TO MARK International Women's Day (Friday March 8), the Scottish Government's rural economy department has published a series of blogs highlighting the important and diverse role women play in driving and supporting Scotland's rural economy.

Here Kate Rowell, Chair of QMS, shares her story...

"Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a farmer like my Dad, Grandpa and the many generations who came before them. I clearly remember being very put out when an elderly Aunt told my younger brother that he would take over the farm, completely ignoring me! Ever since then I’ve been aware of society’s overwhelming view that it’s only the boys who are destined to be farmers – and I’ve taken quite a while to reach the point where I’m comfortable describing myself proudly as a Farmer (and never with “Female” or “Lady” in front!).

I trained as a vet, and at college girls were very much in the majority, even 25 years ago. Once qualified I worked in a two woman mixed practice in County Durham for 8 years, and I was really lucky as my boss had been there for 20 years and any trace of sexism towards a female vet was long gone. The farmers accorded me the greatest respect and I can’t remember one instance where I felt I’d been treated unfairly. I very quickly became a valued member of the agricultural community and loved every minute of my time there.

Therefore it came as a bit of a shock when, on my return home to take over the family farm, I was suddenly being excluded from meetings and committees because I was female. It wasn’t often being told I wasn’t welcome; more that nobody thought to invite me to go along as it was always the men who did these sort of things. It took a good few years, and quite a lot of interesting conversations with different people, before it became normal to be asked along to things as a matter of routine. And until a couple of years ago I was very often one of only a handful, or in some cases the only, woman in the room.

I’m really glad to say that things do seem to be changing for the better now. Many people are becoming aware of the issue and trying to do something about it. Events targeted at women are well attended and show that there is a real appetite among us all to get to the point where gender isn’t something that even needs to be mentioned. I think the future for women in agriculture and the rural sector looks very bright indeed, and to prove it, today the feed rep actually talked to me rather than asking for my husband!"