Business management

Agriculture UK: How women are shifting the dial

At the Meat Business Women conference, we heard how women in the meat industry are building resilience for a sustainable future. Here are our top take-aways.

As Julie Baker, our Head of Enterprise said: “We know collaboration can play a key part to help drive change across any industry and we will continue to champion and support this ambitious sector. We want every woman in the meat industry to feel empowered, able to identify their own strengths and superpowers, and to harness these around the UK so that we all succeed.”

In the meat industry, women are partnering to adapt their workplaces to attract, retain and progress talent at every level, championing the industry as a positive place to build a career or a business.

Laura Ryan is an entrepreneur who has grown Meat Business Women, which she co-founded in 2015, into a global network that today reaches thousands of women and is recognised by the United Nations as a contributor to one of its sustainable development goals.

Gender representation in the meat industry: a summary

This year Meat Business Women published its gender representation report. The big picture findings reveal positive shifts in how the industry is perceived, repaired rungs in the senior-leadership career ladder, inclusion moving up the agenda and greater access to role models.

Despite this progress, the research shows only 8% of CEO roles are held by women and the number of women in the global meat sector workforce has dropped to 33.5% (from 36% in 2020). Women now make up only 36% of the unskilled workforce, falling from 40%.

Here are some of the insights from the gender representation report:

Perception need not be reality 

Change must happen now. It requires ongoing focus from hire to retire, Perceptions of the sector are changing, particularly where organisations are repositioning themselves and adapting working practices and patterns.

Pursue an inclusive environment 

The onus is on the sector to shift the culture, tackle everyday exclusion, and build allyship. It’s important to help men see the barriers women face – you can’t create change when the underrepresented group is driving change alone. Review and challenge your own policies.

Develop the start of the pipeline

The impact of Covid and the cost-of-living crisis means the economics of working are fragile. There has been phenomenal progress at senior level. The good work on gender inclusion, amid external pressure from customers, regulators, and shareholders must now be reflected on the factory floor and in early careers. 

Make role models visible

People want to see leaders working flexibly, to recognise the juggle. Ensure working practices and patterns are flexible to attract and retain female talent and build a more diverse workforce. Ensure women can see a way to balance family and career.

Speakers at the Meat Business Women conference share their actionable insights:

Address health concerns

Businesses could take the opportunity to educate consumers on how the category answers some consumer needs. For example, B12 could help tiredness and fatigue.

Maintain and build consumer trust

There could be an opportunity to promote the UK and Ireland’s welfare standards. And to showcase where the sector is adopting more sustainable practices in terms of packaging, food waste, food miles, and carbon footprint.

Think about the future shopper

Take the opportunity to understand Gen Z and the future consumer. AHDB data says this demographic is more likely to be and become vegan. And to have more negative perceptions of the meat industry to start with. Consider learning more about these future customers and use social media to target them with different messages.

Everyone can be a changemaker

In a volatile and quickly changing economic landscape, the old ways will no longer work. Businesses that live the change they want to see in the world could seize a competitive advantage by facing into the environmental challenge and reducing carbon emissions.

Develop a growth mindset

Give some thought to how you bring people with you. Do you have a can-do attitude, and a strong culture of adapting to change? Consider your leadership principles: encourage small steps of courage at every level of your organisation.

Use data to inform your Diversity & Inclusivity initiatives and decisions

This could help you understand where to put your energy and effort. Make your business an attractive and balanced place to be for your people – the steps and shifts you take now will show results in 10 years’ time. 

The way we produce food must change

The meat industry must innovate for efficiency, to build sustainable profits, meet sustainability targets, and improve diversity and inclusion.

Innovation comes from diverse thinking and background

Think about diversity in a holistic sense, let people be themselves. Don’t get caught up in initiatives, drive change through purpose to energise and lift people up.

What does the data tell us? A summary

Kim Heath, Senior Retail Insight Manager at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) shared with delegates some retail data impacting the domestic consumer market. Here are some headline findings:

  • Although the Covid impact has diminished, consumers face fresh challenges, primarily around the cost of living
  • Food tends to be six-to-12 months behind in terms of seeing a slowdown in inflation, it takes longer for those costs to make their way through the supply chain
  • People are buying less and trading down across the board
  • They are seeking out promotions, deals, loyalty offers
  • They’re looking at fewer ingredients to reduce food waste

Read our new report, which highlights the way ahead for sustainable agriculture | NatWest Business

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