Agri sector urged to challenge ‘prevalent’ gender stereotypes

Ceres, the women in agri-food leadership network, will discuss “the challenges of embracing diversity and effecting change in agri-food businesses” at an upcoming event in Naas, Co. Kildare.

The gathering – which will take place at Killashee House Hotel, on Tuesday, May 29 from 7:30am to 9:30am –  will focus on the issue of unconscious bias which, the group says, is “prevalent” in the Irish agri-food industry.

It will also highlight the need for diversity and inclusivity in order to enhance business performance.

Speakers will outline how the diversity agenda is not just about introducing more women; but that it is about a broad range of thinking at senior level.

Speakers will also demonstrate how many progressive organisations are now replacing “gender equality strategies” with “diversity strategies” which encourage diverse leadership styles, decision making and communications – which have all been proven to improve financial returns.

The discussion will be chaired by Ciara Jackson, food, agribusiness and drink practice leader at Aon who is also a co-founder of the Agri-Food Diversity and Inclusion Forum.

Panel contributors will include: Brendan Gleeson, head of policy and strategy at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Brid Horan, non-executive director and former deputy CEO of ESB and founder of the 30% Club Ireland; plus, Sean Farrell, head of agriculture at Bank of Ireland.

Speaking in advance of the event Karen Brosnan, chair of the Ceres Network, said: “Organisational cultures, and particularly agricultural cultures, need to become increasingly open to challenging gender and other stereotypes.

To challenge thinking, individuals need to become aware of their beliefs and biases.

“These unconscious biases can influence how we make decisions in the workplace – which can negatively affect business performance.

“Conversations need to happen around how we support women and young men in different roles and in different ways to promote diversity in thinking, decision making and representation in farm and food organisations,” she said.

Top talent

According to the Boston Consulting Group (2015) diverse companies outperform homogeneous ones. One study showed that a 1% increase in gender diversity correlates with a 3% gain in revenue.

According to McKinsey (2015) companies in the top quartile for gender or ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians (15% and 35%, respectively).

In addition, more diverse companies are better able to win top talent and improve customer orientation, employee satisfaction, decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.

The event will take place on Tuesday, May 29, in the Killashee House Hotel, Naas from 7.30am – 9.30am. Tickets for the event – which cost €15 per person – include a continental breakfast and can be booked via

About Ceres

Ceres, the women in agri-business leadership network, was founded to develop and promote leadership and diverse thinking within the industry.

Through the delivery of a range of dynamic, engaging and thought-provoking events, the network aims to provide a platform for knowledge sharing, collaboration and peer support.

The group was founded by 10 leading female professionals from diverse backgrounds within the sector including: academia; consulting; and agri-business.

The network is named after Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture and growth, known as the protector of the land and its products. For further information visit