Women in agriculture leading from the front

Published: April 2019 | By: Samantha Noon

An initiative driven by NSW Farmers is helping female members find their voice and equip them to be better leaders in their community.

NSW Farmers members at the training day at NAB Sydney headquarters in early March. Back row, left to right: Anna-Kate McDonald, Joanne Gowen, Lisa Minogue, Kylie Falconer, Julie Moore, Tracey Gowen, Shane Kilby, Erika Chesworth, Rebecca Reardon. Front row: Joanna Treasure, Jenny Bradley, Sarah Thompson, Jenni Jackson, Meg Rice, Sonia O’Keefe, Charlotte Groves, Rachel Nicoll. Photography by Jane Dempster.

THE art of commanding a room, public speaking and general business etiquette isn’t a skill you’re born with, it requires hard work and training. 

Equipping women with these important skills was the centrepiece of a pilot development day program hosted by National Australia Bank (NAB) and NSW Farmers, and attended by 17 Association members. 

NSW Farmers’ board members Lisa Minogue and Rebecca Reardon came up with the idea, identifying a need to encourage more women to join as Association members and advance within the ranks at every level.

NSW Farmers board member Rebecca Reardon and marketing manager Anna-Kate McDonald enjoying the advice given by a representative of NAB. 

“We wanted to give something back to those women and equip them with the skills to be better leaders within their communities, and at NSW Farmers and to speak up and be heard,” Rebecca explains.

Lisa said the basics of meeting design and chairing, like how to be inclusive were particularly relevant for the young farmers. 

“Their generation are much more aware of the importance of developing these skills than we were at that age. When these opportunities come along they certainly grab it with both hands.”

“Everyone came with the attitude of wanting to learn, definitely wanting to take home skills and the preparedness to engage and share experiences,” adds Lisa. 

Young Farmers member Joanna Treasure, a 21-year-old from Cowra who chose not to attend university and instead run her family farm, felt proud to be part of the day alongside some “very smart and driven women”.

- Raising the profile of agriculture
- Oyster theft no small issue for farmers
- How alpaca farmers are owning their niche 
- Maggots: The livestock feed no-one saw coming 

“The workshop helped us to broaden our interpersonal skills and will help us contribute to NSW Farmers and the broader agricultural sector in a corporate setting,” Joanna says. 
“Women comprise 41% of the agricultural workforce but only 18% of management roles and 2.3% of CEO positions." 
Ensuring this situation changes means equipping women with the skills to be heard, and the pilot program included training in how to navigate disagreement in business conversations and confidently counter ‘blockers’.

Meg Rice, a farmer from Parkes who has studied a Bachelor of Agriculture and Law, at the conference. 

Jackie Cooper of NAB who helped facilitate the workshop says: “I really hope the group were able to develop skills and build upon their current level of influence and leadership. Ideally, if everyone present walks away with more confidence to speak up and build diversity of thought around the boardroom table, that would be a great result.”

“I encourage all women to continue to push themselves outside their comfort zone and get truly comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Rebecca adds that NSW Farmers is very grateful for NAB’s support and they hope to be able to roll the training day out to the regions. “The young ones lapped it up – and we’re looking for champions and sponsors to help drive this.”

Enjoy this story? Want more in-depth news on farming in NSW? Members of NSW Farmers receive a free glossy magazine called The Farmer, direct to their letterbox, with exclusive news, views and deep analysis. Plus of course, you get all the benefits of being a member of the largest state farming organisation. Join here.