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Milking It For All Its Worth: International Women’s Day 2024


Female Trailblazers in Agriculture speak out on International Women’s Day


To highlight International Women’s Day this year (8th March) the National Dairy Council has produced a special Podcast featuring four young women making strides in farming and agriculture. RTE Presenter Kathryn Thomas chats to NDC Farm Ambassador Nicole Keohane, Sophie Bell, Agri Influencer and Farmer, Anna Daly, Member Relations with Tirlan and Frances Nash, Grain Operations & Quality Manager, Dairygold.


So what’s going on with gender diversity in agriculture? Women continue to have very poor representation on dairy co-operative boards across the country, and the situation has only slightly improved in recent years. There are currently one three women with representation on Co-op boards around the country. While women account for some 13% of all farm owners  in Ireland, CSO data shows there are about 75,000 female farm workers.


Anna Daly, Member Relations with Tirlán said

There remain plenty of challenges in terms of female representation within the agriculture industry, yet we are seeing change with women taking a more visible role on farms and with the growth of more women in STEM leading to a more diverse pipeline for the agri-food sector. It is encouraging to see the level of progress made in recent years, yet we know there is more that we can all do. Tirlán has completed research into this area and engaged with our Co-op members and representative structure to develop our Co-op for the future and we now have a programme of work in place to encourage more female and young farmer involvement. It is clear that female farmers don’t want to be seen as the token diversity score, yet they recognise there needs to be a step change to encourage female involvement within representative structures and to be a valued member at the table.”


Women rarely inherit land due to the inter-generation transfer of farms through the male line. Yet, they provide analytical skills, contribute to strategic development decisions, look after “the books” and deal with the ‘red tape’ of modern farming. Women are also very involved in livestock care and other farm work, contribute to agribusiness and voluntary bodies and in sustaining rural life.

Yet, their numbers are low at decision-making levels in most of the various farm organisations and in policymaking.


When asked if she had any advice for women wanting to get into the industry, Nicole Keohane, NDC Farm Ambassador said:

“The women who are interested in getting into farming as a career have the passion for it, and anyone I’ve ever met who has been able to turn their hobby or passion into a career are incredibly happy people. The really attractive part of farming for me also, as a woman is the opportunity to essentially work from home and rear a family in this incredible environment, surrounded by nature cows and like-minded people. I truly believe the people in our industry are amazing for what they continue to do every day”.


Equality is being invited into the room. Diversity is getting a seat at the table. Inclusion is sharing your views and being heard.


Frances Nash – Grain Operations & Quality Manager, Dairygold said

“I think the industry has grown so much in the last decade. There’s huge things going on in the space of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And that’s something that we’re very focused on at the moment in Dairygold and so women coming into the industry can see that there is a path forward. You know, 10 years ago, certainly in our Co- Op, there was no female senior leadership team member, for example. Now we have three women on the senior leadership team and  even at middle management level, there was a handful, but not an enormous amount so it’s definitely really improving”


One of the areas we can encourage young woman to consider a career in agriculture and farming is through social media and there has been a noted surge in recent years in what we call Agri Influencers. These young women use channels like Instagram to show real life on a farm and have now grown to have a huge volume of followers, one such Influencer is Sophie Bell, she said

“People love seeing the day-to-day activities on my social channels whether that’s someone who is also a farmer or whether that’s someone from the city who aspires to rural life. Women have always ‘shaped’ the farming environment however their influence has largely been invisible in the public arena. The challenge is being seen and heard in all the spaces where decisions are made. Usually the woman comes home to a second job of taking responsibilities and care for the children and household physical and mental responsibilities. This social influence really impacts the drive for a woman to go forward in her own career”


Cathy Curran, Head of Communications at NDC said

We need to move forward and increase gender diversity across agriculture and encourage more young women to consider it as a career. All industries and sectors benefit greatly from having increased female representation from graduate to board level. These young women are making a real impact in their areas of expertise, be it in academia, on the farm, as Agri-influencers on social media and in the industry within the Co-Op network; we need to encourage women to excel in this industry and continue to secure one of Ireland’s oldest and most successful industries.”


As we look towards the future of Irish farming, striving to create a more inclusive and fairer agricultural sector is crucial. By breaking down barriers, promoting diversity, and empowering women to lead, it can lead to a thriving and sustainable farming community for generations to come.


For further information please contact Cathy Curran, Communications Lead, NDC on  or 086 8777 664.