INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day 2021 today has been marked with the opening of applications for the National Farmers Federation’s fourth annual Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.
The program is a mentoring opportunity for women who want to play a leading role in shaping the future of agriculture and regional Australia.
The NFF said graduates of the program, now a 30-strong alumni, have gone on to hold industry board positions and continue to be changemakers within their sectors and communities.
NFF president Fiona Simson said the program was transforming gender representation within agriculture and directly addressed the theme of this year’s IWD: #ChoosetoChallenge.
“For many years, unspoken barriers have seen women all but excluded from the forums where key decisions are taken about agriculture and the future of regional communities.
“Thankfully, transformative change to fix this inequality is now well underway,” Ms Simson said.
In 2016, Ms Simson was elected as the first female president of the NFF in its 40-year history. Today, women make up 50 percent of the NFF board.
Last year, for the first time, the program’s partner, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, reported female representation on agriculture, fisheries, and forestry related government boards as having risen to 50pc.
“These are just two important examples of the progress towards the NFF’s 2030 Roadmap goal of doubling the number of women in agriculture’s leadership roles by 2030,” Ms Simson said.
The NFF said the Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program is made possible by the support of leading business, advocacy and government partners, all of which are leading by example in ensuring female and male voices are heard equally within agriculture.
As a requirement of the program, each partner pledges their commitment to make meaningful change towards gender diversity and commit to reporting on their progress annually.
“Our program partners have actively chosen to challenge the stereotypes and bias that prevent agriculture’s leadership ranks from being more inclusive,” Ms Simson said.
Great opportunities, regardless of gender – NSW Farmers
NSW Farmers chief executive officer Pete Arkle said women play a vital role at NSW Farmers, from board members to committee chairs in the association’s membership and policy, communications, IT, finance and regional staff.
“Today is a special opportunity to mark their leadership in a field that has historically been associated with men.
“With Fiona Simson leading agriculture nationally at NFF, and also a past president of NSW Farmers, there are great opportunities for talented and capable individuals, irrespective of gender, to step up help lead the growth of NSW and Australian agriculture,” Mr Arkle said.
“We’re proud to advocate on behalf of the many farm enterprises that are partly or fully operated by women, and it’s promising to see more accurate representation filter through with the appointment or election of more and more women to industry leadership roles.
“All of our extensive livestock committees, which include cattle, sheep meat, goats and wool, are now chaired by women,” he said.
“It’s an exciting time to be part of NSW Farmers, and while many women leaders may not want to be singled out, it’s still important to acknowledge their integral role in agriculture and regional NSW.”