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Inspiring change one step at a time

Inspiring change one step at a time

Rural Landscape

Here at SEFARI, we strive to make the world more sustainable, greener, and equal and we’ve got an amazing team of people who make this possible. As its International Women’s Day, we’ve decided to highlight some of the work done by our female researchers and/or our research that is addressing key issues affecting women.

From supporting rural women in the Arctic in making low carbon transitions, to closing the gender pay gaps, to sector-leading research - we cover it all in this blog post.

Supporting Rural Women

All across the world governments and researchers are trying to support workers, working in carbon-intensive fields to transition to low-carbon jobs. In order to do this one needs to consider the impacts of this transition. However, in general impacts that are considered are specific to male-dominated jobs. Therefore, SEFARI researchers Dr. Ana Vuin (a current SRUC researcher) and Alexa Green (a previous SRUC researcher), led a study aimed at understanding the impacts of low-carbon transitions on women in the rural Arctic – research for women and led by women. Their aim was to address certain themes such as.

Just transition and clean energy, which looks into understanding the changes affecting rural economies as a result of the transition to low-carbon emissions. This will help us understand how we can prompt and support development of female entrepreneurial activities along with the wellbeing of Arctic women (and beyond). Whilst also helping to close the gender inequality gap that is currently present in low carbon-transitioning.

Rural development and wellbeing, which aims to empower women in rural communities to mitigate the impacts of low carbon transitioning by providing them with the necessary tools to participate in the current economic landscape or create new business or new job roles in rural and island settings.

Gender equality, which aims to ensure that women are compensated appropriately for their work and encouraged to participate in entrepreneurial activities, allowing rural communities to become more self-reliant.

Through doing this the researchers have already managed to engage with InspirAlba and Scottish Rural Action and organised multiple online meetings that brought together a number of international female scholars, non-profit organisations representatives and policy makers in Scotland. These meetings have created a strong network of female stakeholders that are interested in capturing and acknowledging the importance of female contributions in rural areas. Hopefully, the project can help to inform and support the almost 1 million people living in rural areas in Scotland who are also facing the impacts of climate change and low-carbon transitioning.

As a result of that network (and project), Dr Vuin and Ms Green were invited to take part in a Climate Café® at the Scottish Rural and Island Parliament 2023 (Climate Session). Listen to the key points here.


Closing The Gender Pay Gap

Gender pay gaps are still a big issue across the world, and SEFARI researchers were eager to understand if this also true for those women working in rural areas. Therefore, in 2019 SEFARI researchers (from the Rural Policy Centre at SRUC) conducted a study on the gender pay gaps in rural Scotland to understand how big the pay gap divide is and what are the main causes of it, and how these might differ in rural and urban locations. Previous research has shown that flexible working hours required by women due to caring responsibilities, difficulties with accessing necessary training and working in male dominated jobs might be factors influencing the pay gap. Perhaps surprisingly, the research found that between 2012 and 2018, the largest decrease in the gender pay gap for full time employees occurred in Mainly Rural Local Authorities, but there were increases, and also considerable volatility in the gender pay gap in Islands and Remote Rural Local Authorities.

Whilst the results of this work suggested some positive trends, it does highlight that many questions still need answered such as, how many women have been forced or decided to leave work due to caring responsibilities or how many women work just part-time because they can’t work full-time and as such don’t show up in this study. Nonetheless this report suggested a more positive picture in rural Scotland compared to urban Scotland and that the overall decline in the gender pay gap in rural areas may be driving the decline in Scotland as a whole.

Further work on the gender pay gap is presented in SRUC’s Rural and Islands Insight Report 2023, which shows the continuing variation in the gender pay gap across Scotland’s Local Authorities reflecting types of job and sectors of work.


Health Behaviour, Mental Health & Women

Individual behavioural habits are influenced by many factors especially when it comes to health. The Covid-19 pandemic is thought to have impacted people’s dietary behavioural habits, but limited research is available. Therefore, SEFARI researchers from the Rowett Institute and the Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, investigated the link between the Covid 19 pandemic and dietary behaviour in Scotland, and any accompanying health and well-being impacts. Part of this research examined how the impact differed for men and women.

Prior to the pandemic, it was thought that a healthier lifestyle was associated with better mental health for both men and women. However, the results of this study have shown that whilst that remained to be the case for men, women saw a complete disconnect between the two factors. The authors state that the main reason behind this can be attributed to women having a larger reduction in social interactions and longer periods of loneliness and isolation.

The findings of this study are very important as they shine a light on the differential mental and physical health impacts that factors such as poverty and loneliness can have on women compared to men. Researchers are planning to study other ongoing life events such as the cost-of-living crisis, which might see women face the same difficulties, especially those who might work in low-paying jobs.


Sector-Leading Work

At SEFARI we also aim to produce sector-leading research which answers questions that carry a great importance and shouldn’t be left unanswered, and this work is often led by women. These women can act as key role models, inspiring and encouraging the next generation to consider careers within these sectors. 

Dr Katherine Whyte is an environmental statistician at BioSS, working on research in the renewable energy sector. She has recently been appointed by the Royal Statistical Society as a William Guy Lecturer, with the goal of engaging with schoolchildren across the UK and highlighting the importance of statistics in combating climate change. Katherine has created an educational video resource which addresses the question of, “When we build wind farms, what happens to the wildlife?”. This interactive video allows students of any age to learn how maths and statistics can be used to help strike the right balance between creating wind energy and still protecting ocean wildlife like seals and seabirds. It also is relevant to issues cutting across the curriculum including numeracy and mathematics, science, technologies, and social studies.



We’re proud to have so many talented SEFARI researchers who are trying to change the world for the better one step at a time. Whether its empowering women to achieve their full potential, investigating the gender pay gap, producing sector leading research or understanding how crises can affect men and women’s health differently, our researchers are covering it all.


By David Mercieca, who is currently on work placement with SEFARI Gateway and is pursuing his MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement MSc at University of Edinburgh.