I wish to refer to an article on The Dealer page in the Irish Farmers Journal from March 2023, titled “It’s time for women in farming, but women don’t have the time”. The Dealer portrayed three women as trailblazers in his opening paragraph. Statistically, this is a poor reflection of women’s achievements in the agri sector over the last 40 years, with only 3% of senior positions held by women in 2024. The Dealer fails to recognise the real problem as to why this situation exists. It is down to a lack of opportunities for women in a male-dominated world, with rules and regulations drawn up primarily by men.

The year 2023 saw the election of a woman onto the board of Lakeland Dairies for the first time ever, banishing the image of ‘men-in-suits’ into the archives of history. It also saw the first ever woman elected deputy president of the IFA. Both women found the time to carry out an extensive campaign to get elected. Women need more than the slim possibilities of greater equality in the agri sector than what is currently available. This is reflected in a recent article by Minister McConalogue where he reiterates the need for more women representatives on agency and co-op boards where they are in receipt of State funding and to provide for greater diversity. We repeatedly see headlines, “Agencies must appoint more women to their boards, insists Minister Charlie McConalogue”. Is this just lip service or should the €32m in State investment in the agri food sector in 2023, (where over €4.5m was awarded to one co-op), be tied to reaching an acceptable level of gender balance, inclusion and diversity in the agri industry? The achievements by Irish women on the national and international stage in sport exceeds that of Irish men. Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day by giving women the respect they deserve and the same chance to excel in the agri food sector.