Article: How can we empower women in the Indian agri and allied sector?


How can we empower women in the Indian agri and allied sector?

In recent years, women have been breaking barriers and assuming leadership positions across various industries. While progress has been made in corporate boardrooms, the agricultural and allied services sector still faces challenges in achieving gender diversity.
How can we empower women in the Indian agri and allied sector?

Despite the remarkable progress women have made in occupying leadership positions across industries, the agricultural and allied services sector still lags behind in achieving gender parity. While women have shattered glass ceilings in traditionally male-dominated fields, such as Fortune 500 companies, their representation and advancement in the agricultural sector have been comparatively limited. 

The unique challenges of the agricultural sector 

Working in the agricultural sector and allied industries presents unique challenges to women. One challenge arises from the dearth of last-mile facilities in rural areas. As farms are spread across vast distances in rural areas where infrastructure is poor or non-existent, women find it difficult to work in the field. 

Another challenge relates to women’s safety. For instance, women who work in the field must guard against hazards that their male counterparts needn’t consider. Often women themselves choose not to work in the agricultural sector because of such concerns.

Also, women often choose to forgo a career in the agriculture sector and instead opt to work in other, better-paying industries. Finally, traditional societies in India are still averse to having women in key decision-making roles. Each of these challenges stands in the way of women rising to leadership roles in the agricultural sector.  

While these are significant challenges, they’re not insurmountable.  

Shattering the glass ceiling   

One way to ensure that more women work and succeed in the agricultural sector is by grooming women early. Setting up scholarships for women who pursue courses in agriculture at the graduate and undergraduate levels will encourage more women to enrol in such professional courses. The challenges presented by the last mile may be addressed by setting up the necessary infrastructure in rural regions. Also, when necessary, women may be allowed to work from home.    

At the corporate level, companies in the agricultural and allied services sector need to make their company culture more accommodating to women's needs. Women colleagues in such companies should be given the support they need to excel.

Also, the mindset of those who work in the agricultural sector needs to be changed. Employees in this sector need to be more accepting of inclusivity. And finally, to create a level playing field at work, employees in the sector need to be trained to overcome any conscious and unconscious biases they have about women.   

Success story 

A leading crop nutrition company has made great strides in increasing the number of frontline female representatives in its sales force. It did so by sensitising its workforce, and channel partners, and by finding new talent-sourcing opportunities. In addition, the company provided mentoring to female agronomists, took steps to improve women's safety and security, rolled out policies that make field travel easier, supported alternate ways of working, and attained pay parity between women and men. As a result, the percentage of women working in the organisation increased from 6 per cent to 13 per cent in 2022. The company is confident that female representation in the organisation will increase to 35 per cent as early as 2025.     

The world’s leading organisations have set ambitious diversity and inclusivity targets. The reasons for doing so are clear: a diverse workforce is a source of strength and helps foster innovation. Therefore, when more women join the agricultural sector, the industry will become more innovative and perhaps more profitable. These are powerful reasons for the agricultural and allied industries to take steps that lead to more women working in the sector.   

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Topics: Diversity, #DEIB

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