Rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon, centre, meets with WiSA members at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) at Dunstaffnage, Oban before her opening speech at the ASSG conference in nearby Oban. WiSA members, from left: Rowena Hoare, senior researcher, Institute of Aquaculture (IoA), Stirling University; Sophie Fridman, senior researcher, IoA; Mary Fraser, head of skills and talent at SAIC; Teresa Garzon, key account manager, Patogen. Photo: SAIC.

Scottish government gives £20,000 to encourage women into aquaculture

An initiative aimed at increasing diversity in the aquaculture industry has been given £20,000 by the Scottish government.

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Rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon announced the investment commitment to Women in Scottish Aquaculture (WiSA) during her speech opening the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers’ conference in Oban today.

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.

Rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon, left, and SAIC talent chief Mary Fraser at SAMS before the announcement. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: SAIC.

Healthy gender balance

The money will go towards creating an online platform to support the WiSA 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.

Salmon farmers Grieg Seafood, Cooke Aquaculture, the Scottish Salmon Company, Mowi, Loch Duart and Scottish Sea Farms have pledged their support for WiSA.

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: Diversity can help business performance.

Confidence and capability

Heather Jones, chief executive of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and a driving force behind WiSA, said promoting the role of women in aquaculture was a vital step in helping the industry grow.

She added: “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.”

WiSA is a collaborative initiative and follows a SAIC consultation of 200 people working in the sector, in which 90% of respondents were keen to see a network of support for women working, or considering a career, in the industry.

Membership is open to anyone, of any gender, studying or working in Scottish aquaculture.