– VFF vice president’s message to women in agriculture
MIRBOO North farmer and vice president of the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) Emma Germano has spoken out about some of the challenges she’s faced as a woman in agriculture, saying the industry still has a way to go to achieve gender equality.
In a candid interview with Weekly Times reporters Chantelle Francis and Madeleine Stuchbery – a former Sentinel-Times journalist – on a recent episode of their podcast ‘The Mail Run,’ Ms Germano said her rise up the ranks at the VFF over the last five years had seen her subjected to “horrendous” examples of sexism and attitudes that “definitely need to be corrected,” particularly among older men and women.
Regularly finding herself vastly outnumbered by men at meetings and industry forums, Ms Germano said simply getting more women into those rooms was one way to start to shift the “unconscious bias” that had at times made her feel like she was “not really welcome”.
The importance of “just turning up,” regardless of the prejudice you might encounter as a woman, could not be underestimated, she said, urging women not to be afraid to put their hand up for leadership positions.
“My moral of the story is, you just have to turn up anyway.
“Yes, it can be challenging but if we don’t just turn up then nothing will ever change,” she said.
Acknowledging women can be reluctant to get involved at policy level, Ms Germano said getting over the “mental barrier” was the hardest part, and that “once you’re there, it’s pretty good”.
As well as the lack of women in leadership positions, Ms Germano said the most glaring example of gender inequality in agriculture was the “huge” pay gap between men and women, calling the industry “one of the worst in Australia for a pay gap”.
Assessing the industry as a whole in terms of gender equality, she said it was “definitely not there yet” but that she had faith that it would change.
“We’re seeing more and more female faces, and more and more women stepping in to those leadership positions, so I think it’s probably just a matter of time until we get there,” she said.
It’s not the first time Ms Germano has spoken publicly about gender issues.
Following her election as VFF vice president in February this year, she told the Sentinel-Times being a female had meant she wasn’t encouraged to pursue a career in agriculture, despite coming from a long line of farmers.
“Coming back to work with my dad, I’ve gone into a strategic role, doing the business planning and managing the finances, while dad does the more specific operational stuff.
“The role is always going to be more strategic because there’s just physically things that I can’t do.
“So, the succession – it’s just different, because often in businesses where it’s a son coming through, it’ll be the dad that holds onto the cheque book and makes all of the business decisions until he’s ready to retire, and the son will usually be the best worker.
“So, there’s definitely a different dynamic between fathers and daughters and fathers and sons.”
She also described her frustration with not being seen as an equal with her male counterparts.
“I was at a conference and a president of one of the international farmers unions asked me ‘So are you actually a farmer? How much time do you actually spend on a farm?’
“And I said to him, ‘Well hold up a minute, how often are you on your farm?’
“I just thought, why am I the one being questioned? And I suppose it’s because I’m female – it’s just an easier question to ask.
“I was asked a question when I was on [ABC television program] Q&A about feminism and I got trolled from both sides at the end of the day, so you can never get it right,” she told The Mail Run.
“There’s people who are going to say ‘you’re a feminist because you’re a woman who’s in leadership and you’re power hungry or whatever else,’ and there’s other people who talk about the women that broke the glass ceiling and say ‘you should be standing up and representing women more often,’ so it’s tough.
“But I guess it’s just a personal journey for everyone and you just do it as it suits you.”