Community Scoop

Goodhew: Dairy Women’s Network Annual Conference

Speech – New Zealand Government

E aku rangatira, tn koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou. Thank you Sarah for your kind introduction this morning. It is my pleasure to be here today to speak to you about women in leadership and in particular your leadership as dairy …Jo Goodhew

21 March, 2013

Dairy Women’s Network Annual Conference

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Thank you Sarah for your kind introduction this morning.

It is my pleasure to be here today to speak to you about women in leadership and in particular your leadership as dairy women taking down the boundary fences and leading the way for the agricultural sector.

I am particularly pleased to be able to speak to you from the perspective of both my Women’s Affairs portfolio and my Associate Primary Industries portfolio.

I would like to acknowledge Michelle Wilson, Chair, Dairy Women’s Network Trust Board; Cathy Brown, Deputy Chair; Sarah Gray, Conference Convenor; and the members of the Trust Board. I would also like to acknowledge Sarah Speight, CEO of Dairy Women’s Network, and the members of her management team.

But I would especially like to thank each of you for taking the time out of your demanding farming roles to come to this conference.

I am very aware of the special arrangements you will have had to put in place so that you could free up your time to be here. I am sure you will not be disappointed. It is a great opportunity to share what you know, to learn from each other, and to strengthen your work as leaders in your communities.

Dairy Woman of the Year

Thank you for your invitation to me to attend the Gala Dinner last night. The dinner gave me a window into the energy levels in this room. It’s doubtful I will meet anywhere in New Zealand such large numbers of women who are leaders in their sector through their work, their businesses, their families and communities.

My sincere congratulations to the winner of the 2013 Dairy Woman of the Year award, Justine Kidd. Justine and all the finalists model what can be achieved by women with determination and passion for what they do in the rural sector.

Justine will benefit greatly from the Women in Leadership year long course run by Global Women that she has been awarded as Dairy Women of the Year 2013. I acknowledge the support that Fonterra provides in sponsoring this award. Actually when your fabulous 2012 winner Barbara Kuriger spoke about her experience on the leadership course I thought to myself I would like to do that too!

I would like to acknowledge Barbara, a wonderful inspiration to us all as the first Dairy Woman of the Year, but also for her leadership roles with Livestock Improvement Corporation and with DairyNZ and AgITO.

Justine and Barbara are leading the way, demonstrating what women can achieve in the rural sector for the dairy industry, for rural families for communities and ultimately for all of New Zealand. I would like to spend my time with you describing a few of my thoughts on challenges and opportunities for New Zealand women. I will also spend a little time on my path to politics.

But before I do, my thoughts on that boundary fence. We may all have different thoughts about what it means. For me that boundary fence is personal. The boundaries are those that I perceive around myself. They are the ones that I need to take down to change, to grow, to achieve. I acknowledge one of the oft-mentioned boundary fences between urban and rural, and I salute all work to reduce it.

Exciting times

A few thoughts on the dairy industry. This is a very exciting time for the dairy industry and for agriculture generally in New Zealand.

Despite the global economic woes, the dairy industry has shown its resilience and highlighted to all New Zealanders – whether in cities or rural communities – the importance of agriculture to our economy.

Looking forward, the potential is enormous. There is a strong and growing global demand for New Zealand’s dairy products – the demand for high value products is expanding as Asian countries in particular continue to grow.

The Government’s Business Growth Agenda sets a goal of increasing exports to 40 percent of GDP by 2025. As our biggest export industry, dairy will play a key role in this.

But of course a number of challenges will need to be overcome in order to meet this goal.

A lot is being done. For example, work is underway to secure greater market access in international markets and to invest in new irrigation schemes.

We also need to get better at the day-to-day job of dairying. It is estimated that lifting the average performance of pastoral farmers to be equivalent to the top 25 percent of farmers could increase exports by $3 billion annually; and this is just using existing knowledge!

Rural women in leadership

Women have always been integral to New Zealand’s agricultural development, both in the day to day operation of farms and its management as a business.

Women within dairying make an enormous economic contribution to the agricultural sector in New Zealand and our agribusiness.

Recent years have seen a significant change in the role of rural women. I am aware that many women are farm owners and farm managers. I am also aware that greater numbers of professional women are returning to practice in rural areas and provide vital services to their communities.

Many of you, as farming women, lead and manage a multi-million dollar business. You are skilled business women using sophisticated tools to manage the technical knowledge, and the financial aspects of your businesses. You are strategists leading the development of innovation and change. Your contribution is vital to New Zealand’s economy and your creativity and dexterity is exactly what New Zealand needs for a great future.

You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the drought. Thank you for being here, despite the drought. New Zealand farmers know weather and weather events are part of their lives. You know that. But there is no getting away from the economic and psychological punch in the guts that a drought like this represents for some, in fact many, farmers. I wish you all the strength and fortitude to keep dealing with this drought and the other adverse events that are sure to come your way.

Community leadership

Which brings me to community leadership. Also very important are the other organisations initiated and run by rural women to provide leadership and advocacy on women’s issues and rural issues generally, such as Rural Women New Zealand and the Māori Women’s Welfare League. Both of these organisations play a significant part in assisting rural women to take up new challenges and opportunities. They are made up of committed passionate women who volunteer their time to assist others in their communities and develop their leadership skills in the process.

Many of you will be members of those organisations and concerned about issues such as farm health and welfare, and the effect that environmental issues are having on your current and future endeavours.

That is why it is so valuable that events like this are taking place where knowledge can be shared.

Looking forward, women have a crucial role to play in the context of seeking greater innovation and technology transfer in order to maximise the potential of the dairy industry. That is evidenced in the nature of the breakout sessions at this conference – which look to follow a theme of learning from each other. There is a great sense here of women wanting to learn best practice and overcome challenges.

Another challenge is attracting the right skills to the sector. The median age of farmers is increasing – it is now in the mid-50s – and many do not have succession plans in place. It is crucial that we attract and develop people with the right skills and attitude – regardless of gender.

I would like to congratulate the finalists of the Community Leadership Award. You all play a vital role in your communities which has been recognised through your nomination for this award.

You are all members of the Dairy Women’s Network, dairy experts running your own businesses, and undertaking a multitude of other roles within your communities. You work to resolve issues that are relevant for your communities such as school bus safety, organising your local rural show, helping immigrants settle in, animal health, managing water and environment issues, and other dairy farming related issues. Your passion and courage is evident in the challenges that you have faced and overcome in your communities.

I am sure that the winner of this award will benefit greatly from the opportunity to further develop her leadership skills and this knowledge will be shared with colleagues in the Dairy Women’s Network.

Economic development and women on boards

As you will no doubt be aware leadership diversity is increasingly recognised as a priority for business success and credibility. Having more women in leadership roles in companies provides a richer range of views in key operational and strategic directions and decisions. It also means that companies have stronger connections with their customers, shareholders and investors. Wandering around the South Island Field Days yesterday a repetitive theme from the agribusinesses was their understanding of the importance of convincing the women on farms of the need for the purchase.

The National Government is committed to increasing the numbers of women on state and private sector boards. We are committed to achieving 45 percent on state sector boards and we are delighted to see our target of 10 percent on private sector boards already exceeded. The number of women on the boards of the top 100 companies listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange reached 14.75 percent in 2012, up from 9.3 percent in 2010.

In 2012, the 25 Percent Group was launched to work towards achieving 25 percent female participation on New Zealand boards by 2015. The 25 Percent Group comprises Chairs and CEOs from a selection of private, publicly-listed and multi national companies. The 25 Percent Group is committed to taking action that will significantly increase the number of women in senior management and board roles within their organisations, and to encourage business peers to do the same.

The 25 Percent Group launched a new Voluntary Code of Practice for Board Recruitment in November 2012, which supports improved practices in board recruitment. This shows a further commitment by the private sector towards increasing the number of women in governance. I want to acknowledge that six executive search recruitment firms signed up to the Code and I look forward to other firms adopting the Code over time.

The Code provides best practice guidelines in achieving diversity in board recruitment processes. It draws on a similar code already in place in the UK, recent international research and emerging best practice from the Cranfield International Institute for Women in Leadership.

The Code is another positive step towards New Zealand having diversity recognised as a key factor in board recruitment practices.

Agribusiness is also making progress in getting more women on boards. The New Zealand Census of Women’s Participation 2012 states that, as of 11 May 2012, the number of women on agriculture boards increased from 18 to 21. This represents an increase from 11.8 to 14.6 percent of agriculture board members being women.

Companies in the agribusiness sector with no women on their boards are now in the minority. However, while companies with headquarters in Auckland and Wellington are doing relatively well, this is not the case for companies located in the regions.

Recent Goldman Sachs research shows that companies headquartered outside of Auckland and Wellington such as in Whangarei, Tauranga, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill, are more likely to have no female representation on their boards. These companies still need to hear the message and understand the benefits that diverse leadership can bring to company performance, and in particular, that research has shown gender diversity can significantly improve companies’ bottom line. They also need to know that you exist, with your formidable business and leadership skills. That means a CV and, even before the CV, an understanding of your strengths.

Increasing diversity across senior management and executive tables

I am determined this will change, not only at the governance level but in the management and executive profiles of organisations.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, for example, is undertaking a ‘pipeline’ project this year to understand why women drop out of middle and senior management roles. The project will develop a knowledge base from which to build a business case for greater leadership diversity, and to create a momentum for change.

The Ministry is working closely with a range of stakeholders, including the NZX and the 25 Percent Group to ensure they have access to the latest international research and emerging best practice in the area of increasing gender diversity within organisations as well as on both private and state sector boards.

Many of you will know that the NZX introduced the new diversity reporting rule late last year. This requires companies listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange to report a quantitative breakdown of the gender composition of the company’s directors and senior management team. After the first year, a comparison with the previous year’s gender composition will also be required.

While not mandatory, the NZX encourages companies to establish a diversity policy and measureable objectives. With the help of my Ministry, it now has produced guidelines to get companies started. Companies that have a diversity policy and objectives will be required to include a statement from the Board providing its evaluation of the company’s performance with respect to its diversity policy in their annual report.

The new diversity reporting rules focus attention on board diversity and gets companies thinking about the range of experience and perspectives they need on their boards.

These processes will provide investors with the information they need to hold companies to account for their progress on gender diversity. Due to the established link between gender diversity and company performance, investors are increasingly seeing gender diversity as a mark of a company’s vitality, future prospects and resilience. Companies looking to attract investment will want to strengthen their gender diversity.

Exploring your leadership potential

New Zealand faces challenges in the dairy industry and agriculture. Women with leadership and governance skills, women like you, are needed.

Those of you who may have an interest in learning more about taking on a governance role could look at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs website There you will find the Women in Leadership link where you can find out about how you can develop your own governance career. You can also learn about the initiatives to increase the numbers of women in leadership positions in the private and public sectors in New Zealand.

The Institute of Directors offers Director Development training for directors at all stages of their governance careers, from those starting out to experienced board chairs. If you are interested in getting more information on this training, you will find more information at the Institute of Directors website

My leadership experience

I understand that you are interested in hearing a bit about ‘my story’ and how I transitioned into my current leadership role.

I was born in Temuka and grew up on a local sheep and cropping farm. My husband, Mark, is a dentist in Timaru and our three young adult daughters are all currently studying at Otago University.

I trained at Timaru hospital and qualified as a registered nurse in 1982. Also in the 1980s I represented Young Farmers Clubs on exchange to Australia and was one of two New Zealand exchangees to the UK in 1984.

Early in my career I practised throughout New Zealand and in London, in both Hospitals and general practice, and I gained a Bachelor of Nursing degree in 1995. Our twin daughters were born in 1990 and Abi arrived 21 months later. So, having three young children at home, I decided I could usefully juggle study with time at home, thus my degree.

I have also worked as a tutor in Health Sciences at Aoraki Polytech, a recruitment coordinator for Breastscreen South Ltd, and I founded the Aorangi Nursing Agency. I left nursing by 1997 as studying for my degree have me a thirst for more study and I did Bachelor of Business papers. I then worked job-share as a Safer Communities Coordinator.

I had a rich involvement in the volunteer sector in my community having, like so many children of farming families, witnessed both Mum and Dad getting stuck in to support their community. So I did Plunket, Boards of Trustees, Victim Support and Restorative Justice, DHB committees, COGS and Multiple Birth Club, just to name a few!

The path to politics probably started around the kitchen table debating all and sundry with Dad. The skills I learned in YFC or Young Farmers as it is now known, particularly public speaking and debating, prepared me well too. I was selected by the Timaru Herald to attend the Knowledge Wave conference in 2003 and came home just humming. I had so enjoyed thinking big picture rather than just local.

Mark knew I was keen to get into politics, and I had been asked to stand in 1999 and 2002, so he said “Why not now?” I said “The kids are a bit young” but he replied “You wouldn’t get elected the first time anyway”! The rest is history.

I was elected to Parliament as the MP for Aoraki in 2005 and, following boundary revisions, MP for Rangitata in 2008. I was Junior Whip for the National-led Government in our first term, and then I was appointed as a Minister following the 2011 election with the Women’s Affairs, Community and Voluntary Sector, Senior Citizens and Associate Health portfolios.

Just in January this year I was also given the opportunity to add Associate Primary Industries to my other four portfolios. I was very excited to accept this responsibility as it has been one of my dream jobs from the time I was elected.

What I’ve learned along the way is to keep my eyes open for opportunity, to push myself out of my comfort zone (nothing ventured nothing gained), move the boundary fence, to value communication skills above all else, to brush myself off and get back up again.

The toughest day in my first three years in Parliament was the day the boundary changes were announced. Prior to being elected I knocked on 12,000 doors – with close to 60,000 constituents I had tried to meet as many as I could. The boundary changes took the vast majority of the land mass of the Aoraki electorate and put it into Waitaki, and gave the new seat of Rangitata all of Mid Canterbury – 80 percent new land area and 40 percent new people. If felt very personal! I felt like I would be leaving behind so many friends I worked hard to meet. And the task of getting to know the new people seemed so very hard. But I absolutely loved the challenges of being an MP and I knew I had to make a plan, just like the plan that got me round 12,000 doors in 9 months. The new plan had to introduce me to the people of Mid Canterbury.


I would like to thank you all for listening to me today.

The opportunities you have here to interact and learn from inspirational speakers, your industry leaders and, most importantly each other, will provide you with much to think about and explore once you are back home in your communities.

I will continue to work on behalf of you all to support initiatives in business generally and agribusiness that will provide opportunities for New Zealand women to achieve at the highest level. In return I ask that each of you continue to seize the challenges that come your way and use these to grow and develop as dairy women. You are leaders in our communities and have a vital role to play in the New Zealand economy.

I look forward to hearing about your progress in dairying and the development of your leaders.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.


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