Future bright for women in dairy sector

By Ilona Hanne

With less than two weeks left until nominations close for the 2013 Dairy Woman of the Year award, last year's winner Barbara Kuriger is urging women to consider entering.

"Just do it" she says, adding that "the process is fantastic. It makes you evaluate yourself and inspires you".

Barbara says that being named Dairy Woman of the Year for 2012 has given her some amazing opportunities and "it is exceeding my expectations".

Barbara, a New Plymouth farmer who attended Opunake primary and secondary schools, says that success is only possible with support, and she recognises that her husband, Louis, as well as her three children, plus the rest of her extended family, have all contributed to what she terms "the team effort" of winning the award. She adds, "I am here, ready and prepared, to now do that for others" and looks forward to helping the next winner maximise their opportunities and learning.

The award comes with the chance to attend the year-long Women in Leadership course run by Global Women, a scholarship which is worth $25,000 and is part of the award sponsored by Fonterra.

Barbara says that attending the course was a great opportunity and that they have looked at a huge range of topics; "from governance and finance to strategy and negotiation and persuasive writing skills". The 25 women who attend the course draw from a wide range of career paths, from banking to the energy industry, farming to information technology, and it is this, says Barbara, that makes the course so "interesting as well as so informative, we come from different places but by nature of being female, still have a lot of common ground". She adds that "what was really interesting to me, as a rural person, is that most of them have some form of interaction with our industry already".

Commenting that "there are so many women at local and regional levels who are awesome" she emphasises the need to "get rid of the glass ceiling - there is no-one stopping us from achieving."

"The future is bright" for women in the dairy industry, she says.

As a parent, Barbara is a keen volunteer with Cubs, Brownies, the board of trustees as well as Plunket, and that at the time, she "didn't really see it as governance, but it is". She is keen for women to recognise the skill sets that they bring to these roles and to see the value that the things they learn through those positions they can bring to the industry as well.

Barbara is hopeful that the future will bring more and more connections between rural New Zealand and its urban counterpart.

"We are all using the same natural resources and all facing the same issues" she points out, adding that closer connections between New Zealand's entire population can only help the country to get "a brighter future".

As for her personal future, Barbara says she has learnt that she likes to be in "a position where I can be part of decisions and be accountable. I am suited to governance roles".

She looks forward to continuing her involvement in the dairy industry.

- Stratford Press

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