Rural Commentary

Rural women’s contribution an unseen and unrecognised value

Here at Tracta we recently undertook an in-depth survey into the thoughts and feelings of women living in rural New Zealand, and while it came as no surprise that generally this is a group who feel undervalued and underappreciated, the intent to which some companies are missing the mark when marketing to this all-important sector is concerning.

The largely unappreciated role of women in farm businesses, and the opportunity provided through such knowledge, is a key learning from this 250+ women survey with a staggering 35% of respondents feeling they are understood or respected by rural product and service marketers.

Our interpretation and feeling is that there is a degree of condescension, especially given that 65% of respondents feel that providers do an average to bad job of talking to them.  The first rule of marketing is to know your market and our job of taking and interpreting the mood and views of rural New Zealand is to point out where suppliers of goods and services could be falling short.

One misunderstanding could be the level of academic achievement by the female half of the rural busineses. Nearly 80% of the Women in Rural New Zealand survey respondents have a post-secondary school qualification. Almost 20% hold a postgraduate qualification or higher.

As the survey clearly shows, women are almost always involved in large purchasing decisions. From farm and environment management to strategic planning and forecasting to bill payments, women are hugely involved in their farming operations. Yet many respondents said that those inside and outside agriculture continue to attribute success of their farming businesses only to the male, seeing little value in the woman’s role.

One woman’s comment neatly summarises this frustration: ‘Just because I’m the one that meets the school bus doesn’t mean I’m not a key player and decision-maker in our agribusiness’.

The biggest on-farm issues recognised by survey respondents were profitability and productivity.  However, only about a third of respondents feel there is enough support for women in the rural sector.

Additionally, 85% of those surveyed identified balancing career/family expectations as a key issue for rural women. For some, this translates to loneliness as a concern, especially given that some of the roles women play are perceived as being in the background.

The increasing use of, and indicated preference for internet-delivered information, as well as the heightened use of social media among this savvy group means that any erosion of trust instantly becomes known far and wide.

For these women, the top four traits in order of importance when selecting a product and services supplier were;

  1. reliability
  2. trustworthiness
  3. quality of products/service
  4. service

This clearly shows that from rural women’s point of view, you need to deliver on your promises.

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