It’s been the topic of conversation this week around the country. George Hook’s comments about women and rape and it’s gotten us all thinking.
I must confess to having worked alongside George for a brief time at Newstalk. I worked with a team of wonderful men and women on the Pat Kenny show and found them all to be nice, educated and well-rounded people. However, something did strike me then that most of the presenters on the station were men in fact I rarely heard a female voice except for news readers. After coming from an overseas broadcaster with not only a fair gender mix but a multi-cultural workforce I found it rather odd.
Hook’s comments were in some eyes taken out of context and in others abhorrent. Fintan O Toole the respected Irish Times journalist has said he won’t appear on Newstalk again and labelled it as a right wing mouth piece, sponsors have pulled away from Newstalk and just yesterday staff at the station issued a letter calling for his dismissal.
So that’s Hook. What about our sector? What about farming?
Well as we know it’s a largely male dominated world and one that can at times be backward and yet despite what some might say about farming and the sexism in the industry I also see a huge amount of potential and positivity.
Figures show that women own 13% of Irish farms and the average age is around 62 but that’s not a the whole story.
Every week we profile a woman in Irish agriculture and every week thousands of people read that article, celebrating and rejoicing in that particular woman’s success. Every week we profile a vet in Ireland and by in large most of our profiled vets are women.
Years ago men scorned female vets but that’s not the case today. These other women in Ag are celebrated, minded and praised as our life lines on that cold winter night when something has gone wrong with a cow or ewe. There is no longer a question of cant we get a male vet, the questions is how good is that vet. Their gender does not enter the equation.
Women have not had an easy ride in the Irish agriculture scene and yet they have proved time and time again that they are equal to and better than in many cases their male counterparts. The glass ceiling of the office world could be called the glass tractor in our industry but my how the farming women of Ireland have drove that beast so well.
From Anna May McHugh to Fiona Muldoon, Mairead McGuinness the women of our industry are not only leaders they are household names.
I think too of my own world, my mother an entrepreneur is also as good a judge of a cow as anyone I ever met. My neighbour Mary Anne farms not one but 2 farms of land and in our own office our lead feature writer Catherina Cunnane farms her own herd of Aubrac cattle at just 19 and our videographer Caroline Keane comes from a beef and horse farm in Kilkenny.
There are a few dinosaurs who refer to the Women of Ag as ‘grand girls’ but to do that is to put yourself on the backfoot and not be part of modern Ireland. Women always have and always will be a part of Irish farming and with the hunt only beginning for new entrants to the industry in the years to come we need every farmer we can get.
There are around 13% of women employed in our sector we need to up that number.
I’m proud to say I’m a feminist and back the Women in Ag of Ireland. I hope you do too.