Monday, 28 November 2022 16:55

Director calls for more young people on boards

Written by  Staff Reporters
Jessie Waite Jessie Waite

Award-winning Taranaki director Jessie Waite says primary sector governance needs more young people.

Waite’s comments come off the back of her win of the Institute of Directors Emerging Director Award.

Waite, 30, has been in governance for three years and is currently the chair of New Zealand Young Farmers.

She says a major challenge for industry boards in the primary sector is to ensure that young people see a prosperous future in and can “find a way to work in” farming, aquaculture and other primary industries.

“For the young farmers, the question is what does my future look like? How is it going to be practical to farm in the future?” Waite says.

She says industry boards need to ensure they turn their attention to long-term sustainability and a range of ongoing challenges, including climate action, labour shortages and supply chain disruption.

“For young people to be able to have time around a board table and develop their skills is only going to be an advantage to the primary sector. They will bring new ways of thinking, new ideas, new perspectives and I think we are going to need more of that.”

Waite says that while emissions are top of mind for many people, the ultimate governance challenge is to make sure the primary sector looks “profitable, sustainable and enjoyable” for the farmers of the future.

One way to support this might be to create “an associate board role” on many primary sector boards, she suggests.

“It would be good to see more young leaders coming through and building their governance skills.”

A Taranaki regional partner for OSPRI in her day job, Waite was shoulder-taped three years ago for Dairy Trust Taranaki.

“I jumped on there with absolutely zero governance experience and no idea what I was getting myself into.”

She found governance a simulating experience and set a goal to find a place on the NZ Young Farmers Board. This year, she became chair.

“A little bit of a baptism of fire, as I am still very new to governance. But I have learned so much – especially by being surrounded by people who have a wealth of governance experience.”

As chair, she tries to ensure that everyone at the table gets their say. “That’s something I am very focussed on. You really need to ensure you have that diverse thinking.”

Over the next 12 months, Waite will also serve on the Venture Taranaki Trust as part of the prize pack for the Taranaki Emerging Director Award.

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