Agricultural and food businesses are turning the tide on gender inequality, with two high profile companies meeting their goals to increase the proportion of women in leadership positions
On the back of International Women’s Day (March 8) and as plans for the second Women in Food and Agriculture (WFA) Summit get under way, Unilever announced it had achieved 50/50 gender balance in leadership roles across its brands and BASF committed to increasing the number of women at the top to 30 per cent by 2030 after achieving its 20 per cent by 2020 target a year ahead of schedule.
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality.
This year’s theme is #EachForEqual and challenges participants to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements.
It comes after a WFA survey laid bare the challenges facing women in the agri-food sector, the differences in opinions between men and women, how women perceive their employers, workplace culture and what they believe are the barriers holding women back.
Out of more than 2,500 respondents, only 50 per cent of women said they were well represented at the top of food and agricultural businesses.
Results of the survey, commissioned by WFA Summit organiser AgriBriefing, were revealed at last year’s event in Amsterdam.
Delegates said the two-day event, sponsored by Alltech, helped them gain a better understanding of the key challenges facing the sector, while also providing networking opportunities and a chance to develop leadership and management skills through a range of interactive seminars and workshops.
Mary Bowman of Galbraith Group said: “The content and workshops made for a highly motivational experience which made me think forward in my career and gave me a positive boost in confidence regarding the future, both personally and within agriculture in general.
“Not only was it informative regarding different agricultural practices globally, but it was also hugely inspirational. The plethora of different land-based roles women are undertaking all over the world is extraordinary, giving me some great new ideas about where my career might take me in the future.”
Claire Simonetta of Torloisk Farm, Isle of Mull, added: “Although the overarching theme was gender equality by empowering women, the conference managed to deliver a realistic yet optimistic and in my opinion incredibly valuable message that gender equality is achieved not by constantly focusing on gender, but by doing the exact opposite.
“Forget about somebody’s gender, let’s find talented and motivated people and marry them together with a job where their talent is valued, needed, and encouraged, regardless of whether they are female or male.”
Caroline Mason, Co-op, said: “I really appreciated the conference covered how to be a female in leadership combined with the challenges that we face over the next 30 years across the global food system. It was a welcome balance of self-development, combined with technical reality information sharing and debates.
“At no point did it feel like it was a conversation about men versus women, instead, it was how do we help each other as women in leadership to create diversity.”