The main barriers to women in agriculture, in some cases, can be the barriers they put in place themselves, according to deputy president of the National Farmers Union Cymru in Wales Abi Reader.

When asked by the Irish Farmers Journal at the Ulster Farmers Union’s (UFU) fifth Women in Agriculture conference on Thursday what the main barriers were to women in farming she said: “I think in some cases, a lot of the barriers are barriers we put in place ourselves.

"I mentioned today on the talk when I was looking out onto a sea of women sat in the room, and there were just a few scattered gents who were looking a bit uncomfortable feeling a bit out of place and wondering if anybody was maybe going to talk to them or wonder why they’re there.

“If you flip that on its head, quite often, well nearly all the time, that’s actually is the problem in reverse and a lot of women who sit in a room can feel overwhelmed.

"I think what women need to remember is no one is sat in that room thinking you shouldn’t be there, and perhaps what the gents need to remember is if you see someone there try make an extra effort to make them feel welcome and help break down those barriers”.

Other barriers

She said that “other than that, I think the main issues we see is we accept in our industry the role of women in farming, there might be the odd scattered person that’s struggling to get up to modern-day thinking, but most of it is people who look at us from the outside and don’t understand who we are and they still sadly see that old image of Old McDonald, which is not something we want.

"If you want to get out there and get involved in anything, people are waiting with open arms,” she said.

Changing the norm

UFU deputy president William Irvine said that events like this are essential in breaking down the barriers that exist for women in farming.

“Historically, it hasn’t been the norm and that is changing, but there are still young women who have a passion for farming and feel this is something I can't do or shouldn’t do.

“The challenge for us is to break down that mindset and say if this is what you want to do, go for it with all your might,” said Irvine.

He believes it is essential to encourage the next generation to get involved in organisations and attend meetings, as he sees the membership of the UFU as a membership for the whole family.

Workshops at the event included grassland management, new technologies in agriculture, using machinery safely, basic principles in young stock care and ammonia.

This article was updated on 27 October to more fully reflect comments made to the Irish Farmers Journal at the conference.