The new chair of Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) says connection is vital for the sector moving out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Pathways Programme, the result of a joint venture between the Agri-Women's Development Trust and the Dairy Women's Network, was described as "very successful" by AgResearch senior social scientist Dr Neels Botha in his evaluation report of the programme.
The programme was designed to help women lead change within their own business and communities while identifying their own skills and strengths, and AgResearch was engaged to evaluate the course and present data at conferences and in journals.
Nearly 30 women have completed the programme in the last two years.
The first two day Agri-Women's Development Trust training module was held in Hamilton, and was followed by six months of coaching and mentoring. Another two days of training followed. A South Island course followed.
"From the gathered evidence it is clear that the first Pathways training session was very successful," Botha said in his evaluation.
"It achieved its purpose of building participants' confidence and capacity to take the next step in leadership. . . The second training session was very successful because it achieved its purpose; participants were more self-aware and had improved their communication, influencing and persuasion skills."
Botha was overwhelmed with positive comments from the participants.
"Pathways has turned my life around," said one "I had lost so much of me. Now I see the leader in me, I see the strengths I have to offer. I see those strengths in other women as well, and I am inspired to help them bubble to the surface in others also. I am calmer and more quietly self-confident to handle situations. I have faith in myself in my own abilities, or that I will seek help where I may. I have also made some amazing connections with other powerful women."
Another woman says: "The skill of being aware of where I am in terms of self-development and aspects of leadership and readiness to lead. I realise it has to start with my own self-awareness, communication and behaviour. I have been big on personal beliefs but can now pack skills in communication and leadership behaviour around it."
Botha said Pathways provided women in dairying with a unique opportunity to equip themselves for leadership on- and off-farm.
"This hands-on course is practical but builds upon evidence of what works in practice. The coaches and presenters are farming women who have very successfully supported other women to become effective leaders. If you really want to become an effective leader Pathways can do it for you."
Botha said the Pathways programme was more needed in hard times, such as the dairy downturn.
"Lifelong learning and empowerment are important issues for all farming women and courses like Pathways, which address these important issues, are even more important, and needed, during difficult times,"
Agri-Women's Development Trust executive director Lindy Nelson said the dairy farming sector went through rapid changes through drought and payout drops during their time on the programme.
"The women were willing and able to apply new learning from the programme and navigate and lead change on farm and in their communities," she said.
"This will build more resilient farming businesses and communities."
Dairy Women's Network Chief Executive Zelda de Villiers said the collaboration complimented the Dairy Women's Network philosophy of leadership by doing.
"Pathways provided leadership opportunities for dairy women when they step up to be regional group leaders or co-leaders, conference committee members or module presenters," de Villiers said.
"We offer a lot of training to our leaders in the form of teaching hands-on practical skills like presentation, facilitation, event organisation, marketing and social media. When this training is combined with a course like Pathways their leadership skills are enhanced."
Funding is being sought to run the course again.