AN INITIATIVE designed to promote diversity in aquaculture is set to benefit from funding and support from the Scottish Government, to help boost career opportunities for women in Scotland’s thriving seafood industry.
Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, met with Women in Scottish Aquaculture (WiSA) at the Scottish Association for Marine Science before announcing a £20,000 investment commitment at the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers conference.
Combined with an additional £30,000 of industry sponsorship, the funding will support WiSA’s core aims: to encourage more women to enter the sector, provide a supportive network across industry and academia, and support partners to harness the potential of women in aquaculture.
Funding from the Scottish Government will go towards creating an online platform to support the membership network, as well as supporting a mentoring programme which will be delivered in partnership with Skillfluence – an organisation which specialises in professional development in science.
Launched on International Women’s Day 2019, WiSA is a collaborative initiative and follows a SAIC (Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre) consultation of 200 people working in the sector. Nearly all (90%) of the respondents were keen to see a network of support for women working, or considering a career, in the industry and more than three quarters said they would be interested in joining the group.
WiSA membership is open to anyone, of any gender, studying or working in Scottish aquaculture. Many of Scotland’s major producers – including Grieg Seafood, Cooke Aquaculture, the Scottish Salmon Company, Mowi, Loch Duart and Scottish Sea Farms – have joined forces to pledge their support for this ground-breaking collaboration network.
Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “It cannot be right that there are so few women working in Scottish aquaculture. In any professional industry it is important to nurture a workforce that is diverse, and that means having a healthy gender balance.
“Women in Scottish Aquaculture was developed in close collaboration with industry because there is a growing desire by all to break down the barriers stopping women from moving into in this thriving sector. The funding I am announcing today will help to kick-start this work. I hope it will lead to many more women considering a career in aquaculture.”
Heather Jones, CEO of SAIC, added: “I am passionate about supporting and promoting the role of women in Scottish aquaculture. I believe it is a vital step in helping the industry to grow. It’s been fantastic to secure financial support for this initiative from both the Scottish Government and the aquaculture industry in Scotland. The resources announced today will allow us to build capacity, confidence and capability amongst women working in Scottish aquaculture.
“Diversity matters – research shows that it can significantly impact business performance, with companies that commit to diverse leadership likely to be more successful than those who don’t.
Equality is a universal value that Scotland champions and SAIC is proud to be a founding member of the Women in Scottish Aquaculture network. We’re committed to delivering positive change through this initiative over the next five years.”