National Farmers' Federation

IRWD 2020: Women on the rise in agriculture, backed by the sector’s most influential bodies

On the eve of International Rural Women’s Day, the National Farmers’ Federation is celebrating a boost to the number of women in leadership positions in agriculture, an achievement assisted by the NFF’s Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.

Today, 12 women with skills and experience in agriculture and a vision for the industry’s future, will graduate from the five-month one-on-one personal development mentoring program. The women join an alumni of 30 graduates, many of whom are now represented on some of agriculture’s most influential boards, committees and forums.

The graduation coincides with public pledges by 24 of Australia’s largest and most impactful agricultural organisations to achieve gender diversity within the leadership ranks of their organisations. 

These Committed Partners include AgForce; AACo; AgriFutures Australia; BASF; Bayer; CANEGROWERS; Coles; Cotton Australia; CPC; Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment; FMC; Grains Research and Development Corporation; National Farmers’ Federation; nbn; NSW Farmers; Nufarm; Nutrien Ag Solutions; Prime Super; Rabobank; Rimfire Resources; Rural Bank; Syngenta; WFI and Wine Australia. 

“The impact is a real increase in the representation of women around the tables where the pivotal decisions are made about our industry and our communities,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.

“With the Program in its third year, we were humbled to learn of the monumental progress many of our Partners have made towards gender parity at their senior leadership and board levels and indeed, across their entire organisations. 

“This Program is all about shifting the dial and the evidence is clear that we are doing just that by taking a two-pronged approach: developing the female leaders of the very-near future and providing a framework by which leading industry organisations can commit to, and report on, change.” 

Foundation Program Partner, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment recently achieved an important milestone, with the number of women on agriculture-, fisheries- and forestry-related government boards rising to 50 per cent for the first time. 

And, so far in 2020, women have assumed 60 per cent of all positions recruited by the Consolidated Pastoral Company, also a foundation Partner. 

Importantly Partners, have also made changes to make it easier for women returning from maternity leave, like Syngenta, who has established a private space for breastfeeding and encouraged flexible work arrangements. Today 24% of Syngenta’s employees (men and women) work part-time. 

“Our Partners are leading by example and making it possible for the NFF to lead a Program that identifies and nurtures agriculture’s best and brightest women,” Ms Simson said.

Ms Simson said the NFF was adamant the Program must continue in the face of the challenges presented by COVID-19.

“We thought it more important than ever to provide meaningful connections for women and to establish an ongoing discussion on personal development and the future of our sector.”

Each participant was matched with a mentor for the purpose of clarifying their leadership goals. The 12 women met as a group, virtually every fortnight to hear from a selection of Australia’s most respected leaders. 

Ms Simson, the first female President of the NFF in its 40-year history, said the NFF had a goal to double the number of women in agriculture’s leadership ranks by 2030.

“From the pledges and progress reports of our Partners and the ongoing success of our alumni it’s clear we’re well on the way to achieving this goal, if not knocking it out of the park,” Ms Simson said.

The 2020 Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program Graduates:

Alexandra Thomas – Mount Osmond, South Australia
Alison Hamilton – Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
Alysia Kepert – Perth, Western Australia
Diana Fear – Condobolin, New South Wales
Fiona Marshall – Mulwala, New South Wales
Jaelle Bajada – Sydney, New South Wales
Jessica Fealy – Paddys Green, Queensland
Margaret Jewell – Brisbane, Queensland
Niki Ford – Brisbane, Queensland
Rebecca Staines – Albury, New South Wales
Sarah Parker – Undera, Victoria
Susie Green – Lenswood, South Australia

Comments from graduates 

“It was so valuable to connect with women who are on a similar journey. Having these connections is such an important part of the leadership journey.”
Niki Ford, Queensland. 

“It was a humbling experience to take part in the program with such wonderful women who will no doubt set the world on fire.” 
Diana Fear, NSW. 

“The Program allows you dedicated time to clear the noise and focus on your professional development. I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted out of the Program at the beginning. With my mentor we covered a lot of ground and I have now crystallised my career goals. It was great to have access to a wide range of industry leaders.”
Rebecca Staines, NSW

2020 Partners

The Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program is supported by agriculture-focussed organisations who have joined with the NFF in committing to make meaningful change towards gender diversity within the leadership ranks of their industry. See Partner’s pledges and reports here.

Media Contact
Laureta Wallace
GM, Media & Communications
0408 448 250

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