ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Leading Women in Agriculture

Margaret Alston

Published by the Centre for Rural Social Research
December 1998
ISBN: 1 86467 031 2


In 1997-8, I conducted a national study of women in Australian agricultural leadership funded by the Australian Research Council. This study allowed me to speak with many women engaged in agricultural related activities across Australia. Interviews, focus group discussions and surveys have been the main tools used in this study. Through these, women have revealed not only the barriers and constraints that restrict women's access to leadership, but also the depth of their commitment to their industry and efforts they make to contribute to the future directions of agriculture.

This book details the results of just one of the surveys undertaken for this study. Women who had attained leadership positions were approached to be survey participants. These women who had faced enormous barriers and still managed to achieve leadership positions at national, state and regional levels. Their opinions were, therefore, very valuable to an understanding of the constraints facing women and to the development of strategies to improve the profile of women in leadership. In all, 304 women were surveyed and 171 responded. This overwhelming response and the depth of data collected has led me to produce this publication detailing the results in full. Ant attempt at summarising the material threatened to reduce the impact of the voices of these extraordinary women.

What strikes me about the voices of the women expressed here is their passion for agriculture. What disturbs me are the struggles they face in their leadership roles. 35% of the women respondents are the victims of sexual harassment in the leadership roles. Such a figure demonstrates the failure of government, industry and farmer bodies to give respect and support to leading women. Almost all the respondents are highly critical of the current leadership profile in agriculture and view the need for diversity as paramount. Yet, the current system operates to prevent the wide-ranging changes needed. With this in mind, recommendations are included to assist change management.


1. Findings from a national survey 1998

Profile of the Leading Women in Agriculture

2. Summary of Findings

Personal Data
Agricultural Board Experiences
Unsuccessful Nominations
Seeking Women's Opinions
Personal Support

3. Final comments and conclusion