Embracing leadership, equality and the significance of International Women’s Day to Australian agriculture

09.03.21

International Women’s Day means something different to us all. Whether it’s encouraging more women leaders to join boards or increasing the national pay gender gap, we all want a more equal future for women and girls. #womenlead #choosetochallenge

For the week of International Women’s Day, several of our Advisory Panel members have penned in their own words, what inspirational leadership and change looks like if we are to accelerate the gender equality agenda.

For Dee-Ann Prather it’s about creating noise and making sure the noise gets louder; for Lisa Anderson equality needs to happen every day; for Meredith Mitchell listening to women and girls more is the key; for Michele Groat it is ignoring that inner voice of self-doubt, for Susy Klein it is about embracing new challenges and for Susan Wilson, International Women’s Day week is a reminder to keep that momentum going.

We have also added our own hashtag #hatsofftowomeninleadership to celebrate the importance of women paving the way for a more equitable future.

Whatever the day/week means to you, we hope their voices and words inspire you to make a change for greater diversity in your world.

If you are thinking about joining one of our Advisory Panels – watch out for our regular updates and apply to make a difference to Australia agriculture. See here.

As Michele Groat, the outgoing Vice chair of our AgriFutures Rice Advisory Panel writes: “Don’t be afraid to step up and take on a role on an advisory board, you can learn by doing and your perspective will be different and valuable.”

Dee Ann Prather, Celebrating International Women's Day tile

 

Dee-Ann Prather

AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Advisory Panel

Please finish this sentence: Female leaders are…

…brave and resilient. It takes bravery to be different; to stand in your own shoes and be true to yourself when the traditional role model of a leader is a male. This is becoming easier over time as traditionally female traits (e.g. compassion and empathy) are increasingly being valued in good leaders. Resilience is needed to bounce back from the bias that is continuously directed at you, far more often unconsciously than consciously.

What initiatives are you taking to help #womenlead?

During the 20 years of business, we’ve predominantly been a majority staffed female business. Although, at the moment, we have equal balance at 50%. We don’t have particular initiatives for women as our programs (work from home, flexible hours etc) are available equally for male and female staff. I am however the first one to participate in any event that supports women and will continue to actively look for ways to share my experience and knowledge to support other women.

What are the changes required to achieve an equal future for women?

I can only speak to western culture given my background and experience. The journey to equality for women in other cultures often has a different baseline. From a business perspective, we must strive for equal representation. This starts at the board level and should encompass the entire organisation. Studies have shown that diversity on boards is beneficial to the economic performance of companies. Equality makes sense commercially as well as morally.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Recognition that although progress has been made, there is a lot more to be done to achieve equality. I am grateful that International Women’s Day creates “noise” and hope the noise gets louder. In the meantime, I will choose to challenge.

Lisa Anderson, Celebrating International Women's Day

 

Lisa Anderson

AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Advisory Panel (Chair)

Please finish this sentence: Female leaders are…

…everywhere. They lead from the front, but they also lead from behind and beside. Really, women lead from any position whether you call them a leader or not.

What initiatives are you taking to help #womenlead? I celebrate diversity on committees, panels and boards. It is immensely valuable to have a large range of different perspectives to collectively problem solve or formulate strategic direction. A lone female in a sea is never enough – there needs to be a far more diverse skillset, outlook and viewpoint. In the long run we all benefit by engaging far more broadly and considering a greater range of possibilities. I encourage women to put their hand up to join these groups and for selection panels to consider the importance of selecting for difference.

What are the changes required to achieve an equal future for women? The changes required to achieve an equal future for women are so many. We need to simply keep this conversation going all year around. Sadly, sexual harassment and sexual discrimination remain ubiquitous. It was pointed out to me recently that as an older woman I don’t experience this as much as I did when I was a young professional woman. It’s easy to think that things have improved over the decades but as recent news highlights, young professional women continue to suffer the poor attitude and behaviour that I did – whether it is extreme and overt or far more subtle and unconscious. All of us – men and women; young and old – in all workplaces and all communities need to challenge this culture. Be conscious of the challenges to an equal future for women. Make the opportunities happen.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? My abiding memory of International Women’s Days’ past occurred at the breakfast events organised by Business and Professional Women (BPW) or the pioneering women of the Wagga Wagga Women’s Health Centre. Festooned with ribbons of purple (dignity), green (hope) and white (purity) local women gathered to celebrate the achievements of women locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Whilst the celebrating of women is an important part of the day so to is pausing to remind ourselves of the seen and unseen hurdles women are confronted with economically, socially and politically and what we must do to challenge them. This year I am joining other agribusiness women for lunch to celebrate courage and determination.

Susan Wilson, Celebrating International Women's Day

 

Susan Wilson

AgriFutures Emerging Industries Advisory Panel (Deputy chair)

Please finish this sentence: Female leaders are…

…resilient, resourceful and inspiring. They’re courageous. They re-write the rule book, showing us what’s possible. I have enormous respect for the barriers they manage and overcome every day so they can win a seat at the table.

What initiatives are you taking to help #womenlead?

I’m active in the mentoring space – female CEO’s internationalising companies, regional female leaders, female STEM researchers. There’s too much compromise women still accept in their careers that they need to challenge. Hopefully, I can help them lead that change. As my dairy farming father said to me, “There is nothing you cannot do”.

What are the changes required to achieve an equal future for women?

We need to build communities where gender truly doesn’t enter into our thinking and decision making. It’s about how we engage women and men into the conversation, how we raise and educate our children, how we structure, ritualise and reward our workplaces. It’s big and it’s still a journey.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

The celebration of that journey. It’s also a strong reminder that we need to keep the momentum going.

Meredith Mitchell, Celebrating International Women's Day

 

Meredith Mitchell

AgriFutures Pasture Seeds Advisory Panel

Please finish this sentence: Female leaders are…

…all around us, we just need to recognise them.

What initiatives are you taking to help #womenlead?

I volunteer as a scientist in school. This program sees me partnered with a primary school. I hope through this work that I can change the stereotype of a scientist and encourage girls to consider science and maths careers. I also hope that it demonstrates that women can be leaders in their field. I also believe in the ripple effect, that children talk to their parents. In my work life, at Agriculture Victoria, I am the Rutherglen site leader. In this role, I am leading by example. If I see it, I am empowered to called out bias.

What are the changes required to achieve an equal future for women?

Listen to women and girls and value their contributions. All societies, worldwide, need to value women and girls, giving them equal access to resources and opportunities.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It is a day to seek out and celebrate the achievements of women, to recognise the important role that women play in all sectors of society. This day also reinforces the fact that everyone has a role to play in forging a more gender-balanced world.

Michele Groat, Celebrating International Women's Day

 

Michele Groat

AgriFutures Rice Advisory Panel (Vice chair, outgoing)

Please finish this sentence: Female leaders are…

…natural multitaskers and tend to lead by empowering the team around them rather than welding authority.

What initiatives are you taking to help #womenlead?

Ignoring my inner voice that often tells me I can’t do something, stepping up and taking on new challenges and just doing my best and mentoring other women to do the same.

What are the changes required to achieve an equal future for women?

That’s easy – there must be no gender biases – everyone should always be treated equally in all aspects of life.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a celebration of the importance of women – let’s face it without women none of us would be here!

What words of advice would you have for women who may be considering putting their hands up and joining an advisory panel?

Don’t be afraid to step up and take on a role on an advisory board, you can learn by doing and your perspective will be different and valuable.

Susan Klein, Celebrating International Women's Day

 

Susy Klein

AgriFutures Chicken Meat Advisory Panel

Please finish this sentence: Female leaders are...

…contemporary, inclusive, tolerant and resilient

What initiatives are you taking to help #womenlead?

I find peer coaching and mentoring to be very powerful tools to help #womenlead. This is mutually beneficial for both parties – not necessarily as a leader and “leadee” relationship, but as a leadership partnership.

What are the changes required to achieve an equal future for women?  

I think there are different levels of change. Change is not just about big headline moments. The way we talk, think and act every day will embed sustainable cultural change to achieve an equal future for women. Leading by example, self-belief and confidence, challenging the unconscious bias and seeing opportunities not barriers – particularly in stereotypical vocations – are ways we (men and women) can all pursue gender equality.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day to me is an opportunity to reflect, share learnings, embrace new challenges and inspire young women to strive for a rewarding future in the agricultural industry.

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