Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Meat Business Women – Gender Representation in the Meat Industry 2023

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The independent, global Gender Representation Report 2023, commissioned by Meat Business Women was released during the Meat Business Women UK & Ireland conference in London on 17 May 2023.

Meat Business Women Report 2023

The Report draws on international data from more than 50 major meat organisations employing almost 250,000 staff, in-depth interviews with senior HR and operational leaders, focus groups of women working in the industry, and survey responses from 400 women and men.

Australia’s OBE Organic – whose Managing Director Dalene Wray is herself a notable woman in the meat business – featured as a case study in the report, the only Australian business so highlighted.

The 2023 Report follows the first gender representation in the meat industry report published by Meat Business Women in 2020.

The 2023 Report shows that women now make up 33.5 per cent of the global workforce (down from 36 per cent in 2020). Unskilled roles have been the main driver, falling from 40 per cent of the workforce to 36 per cent.

Women’s representation in senior leadership roles has increased significantly, with women now making up 8 per cent of CEO posts (up by 3 per cent), 23 per cent of board-level director roles (up from 14 per cent), 32 per cent of high-level leadership roles (up from 22 per cent) and 32 per cent of middle-manager roles (up from 29 per cent).

However the gap between meat businesses with the most and the least female representation is increasing.

The 2023 Report provides a proactive checklist to encourage further women into the meat business, including:

  • gender data benchmarking;
  • strengthening male allyship;
  • team flexibility; and
  • ensuring childcare-related policies and support is an enabler, not a derailer.

Australian Rural & Regional News asked some questions of Laura Ryan, Founder and Global Chair of Meat Business Women, and Dalene Wray, MD of Australia’s OBE Organic.

Dalene Wray

ARR.News: Which particular areas or roles in the meat industry in Australia do you believe would benefit especially from greater participation from women now? (as distinct from the level of role)

Dalene Wray: It would be wonderful to see more gender and ethnic diversity on the boards of peak industry bodies in Australian Agriculture in general. We are making progress when it comes to the mix of men and women on boards, but we have a way to go with regards to cultural and linguistic diversity.

In 2022, Australia exported 67 per cent of its total beef and veal production.

Logically, if the leadership of our industry more closely aligned with the ethnicity of our export markets, more prosperous business outcomes are likely to eventuate.

ARR.News: Could there be more ways the Australian meat industry (with less female participation currently) and the food services industry (with greater female participation) could overlap so that there is a greater gender representation overall?

Dalene Wray: One way to achieve better outcomes within our industry and for our industry is through collaborations with stakeholders up and down our supply chain and with co-aligned industries like food manufacturing.

OBE Organic has a history of collaborating with our stakeholders, generating both tangible and intangible benefits for all involved. Throughout our recently published Sustainability Report, we provide many examples of collaborations which bring benefit to our industry.

On page 21 of the Meat Business Women Gender Representation Report 2023, you can read a case study which shows the importance of being allies and champions of inclusion across the supply chain. The case study, delivered across multiple social media platforms, shared photos and stories from Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation in the pure heart of Australia. The collaboration was unique, since it recognised the importance of Indigenous Australia telling stories and sharing history.

Laura Ryan

ARR.News: The report gives little detail on the different roles within the meat industry; it focuses more on the level of role.  Could you give more information about the specific occupations within the industry?

Laura Ryan: Meat Business Women’s broader research shows the outside perception of the meat industry is farming or butchery focused.

These roles are essential but there is also so much more on offer including operations, nutrition, commercial, technical, agricultural, data, marketing and financial experts required to make the sector thrive.

Our She Looks Like Me campaign goes some way to explain this:

ARR.News: Regarding the participation of women in the meat industry – if all that can be done to make sure that girls and women are aware of the breadth of roles and opportunities in the meat industry, and that those who are interested and capable are able to pursue those opportunities, isn’t that a suitable goal?

Laura Ryan: It is important for the future sustainability of our sector to attract more women into the sector, by attracting women into meat businesses at all levels the industry is more representative of its customers and society.

In addition to this the industry should actively share, learn, challenge and change together through creating an industry-wide pre-competitive forum, to develop best practice and to progress policy issues and align career promotion into schools and colleges.

As part of the Gender Representation Report we have produced a checklist for driving gender representation in the meat industry. Businesses can proactively act by building inclusive cultures, benchmarking their talent pipeline against the industry average and making childcare-related policies and support an enabler not a derailer.

ARR.News: Could the smaller proportion of women in the meat industry be partly due to the fact simply that not so many women are interested in working in that industry?

Laura Ryan: Our research has found that women who do not have an agricultural connection rarely know about the amazing careers that exist in the meat sector. It’s our job to collectively change that so we attract the best talent regardless of gender.

ARR.News: If women have only more recently sought to pursue careers in the meat industry, could it be that, as these women gain experience with time, they will naturally gain seniority and work their way into management and decision-making roles? In short, it’s too soon to conclude there is not enough progress?

Laura Ryan: The latest 2023 report has shown that women are advancing in senior roles, middle management up to CEO’s have a higher proportion of women since the 2020 research. Unfortunately we are seeing a decline or stagnant growth in women coming into unskilled roles up to first line manager. The overall the proportion of women in the meat industry has dropped from 36 per cent in 2020 to 33.5 per cent. It’s essential we keep the pipeline growing from the bottom to progress.

ARR.News: Have you considered whether the activist and anti-meat lobby may have a greater deterrent impact on women considering entering the meat industry? (Eg see the increasing number of harassment cases in Australia) How would you address any such negative impact?

Laura Ryan: This topic was not flagged in the research but it is one we’ll be monitoring and discussing with our global partners.


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