Wednesday, April 24, 2024

It’s agenda diversity we need to build

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Ben Anderson takes a look at the problem of too many white male contributors to Farmers Weekly.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

My fellow Eating the Elephant contributor Dave is a delicate sort of chap. Sure he’s big and used to row for New Zealand, but don’t let that fool you. I have it on good authority that he knits jumpers for the homeless and sings his pet calf to sleep every night.  

So knowing how soft of heart my old mate Dave is, I felt compelled to come to his defence in his hour of need. You see, Dave is in danger of being cancelled. 

What for you might ask? Good question, I would reply. After all, who could possibly want to cancel Dave? Well, it seems there are one too many white male contributors to the Farmers Weekly for one good reader’s taste. 

Dave’s big friendly mug was recently splashed across a Linked-In post asking for more diversity in this clearly chauvinistic publication. How many Daves must we suffer? 

Dave’s face tried to slide from the page in embarrassment, but the ink held him firmly in place.

So Dave, let me respond on your behalf, because I know you would rather settle the issue with flowers and a nice cup of tea. From behind my barricade of middle-aged white privilege, I venture out to offer a few words in your defence.  

But first a word of concession. The reader is, of course, right that there is preponderance of white male contributors to Farmers Weekly. And yes, the reader is also right that more diversity of opinion can only be a good thing. After all, and as the saying goes, if you and I agree on everything, one of us is irrelevant. 

But here’s where I stop agreeing. I say that the days of being outraged over a lack of gender diversity are over. I’m nearly 48 years old and I’m confident that women have had my measure for every one of those years. I know for a fact that it was my big sister who invented waterboarding. I can’t remember what the reason was, but I am certain that I told her everything. 

I also know for a fact that it was a girl in my intermediate years who invented cage fighting when playing netball every second Wednesday. I still recall the imprint of the wire netting on my forehead after suggesting she might like to hand the ball over. 

To make things worse, the female domination of Anderson men has gone intergenerational. My son’s Wakely Shield rugby team got soundly thumped by an all-girls team, who played with a level of skill, cunning and at times outright ferocity that left our boys bruised, shellshocked and with the beginnings of a nervous twitch. 

And finally, just when you think women might finally show a little sympathy, my 84-year-old father just got beaten in an arm-wrestle by his female neighbour. Admittedly there were at least 20 years in her favour, but the point remains.

Aside from their domination of the Anderson line, I would note that women have ably demonstrated their ability at the highest levels in every discipline in our country that I can think of. They have been our prime ministers, our diplomats, our Olympians, our music stars, our business leaders and our soldiers. 

There are few if any barriers left to success or participation that I am aware of, including in the agriculture sector. We only need to look around us to see those women currently leading or contributing to the various organisations in our sector at the very highest levels.

The challenge we face today is not diversity of gender, or race, or even sexuality. I think our real challenge is diversity of thought. 

Right now our sector is facing real challenges, which we largely attempt to solve with the same thinking we employed 50 years ago. Our wool industry is near total collapse. Our climate is changing in front of our eyes, driving land use change at a rate almost faster than we can adapt to. Our geopolitical environment is in turmoil and our biggest trading partner is in all kinds of financial trouble. 

These are all massive issues that require fresh, innovative and decisive thinking. We need the very best people coming forward with ideas and solutions that will help steady the ship and guide us through what are unquestionably going to be some very niggly years ahead.

Dave isn’t your problem. Dave is doing his best to contribute to a conversation that is bigger than all of us. Rather than rail against him, we all do better to join him. His gender is irrelevant and yours is too. The floor is open, and your voice is welcomed.  

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