Globally, women in the agricultural workforce earn 50% of their male counterparts. In Canada, agriculture is seen as a primary industry and women earn below the global baseline at $0.49 for every dollar earned by a male and in processing they earn $0.65 for every dollar earned by a male. This wage gap does not reflect the value of the female in the production, processing or marketing system nor is it attractive to new entrants into agriculture. Until we address the wage gap in agriculture there will always be a drag on rural community growth and family health. Community economies struggle when mothers struggle and paying less for the same work is discriminatory in every way.
Women do not abandon their children or aging parents and remain caregivers even when farming full time. They need supportive communities and government supported systems to maintain their farms, families and health. Women need equal access to credit, technology, education, health care and markets in all places and at all times. Women need equal pay when working within agriculture and to be respected as farmers who understand the family dynamic. The majority of the world’s poor (more than 80%) live in rural areas and face the same issues of the rural poor in Canada – a lack of health care services, high paying jobs, advanced education, high speed communication, credit, secondary processing and market information.
In business, women own 53% of all small and medium business (SMB) in Canada (a SMB is considered to generate up to $25 million annually) yet Canadian business women earn $0.60 of their male associate’s dollar. And although a gender balanced board generates a 40% increase in return on equity, women are only represented on publicly traded boards 12% of the time. To accurately represent women farmers on farm boards and leadership, there needs to be 30% – 40% female representation as 30% of women in Canada own and operate farmers (40% in British Columbia).
The safe access to education and child care must be a priority for governments worldwide because the future of food security and economic growth is in the hands of the women. To begin to address the issue of increasing food production for appropriate distribution we must start at home, in Canada, by appreciating that gender value and pay equality is critical to the future growth in agriculture and to rural economies.