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International Women's Day: Michelle Pye

International Women's Day: Michelle Pye

Michelle Pye

PotatoesNZ Board Member

Potato Seed cooperative chairperson

  1. Why is so important for women to hold leadership positions in the primary industry?

We need to have good people in primary industry leadership positions with the right skills and attributes no matter what gender, ethnicity, or background they have.  However, having females in these positions provides good role models for other younger females wanting to be part of the primary industries.  It is good for other people to see that being a female in what used to be a male dominated world doesn’t stop you from succeeding.  There are so many fantastic examples of females in leadership positions at both a local and national level.

2. What obstacles are there for women in agricultural roles, and how can we remove those obstacles?

The biggest obstacle is probably yourself.  We all suffer from imposter syndrome or self-doubt and at times I have thought I was not experienced enough for various roles.  However, you need to back yourself and just ask lots of questions and do lots of reading because no one ever started a job knowing everything on day one.  There is also a bit more juggling to do if you have children and a household to organise but if you have some good support around you this is easier to overcome.

3. What advice would have for women who are wanting to rise through the ranks, and advance their career in agriculture?

You don’t have to know everything or be a subject expert to add value.  Think about your strengths and focus on those strengths and “phone a friend” when you need some subject matter expertise.  I have never milked a cow but was a Fonterra Co-operative Councillor for five years.  Likewise with potatoes.  I have never been involved in the hands-on side of growing and harvesting potatoes and knew little about the potato seed industry.  However, I have spent six years chairing Potato Seed Co-operative and two years on the Potatoes New Zealand Board and still hold these roles.  You can still add value and provide leadership with other skills that you have.  Building relationships with a wide network of people is also important.  Nearly all of my roles I have taken on because someone else asked me to.  So, you need to get involved in different things, build relationships, and earn the trust and respect of others. Finally, just be yourself.  The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.