Celebrating Women in Agriculture #IWD2019

Over 49% of food in Australia is grown by women, and that makes pretty logical sense considering women comprise 50.3% of the Australian population. Yet women farmers have historically been “invisible”. It was only in 1994 that women in agriculture could actually put down “farmer” as their occupation for the census, instead of “farmer’s wife”. On the farming front, projects such as the Invisible Farmer and Visible Farmer documentary are helping share and write-down the stories of these farmers to make sure they aren’t forgotten. The trailer for Visible Farmer was just released – make sure you check it out!

In the agricultural leadership and management space, only 18% of senior management roles and 2.3% of CEOs in agriculture are women. Something the National Farmers’ Federation is trying to change with its Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.

And you don’t have to look far to find all the incredible women working in agriculture.

👩‍🌾 Do you know of an inspirational woman who’s making a difference towards #ZeroHunger?

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we’re asking you to nominate them and celebrate their work, by using the hashtag #AgvocateWomen.

Spread the word! #IWD2019 pic.twitter.com/slCRtBbsRQ— Youth Ag Summit (@YouthAgSummit) March 4, 2019

At the annual RD Watt lecture at the University of Sydney, the Women in Agriculture theme saw three incredible women from across the generations, Lucinda Corrigan, Caroline Wardrop and Evie Murdoch, talk about their stories as women in agriculture.

The MC for the evening, Dr Angela Pattison spoke about the diversity in her workplace at the Plant Breeding Institute in Narrabri, where the male:female split is about 50%.

“Where I work there are women driving headers, forklifts, tractors, doing the threshing, sorting and all tasks needed. It doesn’t matter your gender, just that the job that needs to be done.”

So we decided to celebrate the amazing women in agriculture and have shared a few stories below. From a weeds scientist in Colorado, GIS Consultant in Sydney and trainee agronomist in South Australia to a banking analyst in Sydney the opportunities in agriculture are incredible.

Kimberly Pellosis

University of Melbourne

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

Organisations double their talent pool, to foster diversity of thought, financial inclusion, and promoting a culture of gender balance – something that the agriculture industry should continue working towards if we hope to set an example and shake the stigma from the general public that it’s a male-dominated workforce, especially if we’re aiming to have more graduates passionate about agriculture.

What is your experience of being a woman in agriculture?

As an agriculture student it’s been great!

What advice would you give to other women in the industry, or who are considering entering the industry?

If you ever feel uncomfortable at work, speak up – pick your battles wisely, and back yourself! Always keep your LinkedIn and resume up to date. Figure out what you like and what you’re good at, and communicate that niche effectively i.e. build your brand. Failure will be a part of your career – it’s how you deal with it is what’s important. Fail fast, move on, and learn from it. Keep an open mind, stay curious and don’t be afraid to change course. Support other women instead of competing fiercely against them – build each other up. Avoid needless apologies – women say sorry too often! Hold yourself to a higher standard.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

Employers should always consider their biases – we all have them. Minimise the gender pay gap, and get serious about addressing work/life balance. Make sure all employees have the same access to opportunity – drive skills development equally. Create female role models in senior leadership. Acknowledge and reward different leadership styles. The agriculture industry need to squash harassment.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of agriculture?

The same role/s as men do in the future of agriculture!

What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD? For everyone working hard behind the scenes, and those paving the way for our future female agricultural leaders – ABSOLUTE LEGENDS


Rayali Banerjee

Agribusiness Analyst, Commonwealth Bank

Role in Ag: I currently work as an Agribusiness analyst at Commonwealth Bank. I support Australia’s leading corporate Agribusinesses, investors and assist our clients with offshore trade. We provide services to Agribusinesses and investors in sectors including animal protein, Aquaculture, Grains and Oilseeds, Horticulture, Forestry, Fibres, Dairy and Fertilisers.

Outside my day-to-day role, you can find me working on my initiative “Ag Bootcamps” where my vision is to cultivate the capabilities of diverse future leaders for global Agriculture. The mandate behind Ag Bootcamps is to attract and retain skilled STEM and Agricultural students in the Agriculture industry by equipping them with skills for the future of work. You can also find me undertaking public speaking, inspiring others with bold thinking and call to actions, implementing innovations on food security in developing countries and collaborating with my co-founders on a grassroots initiative called This is Aus Ag.

Why is it important to have women in Agriculture?

There are 216,100 males working in the farm sector compared to 88,110 females. Historically this has occurred due to the perceptions of what farming looks like. The position of women in Agriculture is not equal to men with women earning 21.8% less than men and occupying only 14% of management roles. In developing countries the inequality is prevalent in employment opportunities and wage.

Women are the backbone of rural and regional economies, women are the human links between farm and table. It’s essential to have women in Agriculture because we bring diversity in thought because of our ethnic, educational and geographic background. Our deep life experiences forge our leadership capabilities and our abilities to consider minute details in a decision-making process. In countries of low socioeconomic communities, empowering a woman to work in Agriculture empowers the entire society, leading to positive impacts on nutrition, health and income.

What is your experience of being a woman in Agriculture?

I remember the first year of University I was rejected from every single internship I applied for because of my gender, background and inability to understand the “Ag Language”. I overcame my adversities, turned them into opportunities. I operated a tractor installing plumbing systems on Australia’s biggest farms, mustered and vaccinated thousands of cattle. At 22, I didn’t have ALL the capabilities or skills to travel the world to negotiate license to operate policies with c-suite executives, negotiate international trade policies with Agricultural ministers and successfully implement strategies within a board. BUT I did.

Reflecting on these experiences, my mentors who are women and men provided me with these life-changing opportunities. They championed me along the way, supported me through my successes and mistakes and passed on their knowledge to equip me with the skills I needed to get the job done.

The agriculture industry is one of a kind and my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive.

What is the biggest thing women should celebrate this IWD?
My grandfather was my go-to person who I could call and brainstorm all my crazy and big ideas about solving world hunger. Despite the 5.5-hour difference between Australia and India, I could call him at 4AM in the morning to work on our pitch deck for an electric bicycle that would revolutionise access to electricity in rural Indian villages.

Like my grandfather, my family and my mentors have always empowered me to know that I am powerful enough to achieve anything I want to. This IWD, women should celebrate the positive impacts they have made to their respective industries BUT most importantly, their champions. Women should be celebrating the people around them who have guided them to success, encouraged and uplifted them during times of failure or setbacks and have been their cheerleaders.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the Agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

To attract diverse people who can provide out of the box thinking and resilience to local economies into Agriculture, it is essential to continue to tell the story of Ag especially because those in Ag are contributing to global food security. However, the perception that a woman is a “farmer’s daughter” or “farmer’s wife” rather than a farmer herself continues to be an omnipresent issue. There are many programs that have started the conversation about women in Agriculture. However, I believe that conversations need to be transformed into action, execution and tangible outcomes. Chair of Citrus Australia, Tania Chapman stated that women tend to have issues with confidence and self-esteem. Reflecting on my personal journey, I had to be proactive during the start of my journey in Ag. There were many times when I felt that I did not offer any value to the Ag industry.

To overcome my adversities, I attended conferences and networking events and worked hard to build my personal brand and a board of mentors in the Ag industry. My board of mentors consist of men and women who are extremely passionate about enabling young people in Agriculture.

Life can be tumultuous. My vision to navigate the road to gender equality is to establish a formal mentoring program open to all genders. To enable change, we require both male and female leaders who champion change. The benefits of mentoring include capacity and confidence building, growing personal brand and networks, increasing self-awareness and having access to people who are “cheerleaders” and will advocate for a mentee’s personal and professional development.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of Agriculture?

In the future, I envision the term “leaders” being used rather than “female leaders or “male leaders”. By changing the language, we can accelerate the road to gender equality.

The future of Agriculture is bright for women, we are a league of powerhouses collaborating and enabling each other to grow, develop and fulfil our dreams and aspirations. Women in the future will continue to power modern farming both in developed and developing countries. There are opportunities for women to become Agriculture and Food technology leaders, make decisions on political and social change, grow farming businesses to previously untapped markets, travel the world providing thought leadership to the next generation and supporting people from all ages, backgrounds, genders to do the same.

The future is bright and the opportunities are endless. If you dream it, you can be it.

Brittany Dahl

GIS Consultant, ESRI Australia; Regional Coordinator, Though for Food Challenge

Growing wheat on a rehabilitated mine site!

What’s your role in agriculture?

I have multiple roles. I currently work for a Geographic Information System (GIS) software company called Esri Australia. My passion is for combing GIS technologies with sustainable food systems, and I am excited to see how the agricultural community continues to embrace spatial systems. I also volunteer for Thought for Food (TFF). TFF is a global community of entrepreneurs transforming our food system. Since 2016, we host activities in more than 100 cities featuring successful local startups, raising awareness about Food Security, learning about collaborative innovation and experiencing a real sense of community. I also have personal connections! My grandparents ran a dairy farm in northern NSW.

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

Diversity in every industry is incredibly important. It’s speculated that women make up around 43% of the industry around the world, but overall the labour burden of rural women exceeds that of men, usually due to a higher proportion of unpaid household responsibilities. If we are interested in improving agriculture, it should include bringing about equality and equity for women.

What is your experience of being a woman in agriculture?

Coming from a STEM background, it would be great to see more women to bring about more diversity in the field. However, there are a number of excellent groups, such as Australian Women in Agriculture and Homeward Bound, striving to improve and provide opportunities to women.

What advice would you give to other women in the industry, or who are considering entering the industry?

My best advice is to not be afraid – apply for opportunities, competitions, and events that might come your way! You never know where opportunities such as the Youth Ag Summit or Thought For Food Challenge will take you!

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

I believe that we need a holistic approach. Individuals of all genders can assist in striving to a more equal and equitable future. Industry, public policy, and grassroots events and organisations all can do their part to encourage women, strive for pay parity, and celebrate wins of women.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of agriculture?

Women have a role, just as any gender, in the future of agriculture. Technology is changing the face of the industry, and we should aim to use it as a tool to help empower those who need it most. What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD? We should all celebrate the successes of others, regardless of gender – but the focus should be on those of marginalised and disempowered communities or inidivduals, who aren’t usually in the spotlight.

What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD?

We should all celebrate the successes of others, regardless of gender – but the focus should be on those of marginalised and disempowered communities or individuals, who aren’t usually in the spotlight.

Ruby Faithfull

Policy Officer, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

It’s important to have women and diversity in every industry. Feeding the world can’t be left to one gender!

What is your experience of being a woman in agriculture?

Working as a policy officer in a range of roles and different topics I’ve enjoyed meeting lots of different people and working on complicated issues. It’s great when you see women in senior roles, running organisations and being leaders in agriculture. From what I’ve seen in the higher level positions there are probably still more John’s then women.

What advice would you give to other women in the industry, or who are considering entering the industry?

Agriculture is fascinating and anyone who is interested should definitely get involved.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps for the agricultural industry to improve? What should be done about it?

The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. I think some positive steps would be 1. changing the image of who works in agriculture by seeking and promoting diversity 2. ensuring women feel welcome and valued in the industry 3. striving for gender balance on boards and other representative organisations.

The agricultural sector is constantly changing – what role do women have in the future of agriculture?

Women bring additional perspectives to food production leading to increased opportunities for food security and environmental sustainability. In the future of agriculture women could help ensure food is more evenly distributed and there is less waste in the food production system. If we’re going to feed our growing population and tackle other big challenges like sustainability we need the best and brightest working in agriculture, regardless of gender.

What is the biggest thing women in agriculture should celebrate this IWD? The vital role women already play!

Olivia Todd

PhD Student in Weeds Science, Colorado State University

Spraying sorghum in Colorado

Why is it important to have women in agriculture?

It’s important to have women in agricultural settings because the industry needs as many minds possible set on problem solving. Certainly, in the research and development area we need diverse, flexible young minds that are passionate about agriculture. In the United States, the average age of the farmer is 58. We need to find people to either fill their shoes or make their production systems easier to manage and it takes unification to do that.

My experience of being a woman in agriculture.

My experience in agriculture really started when I entered college in 2012. When starting my B.Sc. in Soil and Crop science, I didn’t necessarily feel like a minority because I was a woman. There were several other females in my classes who were all very friendly. I felt like a minority because I had no background in Ag whatsoever and was loosely familiar at best with common concepts like pest management and growing seasons. Neither of my parents went to a University, and the idea that I was going forth with no guidance and no previous exposure to the field made me nervous. As I gained more knowledge and entered graduate school with slightly more confidence, I felt much less of a minority because of my lack of knowledge. However, I now felt the shift to feeling like a minority because I had to fight for my credibility because of my gender. When talking to growers, my biggest challenge had been trying to convince an older male farmer that my advice would help them solve their problems.

My experience has been largely positive in the pursuit of my PhD. My confidence in my ability to communicate and in my ability to learn is high, and I have actively sought out women in agricultural industry to talk to. Some of these women have given me mentorship and advice that caused me to pursue my PhD, and I am just as passionate about agriculture as they day I started college in 2012!

What is one of the most important things to celebrate international women’s day?

I think, when posed with this question, a lot of people may say that things like women’s strength and independence should be celebrated. I agree, strength and independence should absolutely be celebrated, but what I think is almost equally as important is the opportunity for education and leadership in young women. Educational programs in Ag related fields are seeing a rise in number of women of all backgrounds joining their programs. The ideas and skills that they bring are incredibly valuable and we’re only making the field  and the science better by gathering diverse perspective from equally capable people.

In terms of gender balance, what are the next steps to improvement?

I think that a wise next step is going to young girls interested in STEM fields and show them that agriculture has a lot of overlap with traditional STEM. This concept is something that I wasn’t familiar with until I was making my choice of where to go to college, and when I started thinking about my future career at 17, I was lucky enough to fall into agricultural interest of my own accord. If we take it upon ourselves to advertise how much some aspects of Ag are like traditional engineering, how much science and research is a part of the bigger picture, etc. then we may be able to prime interest in the field in girls from a young age where they will be able to see their place in the industry.

What role to women have in the future of agriculture?

In the U.S., women can have any role they choose to have in agriculture, and I highly encourage them to go after it!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.