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Dairy women’s leadership programme will be industry first

1 May 2013

Dairy women’s leadership programme will be industry first

The Dairy Women’s Network will develop the country’s first leadership programme specifically for women working in the dairy industry using a $180,000 grant from the Ministry of Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Fund.

Dairy Women’s Network chair Michelle Wilson said the organisation was thrilled to receive the funding for the three-year project, and was looking forward to working with partners AgResearch and DairyNZ to continue developing the leadership capacity of New Zealand’s dairy farming women.

“Women make up 50 per cent of the dairy industry. The risks presented to the industry through economic, environmental and social volatility highlight the need for strong leadership and skills that provide dairying women with the confidence to effect change,” said Mrs Wilson.

While dairying women were still perceived by many as the household manager, Mrs Wilson said the rapid growth experienced by the Dairy Women’s Network over the past few years signalled the changing face of the role of women in the industry and the significant contribution they make to its success.

“In reality dairying women are directors, managers and, in many cases, owners of multi-million dollar businesses which need people with sound leadership skills as well as farming, financial and business acumen. This funding will build those capabilities in a sustainable way through a programme that is designed for the unique needs of dairying women and the industry.”

Dr Sue Peoples from AgResearch will lead the first phase of the project which involves research to ensure the resulting programme meets the industry’s needs.

“We’ll be surveying some of the Network’s 4,000 dairy women members and holding focus groups and interviews with industry leaders to get a better understanding of the leadership skills, knowledge and behaviours required by dairying women,” said Dr Peoples.

Based on the results of the research, a leadership programme will be developed that includes mentoring, workshops and online tools and resources, such as an e-leadership hub and career pathway hub.

Mrs Wilson said while not all dairying women will aspire to be a director, the Dairy Women’s Network recognised there was a gap and a need for building more leadership capability at all levels; on the farm, in the community and within regions.

“This leadership programme aims to address the gap between what might be considered non-professional and professional leadership, and help dairying women progress and develop the skills that most already use in their day-to-day responsibilities. For some women, depending on their aspirations, the programme may lead onto further training such as the Global Women, Kellogg and Nuffield programmes.”

The goal is to have the first 30 women in the leadership programme by year two.

The Dairy Women’s Network has been instrumental in driving the leadership role of women in farm and industry management in New Zealand, including launching the Dairy Woman of the Year Award in 2012. It is the first time the Network has applied for and received a grant from the Government’s Sustainable Farming fund. The grant will be used over the next three years.

The Sustainable Farming Fund invests in farmer, grower and forester-led projects that deliver economic, environmental and social benefits to New Zealand’s primary industries.


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