable for men and women?

Before placing an advert, throw out ANY prior vision of the person who you will get in. Businesses are their own worst enemy when they have a mould of the perfect person as they will find it impossible to fill and will miss out on great talent due to their prior vision of their next ‘farm manager’ for example.

Many women tend to seek positions where they meet the majority of criteria, sometimes hesitating to apply for roles where they don't feel they meet 90-100% of the qualifications. When crafting job advertisements, it's crucial to avoid overly strict requirements and allow for some flexibility in skillsets and prerequisites. Although this doesn't universally apply to all women, it's a consideration worth noting.

Farmers Weekly surveyed the role of women in farming and found that 60% of women believe industry attitude is preventing them from achieving their career goals. Only commitments to children scored higher as an obstacle (75%), with a lack of self-confidence coming in a close third at 59%. How can farm businesses make sure that when women are applying for jobs, they’re countering these perceptions?

Remember times have changed. Women want, and need, careers just as much as men. 

To counter these perceptions, treat everyone the same. Don't ask about childcare commitments just because they're female (it's ok if you ask everyone, but don't tailor this question to females only), or think in the back of your mind 'What if they want to start a family', because this is the bias that has generated the survey results. 

Talk to people applying for the roles and understand their perception of the above statistic. It'll firstly educate farming businesses and employers, but also by working to understand women's fears and worries will help you understand how to counter, and eventually change, these perceptions. 

If the case is that the woman is the main carer for a child/ children then a business should be open to conversations about how they can support this as well as allow the employee to still make career progression. Women don’t want career progression for the sake of it – they want it because they genuinely enjoy what they do, are good at it and want to use their knowledge and skills as much as possible. They deserve just as much presence in promotion considerations, and they deserve conversations about how a business can adapt to support them. This will also contribute to getting more women into the business and seeing the progression opportunities – once one woman has done it, it shows the attitude of the business and it’s a story to tell to demonstrate the inclusive nature of a business. Women, in 2024, should NOT have to choose between a successful career and having children – and any business that is making them choose should reevaluate.

How can farm businesses make job adverts inclusive for women? Do they need to think about the platforms jobs are shared on, as well as language?

I mentioned above about language, but yes. Stop using any job title that has the word man in! We’ve heard at industry events in talks the mention of ‘Farmers' sons’, why isn’t this ‘Farmers' children?

As a woman, I don't particularly like ads where they mention specifically looking for a woman to diversify the business (which does happen), because employing someone should be based on skill. Women want to be treated the same and have equal opportunities. 

Explain in job ads how the business set-up currently is, if you're already a diverse team, that's good to know. If you have proven examples of diversity successes in the business, put that in the ad! That's more appealing. 

I don’t think there are things you can add but things that perhaps you SHOULDN’T include. Being aware of pronouns used and male-oriented words – for example, if you put ‘must be strong and able to carry heavy goods’ – although a female applicant may read this and know they could do it, and hence would apply, the wording makes it sound like the employer assumes this person will be male and hence wouldn’t consider a female applicant. Perhaps go for ‘The workload will include carrying of heavy goods and so a willingness and ability to manage this is key’.

If you are putting down the benefits and can mention your maternity policy, I think this goes a long way. Whether a woman plans to utilise the maternity policy or not, just the evidence that the business has considered that their position could be filled by a woman goes a long way!

Is there anything farm businesses can do to tailor job interviews for women?

I don’t think they necessarily need to be tailored, but the business should be using interviews as a learning opportunity. Understand what candidates want out of a career (especially women) to understand how this might fit. 

One thing I think is important during an interview is to understand why a woman might want to leave her current employer. A lot of the time this can be down to culture or lack of promotion within a business. But by understanding this, you can understand how to make that person, and your overall business more inclusive. 

Let candidates ask you questions too! 

Put yourself in their shoes. If they're a woman applying for a hands-on farming role, where the business is run by a man and employs 12 other men (example only), think about how you'd feel if the roles were reversed. 

I think it is worse to over-compromise or adapt too heavily when it comes to interviews. When applying to join the military, women are given lesser benchmarks for fitness however, I know many women who have gone through the process and aimed for the male thresholds to evidence that they are just as capable. At the end of the day, the role they will carry out will be the same, whether filled by a male or female, so the interview process should be the same too. Make sure it is inclusive for everyone!

How can farm businesses create progression pathways and ensure women are put into leadership roles?

Women should not be forgotten about. Employers shouldn’t assume young women might want to start families and have loads of time off, because this isn’t the case for everyone. Communicate with women, find out their ambitions, set up a plan on what they need to do to get that promotion, and let them prove themselves. 

Ensure you’re asking for opinions, regardless of level! 

There are plenty of women advocating for the industry, get in touch with groups such as ‘Women in Food & Farming’ and ‘Meat Business Women’ – are your female employees aware of these? If not, let them get involved as part of their CDP.

Does sharing stories of women’s success within a farm business play a role in this? How can farmers do it?

Always. You should celebrate success no matter how big or small. 

I think I speak for a lot of women when I say we don't want to be just a case study to promote an individual business, but we want to be a positive role model for the next generation. 

Submit success stories to farmers weekly. Encourage women to join their local young farmers group, or other associations. 

Nominate them for events in the industry. There's so much you can do! 

I have spoken to many females who are starting in the industry who see no role models to look up to or reflect on progression to see what’s possible. I certainly think, if done appropriately, there is value to an employer sharing stories of female success in their business to encourage newcomers to recognise the potential on offer.

When visiting industry events, especially if your business has a stand, bringing a mix of representatives from the team would be great. This makes the business so much more approachable and if a woman can see a woman already on the team, they are naturally going to find it easier to come and enquire about the business and the opportunities etc.

 

You can read the full report here with contributions from many others in the industry as well as Farmers Weekly’s research that was conducted in December 2023.

Commentary provided from

Sarah Want, Team Manager, Hoticulture & Agriculture

Hannah Robson, Senior Consultant, Agriculture

Rae Goss, Senior Consultant, Commercial Hort & Ag

Natalie Smith, Marketing Manager