Gender diversity on ag boards: What the numbers say

Eric Barker, February 1, 2023


GENDER equality in agriculture has been a major topic of discussion in recent months, as the newly elected Cattle Australia board looks to find its feet – with one woman and six men at the helm.

The grassfed industry wrapped up a long and historic transition into a new representative body at the end of last year, with Cattle Council of Australia dissolving and the new organisation forming.

Since the election, many have been calling on the agricultural industry to ramp up its efforts to attract more women in 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 has decided to investigate the numbers of women on boards in agricultural representative 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 vote them in. The board then nominates two independent directors.

While the independent directors have not been appointed, CA chair David Foote told a Beef Australia podcast he would like to increase the number of women on the board with the appointment of independent directors.

Out of 16 candidates for the board, three women nominated, and one was successful, meaning a third of the women who nominated were elected. The percentage of successful male candidates was higher at 46pc – with Western Australian member James Bowie uncontested and automatically appointed.

The previous CCA board was more gender diverse than Cattle Australia, with five women and six men as members – all of them 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 in the financial year of 2021-22, women made up 34pc of board members. A sample of eight ASX-listed ag companies (highlighted below) shows 29pc of board members are women. This data does not include a lot of representative group.

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Agriculture company boards

Beef Central has chosen 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 29pc of members being females – it had 38 men and 16 females.

One of the companies have a female CEO, with the rest being male. Here are some interesting statistics.

  • Elders has a 50/50 gender split on its board if you include the two company secretaries in Peter Hastings and Shannon Doecke. Its CEO Mark Allison is set to exit later this year.
  • Australian Agricultural Company has a male CEO in David Harris, but the leadership team has three males and two females. AA Co has a gender diversity policy which aims to grow the number of women in senior roles.
  • GrainCorp has four males and two females 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 Axe and Mort & Co are lessees.

International companies

Beef Central has not included international companies in its official percentages, as it has been difficult to find information on some of the major companies – including Cargill. However, we have managed to find the details of some major players.

  • Nutrien Ag Solutions – the US-based board has eight males and four females according to its website.
  • JBS – The meat processor’s board has seven male and two females. The board still includes founder José Batista Sobrinho.

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State farm organisations

Beef Central has gathered data from all the state farm organisations in Australia, which has shown 25pc representation of females 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 made up 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, with five to four respectively;
  • Livestock SA has two regional chairs who have not been included in the statistics – both of them are male;
  • WA Farmers has grains, livestock and dairy presidents who have not been included in the statistics. Four staff members are listed on the website with three females and one male, who is the CEO;
  • NTCA going to an AGM in February;
  • We have not been able 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 has been included in the industry representative group section. The section also covers commodity specific boards from the cattle, sheep, grains and cotton sectors.

It shows 22pc of board members are women and three out of nine CEOs are women – with a Cattle Australia CEO not yet appointed and the GrainGrowers CEO stepping down last year.

Sheep Producers Australia this week appointed Kerry Harris as an independent director of its board bringing the numbers to four males and three females.

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Research and Development Corporations

Out of all the groups surveyed, the RDCs have the highest percentage of females on their boards with a collective total of 32pc. All CEOs are male.




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