Self-be­lief is half the bat­tle

Shepparton News - Country News - - WOMEN IN AG FORUM - By Alana Chris­tensen

Back­ing your po­ten­tial and be­liev­ing your own skills are some of the big­gest chal­lenges for women in agri­cul­ture, ac­cord­ing to a panel of prom­i­nent lead­ers.

Panel­lists Mur­ray Dairy re­gional ex­ten­sion of­fi­cer Lisa Bir­rell, Ge­of­frey Thomp­son Hold­ings’ tech­ni­cal man­ager Dr Bisi Oladele, and Ir­ri­gated Crop­ping Coun­cil ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Dr Char­lotte Aves shared their per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences in the in­dus­try at an event in Shep­par­ton last week, along­side key note speaker and VFF Hor­ti­cul­ture Group pres­i­dent Emma Ger­mano.

With more than 15 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the dairy in­dus­try, Mur­ray Dairy re­gional ex­ten­sion of­fi­cer Lisa Bir­rell said she was now in the ‘‘ab­nor­mal’’ sit­u­a­tion of work­ing in an or­gan­i­sa­tion that had pre­dom­i­nately fe­male em­ploy­ees.

How­ever, Ms Bir­rell said she’d had ex­pe­ri­ences where she hasn’t been heard, in­clud­ing one in­stance when she was out on a farm demon­strat­ing the best way to ad­min­is­ter in­jec­tions to sheep a num­ber of years ago.

‘‘I told him,‘in­ject be­hind the ear’,’’ she said.

‘‘And I turned around and then looked back and he’s in­ject­ing them near the neck, and I said, ‘you need to in­ject be­hind the ear’ — and he does the same again and his boss said, ‘Didn’t you hear Lisa? Be­hind the ear.’

‘‘And bang, straight away it was be­hind the ear.

‘‘Any time I needed to com­mu­ni­cate an im­prove­ment I just went to his male boss, be­cause at least

❝I al­ways look for the next learn­ing op­por­tu­nity . . . ev­ery­thing you do, you can learn and grow from.❞ Ir­ri­gated Crop­ping Coun­cil ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Char­lotte Aves

En­cour­ag­ing women . . . Women in agribusi­ness was the key dis­cus­sion point be­tween Ir­ri­gated Crop­ping Coun­cil ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Dr Char­lotte Aves, Ge­of­frey Thomp­son Hold­ings’ tech­ni­cal man­ager Dr Bisi Oladele, Mur­ray Dairy re­gional ex­ten­sion of­fi­cer Lisa Bir­rell and VFF Hor­ti­cul­ture Group pres­i­dent Emma Ger­mano at an event in Shep­par­ton on Wed­nes­day night. then I knew the job would get done.’’

Hav­ing worked as a spe­cial­ist dairy nutri­tion con­sul­tant and spent more than nine years as a Fon­terra Aus­tralia area man­ager, Ms Neville said she was happy to work in a dairy in­dus­try that had a num­ber of strong fe­male lead­ers.

Yet, as Ge­of­frey Thomp­son Hold­ings’ tech­ni­cal man­ager Dr Bisi Oladele pointed out, half the bat­tle was grow­ing the lead­er­ship ca­pac­ity within the work­force.

‘‘How many peo­ple do we have ready for the next level of lead­er­ship?

‘‘If you have some­one that is very good, you’ll in­vest in them.’’

The lack of women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions is a sit­u­a­tion Dr Aves is all too fa­mil­iar with.

‘‘I’m one of only 2.3 per cent of fe­male ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers in agri­cul­ture,’’ she said.

De­spite a num­ber of per­sonal achieve­ments, in­clud­ing be­ing ap­pointed Aus­tralian Women in Agri­cul­ture vice-pres­i­dent, Dr Aves said there was al­ways an op­por­tu­nity to im­prove.

‘‘I al­ways look for the next learn­ing op­por­tu­nity . . . ev­ery­thing you do, you can learn and grow from.

‘‘That’s prob­a­bly what gives me the con­fi­dence to put my head on the block.

‘‘It’s all about peo­ple, so just give it a crack.’’

Although her own ca­reer had been built on many sac­ri­fices, in­clud­ing pack­ing sausages dur­ing her stud­ies, Dr Oladele said it was a fal­lacy that women could not have a fam­ily as well as a ca­reer.

‘‘You can still have a win-win on both sides,’’ she said.

‘‘You’ve just got to de­cide when you want to move up the lad­der and go to the next stage of life.’’

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