More women entering agriculture industry
More women are swapping desks and offices for milking sheds and quad bikes as dairy farming lures women into the agriculture industry.
Census data released last week show the number of woman in forestry, fishing and agriculture has not increased in Southland.
In fact, it has declined from 3048 women in 2006 to 2988 in 2013.
Those figures were not broken down into farming sectors, and industry leaders say dairy farming is bucking the trend.
Federated Farmers' Southland president Russell MacPherson said he believed there had been a steady increase in the number of women working on farms.
As the dairy industry grew, so did the number of women involved, because more and more women were attracted to the career path, he said.
He suggested a reason for the census numbers was that some women undervalued the work they put into the farms when raising children and had not ticked the agricultural occupation box.
But some women were also entering the industry alone, something the industry was welcoming, he said.
"People's attitudes towards women running farms is totally different to what it was 30 years ago.
"Women now are treated as equals in the agriculture world."
MacPherson said while more education about the agriculture industry was needed to get more young New Zealanders involved, it should not just be targeted at women.
"Everybody should be involved. It's a nice place to raise families but it's also a dangerous place to raise families. That's the beauty of agriculture, you live and work in the same place."
However, agribusiness professor Jacqueline Rowarth, of Waikato University, said despite the low numbers in farming, there were still many women involved in the industry, including in education.
New Zealand women were still choosing to study the science behind one of our biggest industries with most agribusiness and agriscience degree classes made up of about 68 per cent females, Professor Rowarth said.
Dairy Women's Network chairwoman Michelle Wilson said more needed to be done to educate young women on the benefits of farming and to keep them in the industry.
"I do believe the education system isn't promoting agriculture well enough. I don't think they promote us [farmers] in a positive light."
Wilson said many women were changing careers and bringing the skills they had learnt in previous careers to the industry as more and more women took up dairy farming.
Rural Woman New Zealand Otago and Southland national councillor Margaret Pittaway said a lot of women provided crucial support in the administration and financial side of dairying, which was still seen predominantly as a male occupation."
- © Fairfax NZ News