'Old boys club' in IFA warned to consider woman for top job
It's time for a woman to take the reins at the Irish Farmer's Association in order to end its "old boys' club" traditions, a discussion at the National Ploughing Championship was told.
Helen Harris, tillage farmer, writer and special guest speaker at the 'Women in Farming' talk in the Irish Independent tent on site in Screggan, Co Offaly, received a round of applause when she raised concerns over the lack of women in positions of power within the agri-sector.
Lorna Sixsmith, author, blogger and dairy farmer, also featured on the panel alongside Lorraine Keena, inter-county football and camogie star with Offaly.
"Women are absolutely under-represented and I've even had this out with Joe Healy, president of the IFA," said Ms Harris. "If they don't put women in top positions really, really fast, you are going to lose us. We really need to be there.
"I think it's really important, especially in the tillage sector. No one wants to be a token woman on a committee so it's really important that we value ourselves too."
Ms Harris also criticised popular use of the term "farmerette" to describe a female farmer. "I'm a farmer, not a farmerette. When I go out and get into my tractor and plough my field, it's no different than how a man does it. And if we accept those titles then we're as bad," she said.
Lorna Sixsmith described the IFA as "an old boys club".
"I don't necessarily mean that the IFA are stopping women but from a practical point of view if a couple have young children, it's not always possible for both of them to attend an IFA meeting. I think Joe Healy is constrained by the traditions of the organisation," she said.