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NZGSTA elects first female president

NZGSTA elects first female president

The New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association (NZGSTA) has elected its first female president, Charlotte Connoley.

Connoley was elected at the association’s annual general meeting in Auckland in October, taking over from former president Michael Hales.

Connoley says it’s good for the industry as a whole to have a female in the role.

“I think it’s important for all women in the industry to see this as something that is achievable.

“The days where the seed was male-dominated have definitely changed.”

Connoley, who grew up on a farm in the Hakataramea Valley, now lives in the Bay of Plenty and is co-owner and general manager of Kings Seeds.

Connoley brings 20 years of experience in the seed industry to the president’s role and joined the NZGSTA executive in 2018, the first female executive in the association’s 100-year history.

Connoley said it is heartening to see so many women taking on roles within the industry and points to the Women in Seed forum held in Christchurch this year that saw 150 attendees as a positive sign for diversity within the sector.

Connoley said the challenge remains as to how to get more women into executive positions in businesses and organisations in the industry.

“The challenge remains as to understanding what some of the impediments are, why these women start in this industry and don’t progress their careers.”

Connoley said that the demands of motherhood could be a factor, but the industry needed to look at ways to encourage women to return to the workforce after having children.

“We don’t want to lose that knowledge from our industry.”

With strong demand for primary sector employees from tractor drivers right through to professionals, Connoley said the seed industry needs to be an attractive employer of diverse talent when it comes to competing for staff with other sectors.

Connoley said it’s not about filling a quota or ticking a box.

“We still want really good people and people that can contribute.

“But I know from my interactions and experiences with a lot of these women that there are plenty of those around.

“It’s about fostering that.”

Connoley is looking to continue the good work the NZGSTA has done to date, including projects currently underway, such as seed certification software that needed to be completed.

“There are massive projects that have been going on for many years and involved a lot of investment.

“It will be great to see those brought to fruition and see the difference it makes for the industry for the long term future.”

The association would continue building on the good relationship the association has with the Ministry for Primary Industry and looking at seed trade and market access.

“We are also looking at the import side of things as well – how we make things more efficient at the border and make sure we are meeting our biosecurity requirements.”

Connoley said the association’s membership is “highly engaged”, and the NZGSTA would be canvasing members to understand their concerns and issues regarding policy and regulations.

With a new government coming in, Connoley said the association would have to stay across that and see what impact that may have on the industry.

“We have a great strategic plan, and it’s just going back to our core purpose as an organisation, which is to provide value to our membership.”

by Claire Inkson