Thursday, April 25, 2024

Ruralco chair wins leadership award

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Mid Canterbury-based rural service co-operative Ruralco scooped a double win in the Women in Governance Awards.
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Administered by Governance New Zealand, the awards are held annually to recognise and celebrate innovation, excellence, creativity and commitment to diversity by both organisations and individuals.

In what is traditionally perceived as a conservative, male-dominated industry, Ruralco shattered stereotypes, winning the 2021 Gender Diverse Organisation Award, while board chair Jessie Chan won Inspiring Leader of the Year for her role in the agricultural co-operative.

In her role as the first female chair of a major NZ rural service co-operative the judges described Chan as an inspirational role model, who as a mum of two young sons, balances raising her boys, alongside dairy farming, several directorships and board representation.

Proud to receive the award, Chan dedicated it to her father.

“He taught my siblings and I that we could be whatever we wanted to be and instilled in us that along the way we should help others to reach their potential, in whatever shape or form that might be,” Chan said.

She has spent much of her career breaking down barriers and perceptions.

“When you pause and consider it, farming has always been a family effort of both a husband-and-wife team,” she said.

“The role of women in farming is a critical one and in our business partnership, we play to each other’s strengths.”

In the past women had roles that were less visible.

What has changed, Chans says, is women are now taking on more public roles in industry or corporate leadership, governance or executive management.

“Men and women have to work just as hard as each other to be leaders,” she said.

“Do not underestimate yourself because you are female, or too young or old, or a different colour.

“I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in, take responsibility for my decisions, nor do I shy away from the hard work it takes to deliver results.”

Ruralco chief executive Robert Sharkie says Chan’s mantra is to lead by example.

“This award is recognition of the passion and dedication in the way that she leads and inspires others,” Sharkie said.

In accepting the Gender Diverse Organisation award, Sharkie says Ruralco is always about the best person for the job.

The team at Ruralco is proud that more than 60% of its people represent gender diversity across all levels within the organisation.

“We have created an environment that treats everybody equally, fostering an open-minded culture, not just putting quotas around gender,” he said.

Ruralco has led the way, with the co-operative members voting women to four of the seven seats on the board of directors.

“By having that diversity of thought around the board and executive table means the organisation is much better placed to understand their customers and stakeholders, and benefit from fresh perspectives, new ideas, vigorous challenge and broad experience,” he said.

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