All actors in the agri-food chain must address the common perception that the sector is ‘male dominated’ to avert a talent crisis in the future.
Alltech president Mark Lyons made the comments at the inaugural Women in Food and Agriculture summit, which also saw the launch of a survey of more than 2,000 industry employees from around the world.
Mr Lyons said he had heard multiple comments that women felt that the sector was male dominated.
He said: “This is a big problem because we need the best talent in the industry.
“And if we are losing out on some of this talent because they think it is a male dominated industry, that’s a crisis for the whole agrifood industry.”
The event in Amsterdam, organised by Farmers Guardian’s parent company AgriBriefing, saw frank and open discussions, with speakers and delegates agreeing the sector was making strides in becoming more inclusive, but also highlighted the barriers facing women in all ages and stages of their careers.
AHDB chief executive Jane King said: “The tone of conversation was very progressive - a preparedness to tackle the biggest challenges of our time together to help build a more resilient, sustainable industry in tune with our planet and with consumers
“Women-only events can be different to those dominated by men, not necessarily better but uniquely different and that is a good thing. We should encourage diversity in all forms as it will help the industry to embrace change effectively.”
Sarah Bell, a supply chain consultant, farmer and speaker at the summit, added: “Many [of the speakers] led me to question my own unconscious bias and think about how I can do things better in both farming and my work with the wider supply chain.
“The collaborative and educational elements of the conference make it a valuable event to anyone who wants to see a diverse industry where merit and talent are the key components of leadership.”