Investing in gender equality
By Cynthia Giagnocavo
Chair, Cátedra COEXPHAL-UAL in horticulture, cooperative studies and sustainable development, University of Almería, Spain.
Leader of WP5 SAH and Gender Task Force - Analysis
My work as a scientist includes understanding how organisations function. Do they meet their goals, and if so, how? What are the processes that bring about innovation and push transitions to more sustainable economies? What resources are necessary? Which actors make it happen? What haven't we noticed yet?
Being part of a large, though informal, organisation like SmartAgriHubs means finding those actors and resources that you may never have known existed. You find other people working on similar issues, inspiring role models, collaborative arrangements, people who stretch your imagination and your expectations, and innovators with solutions you want to try. The plan was that this would happen with digital technologies and solutions for agriculture. But at the beginning we didn't plan that it would happen when looking into gender in digitalisation and agriculture.
In European projects we talk about multi-actors, inclusiveness, research, innovation and action, with an emphasis on all of those words. But there is sometimes a resistance to looking for the unknown (note that I did not say conclusions) about gender in agriculture and digitalisation: “It's not a problem in our area”. “No one said anything, so it can't be a big issue”. “Times have changed”. “Maybe they just choose different career paths”. One wonders how otherwise curious and innovative people can suddenly be so hesitant, it is basically a research and innovation question.
I am not a specialist in gender studies by any means. I also don't think we should limit ourselves to gender in trying to find and connect less visible actors in our digital agri network: small farmers including in remote rural areas, new Europeans, novice farmers, etc. But one of the more satisfying activities in SAH, carried out together with synergy projects IoF2020 and NEFERTITI, was the opportunity to do some “action research” on why women were underrepresented in digitalisation and agriculture. Where were they? If SAH is about “connecting the dots”, what parts of the network were not yet visible? We contacted women farmers in precision agriculture and agritech, sought out women entrepreneurs, and found women and men in producer organisations and agricultural research and advisory services to support our common search. We also found good practices embedded in organisations that were already inclusive. We sparked something and made more visible the role of women in digitalisation and agriculture. Elsewhere in this issue, you can see the success of the Gender Committee in SAH. But the main point is that the digital agri network can be far more diverse than it currently is, and thus stronger and more resilient because of it.