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Are we missing the gendered perspective in evaluation?

Image source – https://invisiblefarmer.net.au/blog/2017/4/28/sallie-jones-of-gippsland-jersey-west-gippsland

I’ve just passed an important milestone in my PhD journey. Last week I was confirmed as a UQ PhD candidate at the School of Communication and Arts. An excellent reason to crack open a bottle of wine and grab some quality Thai takeaway with the family. I was actually quite surprised at the level of relief I felt once this milestone was officially achieved, even though I was sure I would be fine.

My PhD is focusing on how Australian farming women are using social media to communicate about climate change and examining broader impacts of this online engagement (such as the development of social capital). I’ve called it, The untold story of Australian farming women, social media and climate change. There is not a lot out there (almost nothing) looking at these three things together, hence the merit of my PhD!

As part of my confirmation presentation, I included my evaluation experiences and how the vast majority of producers we talk to about their project/program involvement are men. This is not to cast judgment one way or the other, it’s just how it is. And it really started me thinking about what we are potentially missing by not overtly including the perspectives of farming women in our evaluations.

Many of the projects we have been/are involved in are focused on farming practices, strategies and tools to help improve environmental outcomes and or cope with a changing climate. Research1 shows men and women are impacted in different ways and have different adaptation strategies to deal with climate change. So why aren’t we looking more closely at how these projects/programs are impacting farming women? And why don’t more project/program designs take the perspectives of farming women into account? I believe this is an important aspect that is being lost, particularly given how much climate change issues impact men and women differently.

This should be an important issue for funders of projects/programs working in the climate change and climate resilience space and other areas – from the design stage to the delivery and evaluation process. We can’t keep ignoring the very essential contribution of women to the farm, particularly as climate related extremes and issues will only continue to escalate across Australia. I also don’t think this issue is limited to climate change related programs either. I think it’s across the spectrum of rural industries.

The invisible farmer’ project was ‘the largest ever study of Australian women on the land’, involved a wide range of partners and supporters and ran from 2017 to 2020. It aimed to make visible the significance of the active contributions of women to Australia’s primary production industries through research and story telling. It’s well worth taking look at this website as I think it provides a very good picture of Australian farming women and an understanding of where I’m coming from.  

It’s an area I’m very interested in and I’ll share further thoughts as I progress my thinking. If you have any ideas or thoughts about this subject or you can direct me to projects/evaluations that are including a gendered approach, I would love to hear from you (amy@couttsjr.com.au).


1 Anderson, D 2012, ‘Climate Lived and Contested: Narratives of Mallee Women, Drought and Climate Change’, Hecate, vol. 38, no. 1, pp 24-41.

Alston, M 2014, ‘Gender mainstreaming and climate change’, Women’s Studies International Forum,  vol. 47, Part B, pp.287–294.

Alston, M & Whittenbury, K 2012, ‘Does climatic crisis in Australia’s food bowl create a basis for change in agricultural gender relations?’, Agriculture and Human Values, vol.30, no.1, p. 115-128.