The first Australian Meat Business Women (MBW) event, staged in Melbourne early this week, represented the start of a revolution in the sector.
The sell-out event was opened by Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes, who told the 200 guests from across the meat supply chain that women in the industry are not merely shaping the agenda, but setting it.
Stacey McKenna, Industry Research, Standards and Capability Manager with Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC), says the event highlighted not only a great desire among women to build their careers in the sector and foster opportunity for others, but also a few clear barriers to entry.
“The atmosphere at this event is difficult to describe. The women who participated – and the men too – were incredibly passionate. This has been a long time coming. We had a pretty big waiting list of people who wanted to join us but couldn’t get tickets,” Stacey says.
“The real takeaways are that women want meaningful careers in this industry. And they want to help other women find careers in this industry. But it’s not always that easy. Unsurprisingly, many talked about the challenges of coming back after maternity leave, or finding support to either move up the career ladder or do jobs traditionally done by men.”
Over several facilitated workshop sessions the conference identified some ways the sector could attract more women, from primary school curriculum change to considering boardroom quotas to ensure female voices at the board table.
“There’s no shortage of ideas and no shortage of drive to make things happen,” Stacey says.
Speaker Dalene Wray, CEO of OBE Organic, summed up the collaborative mood at the event, telling the audience: “Success awaits you. We’ve got your back.”
The Australian meat sector is a $22 billion industry which supports 150,000 direct and indirect jobs and is Australia’s 7th biggest export earner. The next Australian Meat Business Women event is scheduled for Brisbane in October.
For information on MBW head to meatbusinesswomen.org