Ten women embark on leadership journey

Ten outstanding women from across Australia and with diverse backgrounds and skill sets have been selected to take part in the 2019 Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.

In its second year, the Program, an initiative of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) aims to fix agriculture’s ‘woman problem’, by developing and empowering aspiring female leaders to reach their potential.

“Currently, women comprise 41% of the agricultural workforce but make up only 18% of management roles and 2.3% of CEO positions,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.

“This is out of step with other comparable industries and is a statistic that the NFF and our committed Program Partners are determined to rectify.”

It’s time that women are equally represented at the level where decisions are taken that shape the future of our industry and rural and regional Australia more broadly.

NFF President Fiona Simson.

The below 10 aspiring female leaders were selected from more than 140 applications. Read more about these ladies by hovering your cursor over their pics. 

Cath Oates - Wilyabrup, WA

Cath Oates

Cath studied business/viticulture at Curtin University followed by oenology at University of Adelaide. In 2015 she began her company Oates Ends, her single vineyard wines from the intergenerational farming property in Margaret River. Cath also runs her own consulting business.

Cath is the Vice President of Wines of Western Australia and has previously served as the President of Great Southern Wine Producers Association and Margaret River Wine Association. She is currently studying the Master of Wine qualification.

Leonie O'Driscoll - Marra, NSW

Leonie O'Driscoll

Leonie O’Driscoll is the Managing Director of Evofarm Pty and the co-founder of StockDirect Pty Ltd.  Leonie grew up on her family's mixed farm in Lameroo, South Australia and is an Agricultural Science and Finance graduate.

Leonie has a genuine love of practical farming and a passion for finance and focuses on efficiently marketing and moving primary products from farm gate to processor, trader and end user. Leonie is a former board member of Southern Ag Venture and led the grain procurement operations for Freedom Foods.

Jacqui Cannon - Brisbane, Queensland

Jacqui Cannon

Jacqui is based in Brisbane and holds a senior position with Consolidated Pastoral Company, one of the largest privately owned beef producers in Australia. She started with CPC in 1992 at Newcastle Waters Station, NT as an accountant and has held various roles in various locations since then. 

Jacqui's current position includes management of human resources, workplace health and safety, risk and legal matters. Jacqui has held a number of board and committee roles and is keen to expand on these, with a particular interest in on-farm WHS, animal welfare and work force development. 

Kelly Pearce - Yealering, WA

Kelly Pearce

Dr Kelly Pearce is a grain and prime lamb Producer from Yealering in Western Australia. Kelly has had a 16-year career in agricultural research and continues to coordinate a number of regional science and innovation projects through her regionally-based business Wheatbelt Science.

Kelly is a Director of Farmers Mutual Limited, a 2012 Nuffield Scholar, a committee member of the Corrigin Farm Improvement Group and the WA Sheep and Goat Industry Funding Scheme Management Committee, Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is a Director of the Grower Group Alliance in WA.

Rachel Carson - Melbourne, Victoria

Rachel Carson

Following 18 years of experience in the agricultural industry, Rachel is currently the National Sales Manager for Agricultural Solutions at BASF. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences and a Masters in Crop Physiology from the University of Arkansas and Cell and Systems Biology from the University of Toronto.

Originally from Ontario Canada, Rachel now lives in Melbourne and is passionate about mentoring the next generation, particularly young women within the agriculture industry.

Linda Lee - Berrimah, Northern Territory

Linda Lee

Linda Lee is the Director of Agribusiness Development for the Northern Territory (NT) Government’s Department of Primary Industry and Resources.

Linda holds a Bachelor of Science and is a graduate of the Australian School of Applied Management’s Advanced Leadership Program and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She has more than 20 years of professional experience in natural resource policy development, project management and research delivery within the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

Natalie Sommerville - Spalding, South Australia

Natalie Sommerville

Natalie lives near Spalding in South Australia’s Mid North and is a farmer, grazier, business owner and manager, mother and proud Torres Strait Islander.

Driven by her passion of sustainable agriculture and the environment, Natalie’s focus is on influencing positive change in rural Australia and seeing greater innovation, inclusion of gender and age, and respect for diverse backgrounds. She is also an advocate for sustainable agriculture and improved environmental landscape function for long-term production and biodiversity.

Alison Southwell - Mangoplah, New South Wales

Alison Southwell

Alison is a sixth generation wool grower. Alison completed a Bachelor of Rural Science at the University of New England before returning to southern NSW to complete her PhD investigating the hydrology beneath native pastures at Charles Sturt University.

Alison has worked as Lecturer in the School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences since 2007 and was appointed Course Director for the undergraduate agriculture courses in 2018. After purchasing her family Merino flock in 2012 the enterprise was shifted to Mangoplah following the purchase of farmland in 2015 and 2018 where she and her husband now raise their family. 

Allison Harker - Yass, New South Wales

Allison Harker

Allison spent 15 years in investment banking based in London and Hong Kong and was a representative on the Operating Committee for Bank of America of America Merrill Lynch.

Allison is now a partner in her family’s mixed farming business based in Yass, NSW. She is also a Local Government Councillor, Chair of the Yass Valley Economic & Development Committee and was appointed to the Acting Chair role for South East Local Land Service in 2018.

Robbie Davis -Narrung, South Australia

Robbie Davis

Robbie has a strong understanding of whole-of-industry value chain from the paddock to the consumer and has a grazing property in South Australia. She worked for 10 years in Asia and was self-employed as an agribusiness consultant until her appointment as CEO of Potatoes South Australia in 2012.

Based at the Waite Campus, Robbie is a collaborator in several research consortia led by the University of Adelaide and Primary Industries & Regions SA (PIRSA) and is the AgriFutures 2016 SA Rural Woman of the Year.

Each participant will undertake an almost five-month mentoring program with mentors who are already accomplished leaders. To begin their leadership journey, the group will come together at a two-day intensive retreat in Canberra over 30-31 May. 

The women will graduate as part of the NFF’s 40th anniversary celebrations during October and go on to be a part of the growing Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program alumni. 

Ms Simson said the highly-successful inaugural Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program was the basis for this year’s opportunity.

“Feedback from our 2018 cohort was that the opportunity was transformational and life-changing and since graduation our 2018 aspiring leaders have gone on to continue to realise their leadership goals.”

The 2018 cohort at their graduation ceremony at the NFF Natinal Congress in November.

Ms Simson said the importance of the Program was demonstrated by the level of support from Australia’s leading farm representative and agribusiness organisations. 

“We are delighted and proud to this year to have doubled the number of partners supporting the program, and importantly, who have committed to make meaningful change towards gender diversity within their organisations.” 

“These organisations have stepped up and signed up to support our mission to even the ledger when it comes to female representation in agriculture.

“They are doing far more than talking about advancing women in our sector they are leading by example and they should be recognised for that,” Ms Simson said.

The NFF has identified increasing the representation of women as key to achieving agriculture’s goal to be a $100 billion industry by 2030 and has set a target to double, by 2030, the number of women in agricultural management roles.



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