Gender diversity on ag boards, what do the numbers say?
GENDER equality in agriculture has been a hot topic of discussion in recent months as the newly elected Cattle Australia board tries to find its feet – with one woman and six men at the helm.
The grass industry completed a long and historic transition to a new representative body at the end of last year, with the Cattle Council of Australia disbanding and the new organization established.
Since the election, many have called on the agricultural industry to step up its efforts to attract more women into representative roles. Others have argued that there are no gender barriers in agriculture and the industry is leading the way with women already filling major representative roles.
With the debate likely to continue for the foreseeable future, Beef Central decided to investigate the number of women on boards in representative agricultural groups and companies.
Interesting statistics and context
For Cattle Australia elections, board members nominate themselves for certain regions – northern, southern and western – before members from within their region agree. The board then nominates two independent directors.
While the independent directors have not been appointed, CA chairman David Foote told a Beef Australia podcast that he would like to increase the number of women on the board with the appointment of independent directors.
Out of 16 candidates for the council, three women nominated, and one was successful, meaning that a third of the women who nominated were elected. The percentage of successful male candidates was higher at 46pc – with West Australian member James Bowie being appointed unopposed and automatically.
The previous CCA board was more gender diverse than Cattle Australia, with five women and six men as members – all of whom decided not to run for the new body.
The Federal Government has a mandatory requirement for companies with more than 100 employees to report to its Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
The WGEA says that in the financial year 2021-’22, women made up 34% of the board members. A sample of eight ASX-listed companies (highlighted below) shows that 29% of board members are women. These data do not include very representative groups.
Agricultural company boards
Beef Central selected eight agricultural companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange – most of them in the ASX 300. As a collective, the companies are slightly below the national average with 29% of members being female – it has 38 men and had 16 wives.
One of the companies has a female CEO, and the rest are male. Here are some interesting statistics.
Elsewhere has a 50/50 gender split on its board if you include the two company secretaries in Peter Hastings and Shannon Doecke. CEO Mark Allison will step down later this year. Australian Agricultural Company has a male CEO in David Harris, but the leadership team has three men and two women. AA Co has a gender diversity policy which aims to grow the number of women in senior roles. GrainCorp has four men and two women in its senior leadership team. Incitec Pivot is the only company in this group with a female CEO in Jeanne Johns. Rural Funds Group – the company has investments in a range of different sectors and some major companies including Queensland Cotton, JBS, AA Co, Stone Ax and Mort & Co are readers.
Beef Central did not include international companies in its official percentages, as information on some of the major companies – including Cargill – was difficult to find. However, we managed to find the details of some major players.
Nutrien Ag Solutions – the US-based board has eight men and four women, according to its website. JBS – The meat processor’s board has seven males and two females. The board still includes founder José Batista Sobrinho.
State farm organizations
Beef Central collected data from all the state farm organizations in Australia, which showed 25% representation of women on the boards and all the CEOs are male.
Two groups have female presidents with Victorian Farmers’ Federation led by Emma Germano and Qld’s Agforce led by Georgie Somerset. Here is the breakdown:
Agforce has a board structure consisting of directors from five different area-based branches, presidents of commodity-specific boards and a general president in Georgie Somerset. Figures not included in the overall statistics are the Young Producers Council – which has more women than men, by five to four respectively. Livestock SA has two regional chairs that are not included in the statistics – both are male. WA Farmers have grain, livestock and dairy presidents who are not included in the statistics. Four staff members are listed on the website with three women and one man, who is the CEO. NTCA to go to AGM in February We were unable to obtain board information from the Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association of Western Australia – which has five separate committees. Industry representative groups
Agriculture’s peak lobby group, the National Farmers’ Federation, is included in the industry’s representative group section. The division also covers commodity specific boards from the cattle, sheep, grain and cotton sectors.
It shows 22% of board members are women and three out of nine CEOs are women – with a Cattle Australia CEO yet to be appointed and the GrainGrowers CEO who stepped down last year.
Sheep Producers Australia is expected to add another director later this week.
Research and Development Corporations
Of all the groups surveyed, the RDCs have the highest proportion of women on their boards with a combined total of 32pc. All CEOs are male.