They feed and clothe the nation and today rural women are being celebrated as part of International Women's Day.
But while women account for 41 per cent of the agricultural workforce, there are only 18 per cent in management roles and 2.3 per cent in CEO positions, according to National Farmers Federation (NFF)
So its fitting that this year's International Women’s Day (IWD) theme is ‘Balance for Better’ (#balanceforbetter), highlighting that gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.
"Women have been the pillar of Australia’s food and fibre production since farming began in this country," NFF president Fiona Simson said, who is the federation's first female president.
"However, in the senior executive and board level ranks of many of the organisations I observe, there remains a lack of female voices."
Kempsey dairy farmer Sue McGinn said today was important because as a nation we needed to encourage and recognise the role women play in agriculture everyday.
"It's the same day as every other day where women are contributing to agriculture, whether it be in the dairy or the agri-business sector, however it is important to recongise this day as it's obvious that women still need to be recognised for their roles, which is evidenced by the lack of gender- balance in leadership in agriculture in Australia," Mrs McGinn said.
Mrs McGinn will be celebrating International Women's Day at the opening of the Macleay Regional Gallery at Gladstone, an exhibition of 75 female artists around the shire.
Macadamia industry celebrates female farmers
Farms in the Australian macadamia industry, which produces over 30 per cent of the world’s macadamias, are often family owned where men and women play equal roles in the business.
Australian Macadamias has curated insights from four remarkable female farmers on how gender balance makes for better business.
Jodie Cameron, director of Barenuts:
“I never imagined I would be living on a farm running my own business but Barenuts has really given me the confidence and empowered me to create my own brand. It’s my greatest career achievement to date. Gender balance is pivotal to our business’ success and my husband and I have really had to define our roles and respect each other’s domains in order for our business and farm to run productively and efficiently. At the end of the day we both work long days, and often nights too. It’s important to have a 50/50 split for us so that we can take care of our little boy while managing the business’.
Ann Leslie, Creator at Pure Nut:
‘Firstly, we are the farmer: we grow, nurture and harvest our key ingredient, macadamias. My husband runs the farm and I run the skin care business. For our business to be successful we both help each other out in the busy times… you’ll find Andrew helping pack orders and me on the mower, zipping around the farm. Working in each others ‘area’ helps keep a connection not only to our business but as a couple.”
Pam Brook, Co-founder of Brookfarm:
"As a family company, we are constantly aware of the need to create an environment that enables gender balance, diversity and a supportive culture. These are essential for us; they enable creativity, problem-solving and attracting and retaining staff. We never take it for granted and work on our company culture continuously.”
Aimee Thomas, Owner of Falkirk Farm:
‘As well as helping run our family farm, I am also a director on the AMS Board, and recently appointed to the Macadamia SIAP. I have been warmly welcomed and regarded by the other directors and panellists and it is through these roles that I play a part in evolving the discussion around gender balance. Not only in the boardroom but across the industry, too!”
NFF Leadership program
Women in agriculture with an ambition to shape the future of Australia’s food and fibre industry are invited to apply for the National Farmers’ Federation’s (NFF) 2019 Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.
For the second year in a row, the NFF's program provides applicants with a six-month one-on-one mentorship and the opportunity to be a part of an alumni of female agriculture leaders.
Successful 2019 applicants will also take part in a two-day Canberra leadership retreat during May and graduate in October as part of the NFF’s 40th Anniversary celebrations.
To be eligible for Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program, applicants must be 25 years or over.
For full application guidelines and criteria visit https://farmers.org.au/campaign/diversity
Applications are now open and close on March 25.
The 2019 Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program Partners include: AgForce, AgriFutures, Australian Agricultural Company, Australian Meat Processor Corporation, Bayer, Coles, Consolidated Pastoral Company, Grains Research and Development Corporation, Landmark, National Farmers’ Federation, NSW Farmers, NuFarm, Prime Super, Rabobank, Rimfire Resources, RuralCo, Rural Bank, Syngenta and WFI.