Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (11) 2011 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Women’s status anxiety and their willingness to participate in agricultural education programs

E D Lioutas, C Charatsari, I Tzimitra-Kalogianni and A Papadaki-Klavdianou

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Economics, 54621 Thessaloniki-Greece


Agricultural education of livestock farmers has been recognized as a contributing factor that can drive rural communities towards sustainability. However, womens participation in agricultural education programs (AEPs) remains insufficient. The main aim of this research is to investigate the influence of women’s felt status anxiety on their willingness to participate in AEPs.

Survey’s findings reveal the dissatisfaction of women with the perceived social status associated with their occupation, and their high willingness to participate in AEPs. Results also suggest that women’s perception of their low social status is the most important predictor of their willingness to participate in AEPs. 

Keywords: agricultural extension, social anxiety, social status, women livestock farmers


Although women farmers report a highly positive attitude towards agricultural education (Charatsari et al 2011), they remain an underserved population group from agricultural extension/education services. Despite women’s entry to positions of agricultural leadership, women’s access in educational programs remains problematic (Mengesha et al 2008). Trauger et al (2008), suggest that agricultural education programs view women farmers as “farmwives” and in some cases as “bookkeepers” rather than farmers or decision-makers. Such biases, as well as the lack of relevance of AEPs to the real needs of women (Odurukwe et al 2006), which has been shown to be the most important factor discouraging livestock producers’ participation in such programs (Lioutas et al 2010), are inhibiting women’s participation in agricultural education activities. Organisations, agencies and associations intended to benefit farmers have largely overlook women farmers, or have ignore their separate needs (Trauger 2009). 

In productivist agricultural models women are often marginalized from spaces of knowledge (Trauger 2004). Researches have demonstrated that, despite their major contribution in the livestock production (Michailidis 2007), and rather than their belief that participation in AEPs can lead to improvement of their living standards (Charatsari and Papadaki-Klavdianou 2010), only a minority of women farmers has attended AEPs (Budak et al 2005). These inequalities in education and access to information create disparities between men and women livestock farmers (Ampaire and Rothschild 2011). While the willingness to participate in AEPs has been examined, its relationship with the expectation of upgrading farmers’ social status, and the stress that this expectation raises, remain largely uninvestigated. The principal objectives of this study are to investigate women farmers’ felt status anxiety, the sources that cause this anxiety, and their influence on women’s willingness to participate in AEPs. The term “status anxiety” is used to describe women’s dissatisfaction with their social status. Status anxiety has its roots in social anxiety, which, according to Schlenker and Leary (1982), arises “when individuals perceive or imagine unsatisfactory evaluative reactions from subjectively important audiences”.  

Methodological Approach

A qualitative study, using in-depth interviews with 14 participants, was used to elicit the items introduced in the structured questionnaire that was used in the second stage (quantitative research). Based on the results of qualitative research, a scale was created to measure women’s felt anxiety towards their status. The instrument (Status Anxiety Inventory - SAI) consists of ten items. Each participant was asked if she agrees (Yes) or disagrees (No) with each of the items. The part of the questionnaire presented in this article includes also questions about women’s demographics, their willingness to participate in agricultural education programs, and also data on satisfaction from their status. Information on satisfaction was recorded as a dichotomous variable identifying those who are currently satisfied versus those who are not. Five factors were examined as potential sources of dissatisfaction with social status: gender, occupation, income, origin and educational level. A five-point scale was used for the evaluation of the examined parameters.  

The survey’s instrument was pre-tested in a pilot study in order to test face and content validity. After minor corrections/modifications, the final instrument was built, in a way that it can accurately measure the desired variables. The interview process lasted two months (September-October 2010). Using a random sampling procedure a total sample of 52 women farmers (small ruminant producers) from the region of Thessaly-Greece was collected. The collected data were processed using PASW Statistics 18.0 for Windows. Descriptive statistics and binary analysis techniques were employed in order to provide a basic overview of the data. A model of stepwise linear regression analysis was created in order to meet the research objective. A probability level of 0.05 was considered statistically significant for all analyses.  

Results and discussion

A total of 52 women livestock farmers participated in the study. Participants were primarily high school graduates (34.6%), with a mean age of 42.8 years (S.D. =11.06 years). None of the 52 women have participated in agricultural education programs. However, the women’s willingness to participate in agricultural education programs is generally high, since almost half of them (46.2%) reported “very high willingness”, while 32.7% indicated “high willingness”. Only 15.4% (eight women) stated “low willingness”, and 5.8% (three women) expressed negative attitude towards their participation in agricultural education programs.  

According to their responses towards SAI’s items, 63.5% of the women feel undervalued, 57.7% marginalized, while 57.7% do not feel that they are faced as equal members of the rural community, and 57.7% are anxious about their status. Table 1 illustrates the percentages of women’s responses towards SAI’s items. The majority of women (57.7%) are dissatisfied with their social status. Dissatisfaction with social status increases women’s willingness to participate in AEPs (U=86.500; Z=-4.854; p=0.000). Women tend to attribute their perceived social status mainly in their occupation (Mean Score=4.57; S.D.=0.73). Table 2 reveals that gender is considered as the second most important cause of low social status (Mean Score=4.27; S.D.=0.78). Surprisingly, income is not viewed as an important antecedent of the perception of low social status.   

Table 1. Women’s responses towards SAI’s items

SAI’s Items




* I feel that I’m undervalued



I feel that others rate me as an equal member of rural society



* I feel that I’m marginalized



* I feel that I must improve my status



I feel that others like me



* I feel inferior than the others



* I feel that I’m under-recognized



I feel that others appreciate me



* I feel that others underestimate me



I feel that others respect me



* In marked items the answer “yes” was coded as “anxiety”. In the other items as “anxiety” was coded the answer “no”

Table 2. Women’s attitudes towards potential sources of low social status



Mean Score(1)

Std. Deviation

I think that my low social status is an output of…

My occupation




My gender




My educational level




My origin




My income




1: From 1: “Strongly Disagree” to 5: “Strongly Agree”

The above mentioned factors were used as predictors in a stepwise linear regression analysis model, in order to identify the weight of each variable in predicting women’s willingness to participate in AEPs. Results of the regression analysis (Table 3) show that, among examined variables only the perceptions that occupation and gender are causes of low social status contribute to women’s willingness to participate in agricultural education activities. Women’s willingness is explained at 80% by the feeling that their occupation raises the perception of low social status, while gender contributes only 4.4% to the model. On the contrary, the income as well as women’s origin and their educational level are not significant predictors of willingness to participate in AEPs.  

Table 3. Change statistics of predictors introduced in the linear regression analysis model for variable “willingness to participate in AEPs”




Adjusted R2

Std. Error of the Estimate

Change Statistics


R2 Change

F Change



Sig. F Change
























a. Predictors: (Constant), Occupation

b. Predictors: (Constant), Occupation, Gender



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Received 29 September 2011; Accepted 14 October 2011; Published 4 November 2011

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