International Women’s Day is a global celebration of women’s achievements and has become a focal point in the movement for equal rights.

It is an opportunity to reflect on the huge progress women have made, while also acknowledging the challenges that remain.

Across Scotland, more and more women are entering top jobs in traditionally male-dominated sectors.

Lindsay Pollock was appointed Salmon Scotland’s Head of Sustainability six months ago, and now plays a key role in driving the sector forward.

In this Q&A, Lindsay gives an overview of her journey and explains why more women should consider aquaculture as a career.

Q. Briefly describe your aquaculture career so far.

I initially wanted to become a marine biologist and it was during my time studying at Stirling University that I began to learn more about aquaculture. I became interested in how farming aquatic species could contribute to conservation and feeding the world, and I wanted to be part of that.

It opened a lot of doors with regards to working overseas in developing countries and the first project I worked on was on the development of seahorse aquaculture in Vietnam. I have always been interested in the socio-economic side of aquaculture too, and after finishing my first degree, I did a PhD based in India and Sri Lanka looking at the potential for small-scale aquaculture in rural livelihoods.

Those were amazing opportunities to travel around the world and experience different countries’ cultures in my line of work. That sense of being taken right out of my comfort zone has been hugely valuable. 

Although I’ll always have a special place in my heart for those countries where I’ve worked and the people I met, I have always loved living in Scotland.

When I finished my studies, I took a different direction and spent the following 13 years working in an aquafeed company.  I learned a lot from working in a business, as well as gaining a technical understanding of salmon nutrition and feed sustainability.

I joined Salmon Scotland around six months ago, and my role now has a broader remit across all the pillars of sustainability - environmental, social and economic.

Q. What is your role, and can you talk us through a typical day in the life?

I’m not sure I’ve had what you would call a ‘typical day’ yet, but that is part of what I enjoy about the job.  I only took up my post with Salmon Scotland six months ago, and every day has been a bit different from the last.  Twice a week I am in the office in Edinburgh which is a great chance to connect with the team. Otherwise, I am working remotely and increasingly getting out to see our members and other stakeholders for face-to-face meetings and farm visits.

A significant part of the role is around communications, so I spend time working with the comms people too.

Q. What interested you most about the sector, and what drew you to your role?

My interest in the sector was sparked during my time at university, when I started learning about the different applications of aquaculture. It is a sector that is growing strongly and I wanted to be part of sustainably producing the world’s food.

What drew me to the salmon sector was the passion of the people working in the sector but also the innovation. I was keen to do more on the wider themes of sustainability. This led me to my current role at Salmon Scotland to help us collectively deliver our sector’s Sustainability Charter. I live and work in a community with salmon farming to my north and south. I know the benefits salmon farming brings to local communities first-hand, so for me, it appealed to both my head and heart – it was a good fit.

Q. What is your favourite part of your role?

The best part of this job is feeling you can make a difference.

I also enjoy being able to tell the story of all the positive things that are going on in our sector – and to address the misconceptions out there.

There’s a lot of variety in the types of work you are doing, and in the different people you meet. It makes it quite exciting.

Q. Have you encountered any gender-related challenges as a woman in aquaculture?

In some of my previous roles in different countries - with different cultures - yes, I’ve had that experience of being treated differently because of my gender.

It’s not something that has been a feature of my career in the Scottish salmon sector.

If anything, there are more women coming into roles in the salmon sector now, particularly in technical, health and in the business functions but I would like to see more women, especially in production.

Employers are keen for equality, diversity and inclusiveness in their companies and they’re actively looking for ways to encourage that.

Q. What career-related achievement are you most proud of?

I’d like to think I’ve been a mentor to some other people along the way, and that I’ve helped to build their confidence and make them feel supported to achieve what they want in their careers.

It’s wonderful to see those people developing and moving on in their careers within the aquaculture sector.

I also feel a sense of pride in taking on this role with Salmon Scotland. Having the responsibility of representing the sector and driving us forward on sustainability is a huge privilege.

Q. What advice do you have for women seeking a career in aquaculture?

I would say two key things are to be proactive and to network.

There are lots of sources of information and networks such as WiSA that are useful places for connecting with women working in the sector. There are more female role models now and I hope that helps to highlight that women can play many roles in our sector. Many people working in the sector are willing tell their story and provide guidance and expertise. Seek out those people out as best you can or find someone who can point you in the right direction.

But my best advice would be to have the confidence to seek out opportunities and seize them when they come up. There lots of different types of roles you can do in aquaculture, so I would say it’s important to be willing and prepared to try other things because you don’t know where it might lead.