Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

It is an inside job

It is International Women’s Day and I am reflecting on my fourth year at the Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference here in Calgary, which took place on March 6 & 7. As always, this conference provided a valuable opportunity to network with other women, especially when you consider how often there are only a handful of us at many ag sector meetings and conferences.  But something struck me this year with respect to the nature of the presentations and the discussion that followed.  We continue to hear presentations from women who have worked very hard to achieve positions of influence in our sector, be it as senior executives or as directors on male-dominated boards. As interesting and inspiring as these stories are and as valuable some of this advice may be, it is time to shift our focus. Participants at this annual conference continue to point to their relentless efforts to, in many cases, work harder and longer than their male counterparts and are growing increasingly frustrated by the fact that many of these positions, especially at the board table are in many cases held exclusively by men.

Emerging from this experience I would like to offer a challenge to women who have already earned a seat at the table and that is this: in addition to the great work that you are already doing to inspire, coach and mentor your female colleagues and counterparts, I challenge you now to take on a more difficult task and that is to engage your fellow executives and board members and work from the inside out to create opportunities for women to join you at those tables.  Use your influence to encourage the creation of diversity policies that aim to create meaningful change and leave a lasting legacy for the women that look up to you.

And to those of you who would argue that it is about “finding the best person for the job” – regardless of their gender or that “no one wants to be the token female hired to fill some pre-determined quota,” I invite you to attend the Advancing Women in Agriculture conference where you will meet hundreds of exceptionally talented women who are very well-qualified to take on leadership roles in our sector.  There is no need to hire a token woman, not given this deep pool of talent. 

So to those of you that can, be it male or female leaders, those of you that have experienced the value of diversity first-hand, take advantage of the power and influence that you have worked so hard to achieve and make it an inside job.  Encourage the creation of diversity policies that force those unwilling to deviate from the more traditional recruitment approaches to take a more deliberate, mindful approach to recruitment while creating opportunities for the many very talented women in our sector so that more boards, commissions and corporations benefit from the value that diversity in leadership brings.


Erin Gowriluk
Government Relations and Policy Manager
Alberta Wheat Commission


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