History of EWHA

Encouraging Women in Horticulture: then and now

Encouraging Women in Horticulture Aust. Inc. was founded in 2007 by Dawn Fleming. With a group of like-minded horticultural women, Dawn formed a Committee to support women in this sector. Through her years of working in the nursery industry in both retail garden centres and commercial orchardist sectors, she had observed the unsung work that women do in horticulture.

Here is some of what Dawn had to say about why she saw a need for an organisation primarily focused on the work of women:
“These women have been mostly unqualified, supporting their fathers, husbands, brothers who are the face of their business.  These women were and are the mainstay of these businesses, keeping the books, attending to sales, looking after the staff, keeping tabs on the stock – all the vital work that keeps a business running smoothly, and all the while looking after the family and the home.”

Dawn was strongly motivated to create a group which would comprise women of all ages who work in all sectors of horticulture, the aim being to provide them with a platform to share their stories, their journey to where they are now and where they hope to be in the future. 

Encouraging Women in Horticulture was set up to do exactly that: inspire, encourage, develop, empower and value all women in horticulture, along the way providing opportunities for professional development and interaction, and by publicly recognising women’s contributions.

EWHA did not put any boundaries on membership – there was and still isn’t any formal qualification required to join or any requirement to comply with professional standards as with other associations within the industry.  In fact EWHA sets itself apart in that it is inclusive of all women working in horticulture despite their age, status or tenure of work.  Casual or part-time garden maintenance personnel, mature age students, retail nursery sales and marketing personnel, family members of nursery owners, unqualified garden designers, qualified horticulturists, landscape architects, educators, garden media, florists or fruit and vegetable growers. This diversity of membership has meant that EWHA remains a valid and needed platform for women and still one unique in its premise even today.

Key to the success of EWHA is a strong committee of women and men who work in all facets of the industry, volunteering their time to provide opportunities for members to network and grow their skill set.  Dawn’s motto “Women Can Do Anything” became the EWHA mantra.

EWHA set out to provide opportunities to not only network, but also to support and to help members to establish the sort of professional connections and friendships that make women stronger. Our motivation as a committee has always been to learn from our mentors, be inspired by our speakers, and cultivate productive relationships with our industry colleagues.

Over the years EWHA has facilitated a wide variety of events:

  •                Behind-the-scenes tours
  •                Learning Forums
  •                Visits to notable gardens
  •                Annual get-togethers such as  the Celebration event with guest speakers, NGV
                   gallery & MIFGS outings, NGIV Trade Days
  •                Informal networking opportunities

Since 2014 EWHA has awarded the annual Dawn Fleming Student Scholarship, established to assist and encourage a female student who demonstrates a passion for horticulture, to further her studies in a horticultural discipline at an accredited college, university or registered training institution in Australia.

In 2020, as a way of supporting our female members, EWHA created two new annual grants whose aim is to benefit a small business member and an apprentice member each year. The Small Business Grant provides $500.00 for expenditure on garden tools and/or a short course/s to help further the member’s experience and progress in the industry. The Apprenticeship Grant provides $500.00, to assist with general expenses associated with living and studying as an apprentice.

Keeping a finger on the pulse of the horticultural industry for women
In spite of the challenging growing and market conditions, the Australian horticulture sector exceeded $15 billion in production value in 2019-2020. Although production volume had decreased by 1.5 per cent due to seasonal conditions such as drought and bushfires, value increased by 4.5 per cent, from $14.4 billion to $15.1 billion. (Australian Horticulture Statistics Handbook 2018-19 to 2020-21 (HA18002)).

Within the context of this booming industry, today women still lag behind men in the make-up of the workforce in the horticultural sector – in hours worked, in underemployment rates, in employees without paid leave entitlements, and in pay received. The 2020 Gender Equality Insights report showed that men in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing are paid 22.0% more than women. Also, men in Building Cleaning, Pest Control and Gardening Services are paid 15.2% more than women. We still have a ways to go in closing these gender wage gaps. Over a lifetime of earning, these gaps can have a huge impact on the lives of women. If you would like more information about the gender pay gap, what it is and how we can work to improve equity within the workforce please visit https://www.wgea.gov.au/


Gaps in pay are not the only issue workforces face regarding gender disparities.
“Men have much lower rates of access and utilisation of flexible working arrangements and parental leave entitlements. According to 2019-20 WGEA data, men make up 6.5% of people who take primary carer parental leave and only 2.2% of organisations have set targets to improve men’s participation in flexible work.” (https://www.wgea.gov.au/gender-equality-and-men)

At the same time more organisations exist that support the work of women in the industry at a national and state level such as The Rural Women’s Network, Women in Design and Construction (WIDAC), Hort Innovation, Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria, Nursery and Garden Industry Victoria (NGIV), Horticultural Media Association Australia (HMA), Australian Institute of Horticulture, Landscaping Victoria and Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA).

At EWHA we believe that the gaps addressed by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency will continue to narrow. There are signs of progress each and every day, with women and men making strides for equality. EWHA is excited to see the achievements women make in their lives and careers.

On that note I’d like to close with this quote from Libby Lyons the director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

“If I told you, as a business leader, that there was one simple action that you could implement in your business to add value to your organisation and bolster your financial performance regardless of the size of your firm or the industry in which you operate, I KNOW that you would act immediately! This report (Gender Equity insights 2020) provides you with exactly the action you must take. Our partnership with the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), now in its fifth year, provides us with a deeper understanding of our own world-leading dataset, and this year, the findings are remarkable. This significant report reveals tangible proof of a proposition that our Agency has long suspected as true: that having more gender balanced leadership in an organisation improves the business bottom line.”

(Cassells R and Duncan A (2020), Gender Equity Insights 2020: Delivering the Business Outcomes, BCEC|WGEA Gender Equity Series, Issue #5, March 2020.