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 NFF's five-month one-on-one personal development mentoring program.
The women join an alumnus of 30 graduates, many of who are now represented on some of agriculture's most influential boards, committees and forums.
The graduation also coincides with public pledges by 24 of Australia's largest agricultural organisations to achieve gender diversity within their leadership ranks.
"The impact is real change 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, many, 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."
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Foundation Diversity in Agriculture Leadership 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 60pc of all positions recruited by the Consolidated Pastoral Company, also a foundation partner.
Some partner organisations have also made it easier for women returning from maternity leave.
This includes Syngenta, who has established a private space for breastfeeding and encouraged flexible work arrangements. Today 24pc 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 to women and to establish an ongoing discussion on personal development and the future of our sector," she said.
Each participate was matched with a mentor for the purpose of clarifying their leadership goals.
The 12 women met as a group, every fortnight to hear from some 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 reports of our program Partners and the ongoing success of our alumnus it's clear we're well on the way to achieving this goal, if not knocking it out of the park," Ms Simson said.
NSW participant, Rebecca Staines, said she wasn't sure what she would gain from the program but said it had allowed her to sharpen her focus on professional development.
"With my mentor we covered a lot of ground and I have now crystallised my career goals," she said.
"It was great to have access to a wide range of industry leaders."
The 2020 Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program Graduates:
- Alexandra Thomas - Mount Osmond, SA
- Alison Hamilton - Wagga Wagga, NSW
- Alysia Kepert - Perth, WA
- Diana Fear - Condobolin, NSW
- Fiona Marshall - Mulwala, NSW
- Jaelle Bajada - Sydney, NSW
- Jessica Fealy - Paddys Green, QLD
- Margaret Jewell - Brisbane, QLD
- Niki Ford - Brisbane, QLD
- Rebecca Staines - Albury, NSW
- Sarah Parker - Undera, VIC
- Susie Green - Lenswood, SA