ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Breaking through the grass ceiling

Women, power and leadership in rural areas

by Margaret Alston

Farm women are virtually absent from the leadership positions which structure agricultural organisations and policy and shape the industry. This book examines the contemporary position of women in agriculture, drawing on interviews and surveys with many hundreds of Australian women – farmers, bureaucrats, leaders and activists – and with powerful men in the industry. Giving a voice to rural women, the book presents a wide-ranging, rich tapestry of opinion and insight.

It is clear that ideological, cultural, structural and organisational closure prevents agricultural women from becoming prominent in the industry to which they contribute so much. Yet far from being helpless victims, the women emerge as strong, determined characters forging an alternative discourse through multiple strategies of resistance. You will leave this book feeling enormous respect for the women involved – their humour, hard work and commitment to agriculture and to their farms matched by their determination to achieve equity and justice in their industry.

Feminists, social scientists – both researchers and students – and others interested in gaining an understanding of gender relations in rural areas and organisations will find this book a fascinating read and an invaluable resource.

“Alston's book is an important contribution to our knowledge about women in agriculture. It explores women's leadership role and power base in agricultural organisations. While Australia is the focus of Alston's book, it is my view that the book is of far wider appeal. The questions she raises about power, the role of the state, women's position in agricultural organisations and decision-making bodies are of relevance throughout most of the Western world. Alston's study is well rounded; she celebrates women's achievements to date, illustrates their current frustrations, and charts a positive way forward. She will make you laugh and cry with agricultural women, while also providing you with a detailed analysis of their lives.”

Sally Shortall, The Queens University of Belfast, UK

harwood academic publishers