Thursday, 27 September 2018

Primary Industry Women on the Rise


Taking the first step to do something challenging can be life changing. For Ravensdown shareholder Sandra Matthews, that’s exactly what happened after completing the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) Escalator programme.

Sandra and her husband, Ian, farm together on Te Kopae Station, 50km north west of Gisborne. Before becoming involved with AWDT, Sandra felt she had to fit the mould of farmer’s wife and mother. Today, she sees the world so differently. She and Ian are partners in their farming business and Sandra is carving out her own path - on-farm, within her community and nationally.

Completing the Escalator programme has propelled Sandra into a national role empowering other women around New Zealand. She leads the AWDT Regional Hub initiative (funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand) which supports women who want to continue to connect, learn and contribute after completing AWDT programmes. In 2017 Sandra became a facilitator for Understanding Your Farming Business, another course which AWDT delivers.

Born out of the need to empower and support women within New Zealand’s primary sector, AWDT offers women the chance to grow both personally and professionally through a number of programmes. Each year, 14 women are selected to join the Escalator leadership and governance programme, which begins in February and ends in November.

Sandra first connected with AWDT in 2014 when she completed both the ‘Understanding Your Farming Business’ and ‘First Steps’ programmes (now called, ‘It’s all about YOU’). A few years later, she was interested in applying for the Escalator programme, but lacked the confidence to take the next step.

“I’d looked at the Escalator programme countless times on the AWDT website but thought, ‘oh I can’t do that!’” she says.

A conversation with several Escalator Alumni members gave her the confidence to apply.

“They made me realise that applying for Escalator was well within my capabilities and I should go ahead.

Undertaking Escalator has given me the confidence to go out there and tackle things I never dreamed I would do prior to the programme. The shift in mindset was subtle during the programme but powerful and enlightening by the year end. It taught me that I have a lot more to contribute to the industry not only at a grass roots level but through to sitting around the decision-making table.

“Another way Escalator changed me was I now view leadership from the perspective of the people I am leading. It’s about standing shoulder to shoulder with them to support them step up and find and fulfil their purpose. The programme taught me a lot about different learning styles and personalities, and what makes people tick. Now I look at those around me with fresh eyes and think, how can I support them, what do they need and how can I help them achieve their goals.”

Sandra says the AWDT courses, in particular Escalator, have had a huge impact on her life. Through her various roles she is empowering other women to come to their own conclusions about what they want. One of her goals is to help women understand that they bring more value to their farming businesses than they often realise, as business partners, on the farm and supporting in the home.

Ravensdown is proud to be a strategic partner of AWDT and the Escalator programme, supporting the initiative to promote meaningful change across the primary sector.

Applications for AWDT Escalator 2019 are now open and close on 28 September 2018.