Women have much to offer

I currently chair the Kiwifruit New Zealand board and have held other leadership and governance positions in a wide range of statutory and state sector boards including those in the primary industry sector.

In my experience;

  • Women are under-represented at all levels in horticultural and agricultural leadership, although that is slowly changing
  • We must value the contribution of women to horticultural, agricultural and rural development, particularly in provincial New Zealand where women often struggle to gain recognition.
  • Women are heavily involved as partners, as operators and as a very significant part of the labour force. They are often behind the scenes in support roles but without a voice despite having significant experience, strength and passion for their industry. They have much to offer.

In my view, when women serve in leadership roles in organisations, financial performance improves, employee talent is better used, the marketplace is reflected more adequately and innovation and performance increase. As the field of horticulture becomes more dynamic and challenging, diverse leadership demonstrating creativity, empathy and collaborative qualities is vital. Women’s strengths align with these needed skills. More women are needed in leadership positions for the impact they can have, not just nationally but also globally, in buttressing the safety, security and sustainability of our horticultural and agricultural system.

There are many challenges to success for women assuming leadership roles in the agricultural, horticultural and primary industry sector. This sector, perhaps more than most, is traditionally male-dominated and one where women find themselves isolated, not listened to or talked down. It is very easy to lose heart and confidence in that environment. It is therefore vital for women to be encouraged and given support and advice from colleagues both men and women

Kristy McDonald, is an experienced barrister and on of NZ’s most senior female queen’s Counsel with a wealth of legal, governance and regulatory experience and a strong interest in primary industries. She was awarded the Order of Merit (ONZM) in 2019.

She was asked by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) to write a short comment on the benefits of increasing the number on primary industry boards and how this resonates with the changing face of primary sector industries.

This was provided to the Ministry for Women which has recently undertaken a stocktake of gender representation on state sector boards and committees. Women now comprise 43 percent of the 18 boards where MPI has involvement.

This article was first published in The Orchardist magazine, July 2019