The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) are leading a call to agribusinesses to even the gender ledger on their Boards and in their senior executive ranks. Coinciding with International Rural Women’s Day on Sunday 15 October, the NFF and AACo today announced a new initiative, which asks agribusiness, representative bodies and other farm-focussed organisations to commit to meaningful change to enhance female participation. “For as long as farming has been contributing to Australia’s prosperity, women have been at the coalface of agriculture,” NFF President Fiona Simson said. “Despite this, women are still under-represented at the senior levels within agribusinesses and farm representation.” The Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program will see aspiring female leaders matched with accomplished mentors – male and female. “Mentorees will set out their leadership goals, and work with mentors on how to achieve their aspirations. Importantly, the program will establish an alumni of female leaders with skills relating to agriculture and business and who have an interest in, and passion for the sector.” Increasing female representation is not only the right thing to do, it undoubtedly makes sound business and strategic sense Hugh Killen, AACo Chief Commercial Officer To be involved, agribusiness, representative bodies and other organisations – key to the fabric of Australia’s farm sector – will need to commit to change. “Organisations must commit to auditing the gender diversity within their leadership teams and pledge to make ‘meaningful change’ towards achieving enhanced gender equality.” Ms Simson said what amounted to ‘meaningful change’ would vary for each organisation but it may include setting a target for the ratio of female staff and/or board members, developing a diversity policy within their own organisations, providing focussed personal development opportunities for junior female staff and/or facilitating more flexible work arrangements for all employees. AACo Chief Commercial Officer Hugh Killen said the benefits of increased gender diversity were well recognised. “Women bring differing views to all aspects of business from investment, risk, managing people and understanding stakeholders. “Increasing female representation is not only the right thing to do, it undoubtedly makes sound business and strategic sense.” Mr Killen said almost every family farming business had a female within its ranks and that AACo stations had a large contingent of female stockworkers, however the challenge was to join the dots to the leadership level. “While women are entrenched in the practical side of farming, whether that be on family farms or in corporate operations, their ascendance to positions around agribusiness and representative Board tables has stalled. “Which is to the great detriment of our industry,” Mr Killen said. Ms Simson, the first female President of the NFF in its 38-year history, said the peak body was wasting no time in assessing its own gender diversity. “We have a Board of nine, with only two female Directors. “As part of our lead role in the Diversity in Agriculture Leadership program, our Board is developing a diversity policy and strategising ways by which we can make meaningful change.” Expressions of interest are now invited from agribusinesses, representative bodies and other farm-focussed organisations – public and private – who wish to be a part of the Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program. To find out more visit www.farmers.org.au/diversity. Individuals who wish to further their agriculture leadership aspirations can apply to be a part of the first Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Mentor Program when the application process opens in December 2017.