A woman working as a stock agent in South Canterbury has won fans with her refreshingly frank response to a complainant who queried the apparently gendered way she was listed on her company’s website.
The complaint was posted by the NZ Farming group on Facebook and shared the descriptions given to stock agents working for rural services firm Hazlett.
On the firm’s website all the stock agents are men, bar one, and while her colleagues are all listed as “Rural Bloke”, the sole woman, Tommi Gregory-Hunt, is simply listed as “Stock Agent”.
“Dear NZ Farming ...” the vexed correspondent began.
“I would like to know why a woman stock agent is a Stock Agent and a male is a Rural Bloke.”
The query prompted a lively debate on the popular page, with some asking if Hazlett needed to make changes to its site and others offering their experiences as women working in the rural sector.
“In the early 1980s, I applied for a job as a stock agent with a large firm, received a letter after my interview to say I was overqualified for the job so therefore not successful,” wrote one woman.
“I went on to own my own farm and struggled to find a stock agent that was actually prepared to work for a female farmer. So pleased to finally see a woman working as a stock agent, and I bet she’s great at her job!”
“Is she the only one who does any work?” another woman joked.
“Um ... ‘cause she isn’t a bloke, she’s a Sheila,” another commenter offered. “And a good one at that, by the looks of things.”
Others agreed that “Rural Sheila” could be used in place but one man wrote that could not be done “without some sort of PC whinger having a go”.
“To be honest, I’d consider the title of Stock Agent to be better than Rural Bloke,” another said.
“[There are] a lot of rural blokes in NZ and I wouldn’t want a lot of them near any animals.”
Cutting through the clamour, Gregory-Hunt responded personally to set the record straight.
“Before I started there were no females in the company so “Rural Bloke” was a point of difference for the company,” she wrote.
“Since I’ve started there’s been discussions over what to be called but truthfully I’m not worried what they call me as anyone who’s worked sheep with their dad has been called a lot worse.”
Gregory-Hunt’s profile on the Hazlett site reveals how the ”staunch tomboy” was named Raewyn until she changed her own name aged 3 - and it stuck.
Coming from the Chatham Islands, she was raised on the land and has worked in farming her whole life, completing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Animal Science and running a shearing gang with her husband Tim, before taking on the role of stock agent on the mainland after her daughter was born.
Gregory-Hunt’s matter-of-fact response won her thousands of positive reactions, with other rural women sharing their experiences.
“Dry stock farmer’s daughter here!” one wrote. “I can so relate to working with dad, at docking time the worst farm words are used.”
“Response of the century,” another commented, while some just could not understand the fuss.
“I’m surprised how many seem to have their tits in a tangle over this.”
Chris Marriner is an Auckland-based journalist covering trending news and social media. He joined the Herald in 2003 and previously worked in the Herald’s visual team. He’s a townie through-and-through.