From “mondine” to entrepreneurs: Agriculture 4.0 needs more and more women
Not only women entrepreneurs are needed, but also managers and experts in new technologies, because agriculture is (also) a business for women
Elisa Mancini, Head of People at xFarm Technologies, Deborah Piovan science communicator and biotechnology expert, and Sara Carioni, a young woman working in the field of Agriculture 4.0, talk about women in agriculture in today’s world
Milan, March 8, 2023 – Women have always played a role in agriculture. From the daughters, sisters, wives and mothers of farming families who participated in life in the fields alongside the men, to the “mondine” – the women who used to weed the rice fields of the Po Valley, in Northern Italy – who saw in this extremely hard work a valuable means of emancipation. Today, according to the most recent data, there are 823,000 women working in Italian agriculture – about 30 percent of the total number of people employed in the sector .
But while it is true that women have always been active in agriculture, it is also true that they are less likely to be in the top positions. However, things are changing; within farms, the number of women in leadership roles is increasing. Today, 31.5 percent of farm managers in Italy are women (30.7 percent in 2010). More and more women in agriculture are taking on control and management roles.
Women are not only entrepreneurs but also experts in the latest technologies applied to Agriculture 4.0, because agriculture has never been more of a business for women. xFarm Technologies (https://xfarm.ag/), the tech company focused on digitizing the agri-food sector providing innovative tools to support farmers, while promoting inclusivity, knows this well. «At xFarm Technologies, we are always actively looking for new resources and we hope to welcome more and more women over the years. We are convinced that diversity is an extraordinary added value within any organization,» says Elisa Mancini.
Although there are still fewer women than men, female employees hold key positions, including Growth Marketing, Product Management, and Software and Web Frontend Development.
«For a company to grow in a healthy and forward-looking way, it is important to focus on the skills of each person, regardless of their gender,» notes Elisa Mancini, Head of People at xFarm Technologies, a human resources expert with a 20-year career.
But even today in Italy women are less likely than men to choose scientific subjects at university. This is particularly evident in companies like this one, where agriculture is intertwined with the world of technology. «There are fewer women choosing to study STEM, but this will change in the coming years. It’s a process that’s already underway, because the world of technology is by no means just a man’s world, even if we’ve been told otherwise for a long time» Mancini adds.
Women and Agriculture 4.0: the stories of Deborah Piovan and Sara Carioni
There is no good reason to exclude a segment of the population from key roles in the world of agriculture and agritech. To do so is to risk losing the skills and knowledge of a large number of professionals simply because they are women. This is the view of Deborah Piovan, a science communicator, biotechnology expert, and agricultural entrepreneur who has digitized her business with xFarm Technologies. Piovan does not believe this is an issue of gender discrimination. But she points out that in all fields, including agriculture, there is too often a lack of real support from institutions. «If we want more women in agriculture, and in general if we want more female employment, there needs to be a more structured support for families. That means, for starters, more easily accessible childcare and adequate parental leave for fathers as well,» says Piovan. Indeed, Italy ranks 14th in the EU in the Gender Equality Index, which assesses the situation of women in individual EU countries, with a score of 65 out of 100. Since 2019, Italy’s score has fallen by 0.5 points in the category dedicated to work, where it currently stands at 63.2 points, in last place among all EU member states .
Sara Carioni is very young. Born in 1999, she grew up among the plots of her family’s estate, where today she is in charge of managing cattle and campaign planning and management with the support of the xFarm platform. She emphasizes the need for a change of perspective. «I feel very lucky because in my daily life I find a lot of trust in young people and new technologies. In fact, I believe that an attitude of openness is the only way for a farm to be successful today. There is no reason to cling to old paradigms; the same goes for women in agriculture, especially in management roles. Even though I sometimes felt I did not measure up to my male cousins, I put myself out there and broke the mold. I even learned to drive my tractor, which is intentionally pink to show that change is possible if you want it!»