In a post-COVID world where we have had to get used to video calls, this approach would also mean the meeting could even be recorded to make it more comfortable for everyone involved. Another practical suggestion was that individual companies should put together mentoring lists, containing people from in and outside of the business who could offer support to more junior members of staff.
Throughout the survey WFA analysed the different views of men and women. We noticed that women had a more negative perception than men on aspects of our industry that impact gender equality. It was felt that one area we could address as an industry is the issue of pay, as we saw that 82 percent of men agreed that men and women are compensated equally for similar roles at their organisation, but only 54 percent of women agreed. The group felt the key here was transparency, as this is the only way to change perceptions and give an accurate picture of what is happening in our sector. The group discussed how we could encourage companies in food and ag to publish gender pay gap data to reassure members of their organisations that they are being paid fairly. This also would allow organisations to see if there were differences between male and female pay and give them the opportunity to implement changes to address any discrepancies.
One clear figure that emerged in the survey was the difference in the average number of promotions that men and women had in their current organisation, with men experiencing an average of 1.39 and women 0.97. In trying to understand what was behind the figures, the group discussed the differences we have all observed when the opportunities to promote oneself arises. It was felt that many women were just not as vocal or confident when talking about their own abilities as men. This brought in the theme of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and how we as industry need to find a way to culture that feeling of self-belief amongst women in food and agriculture. It was suggested we could all play our part by making a commitment to support others by consciously giving out praise for excellent work. The group felt this behaviour could give individuals the belief to start going for promotions and help encourage colleagues who might not be as confident.
The final area we discussed was about inclusivity in the sector. In 2019 we saw that 77% of respondents thought the industry as a whole is becoming more inclusive, but this year that figure dropped to 62%. When thinking about what was responsible for this decrease our contributors felt there may be there is some complacency in the industry. Those who have been working in the industry for 10 or 20 years may be happier than younger employees, because improvements have been substantial since they entered the industry. However, as an increasing number of young people contribute to surveys like this and join our discussions, maybe it this decrease highlighting the work we still have to do in the perspective of younger generations. New joiners tend to join organisations with totally different perceptions of what working life should be and understanding this dissatisfaction will help us to improve gender equality across the industry.
So what can we take from this insightful session? We need to break down any barriers there may be for men mentoring women and virtual meetings may help that. The WFA campaign and members of its community should be actively encouraging companies to start calculating and sharing with employees their gender pay gap data, to give members of staff a full picture of how fair the industry truly is. We need to counteract feelings of imposter syndrome to get women promoted as readily as men, and that starts with individuals boosting confidence of others by praising excellent work more readily. Finally, those who have been in the industry for a few years must not get complacent. There is more to be done and we can act now to make the food and agriculture industry more inclusive.