25 May 2022, NZ: More flexible working conditions implemented by many in the horticultural industry during the Covid-19 pandemic are helping make the sector even more attractive to women, says Shayna Ward, compliance and quality manager Te Mata Exports.
“Because of labour shortages, many employers are looking at different ways staff can work and that’s not always starting and finishing at set times. The focus is how to get the job done. Many post-harvest operators are now offering school working hours for parents, which wasn’t the case when my children were young,” says Shayna who is a member of the executive of Women in Horticulture.
“Today women have more opportunities to find the right job and right team to fit their values and the needs of their families.
“I think horticulture as a career has been underrated, but it is exciting to see more women in leadership roles in every part of the industry. Often, they are the main cog in a much larger wheel.”
Shayna is also pleased to see more young women, and young people in general coming into the industry. “The industry offers a broad variety of opportunities for everyone from all different academic levels. You don’t need a degree to succeed in horticulture and there are so many opportunities from research to nursery to orchard and post-harvest, to marketing and logistics. It’s a really exciting industry to be part of.”
Born in England, Shayna moved to the Hawke’s Bay as a four-year-old, attending local schools. Her first job was as a trainee science technician with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research as part of its fruit physiology and post-harvest team research programme in the Hawke’s Bay.
Much of the research was for the New Zealand Apple and Pear Board (which became ENZA) and Shayna’s next role was with the board, including time in its London office.
On her return to New Zealand Shayna managed a packhouse for a year before rejoining ENZA as a field rep. “That was a very diverse and enjoyable role as I was looking after growers and packhouses.”
After 12 years with ENZA, during which time her three children were born, Shayna returned to Plant and Food Research in the Hawke’s Bay, initially working on pipfruit physiology and rootstock trials. “This was the time when work was beginning on the dwarfing gene for rootstock.”
Shayna switched roles to summerfruit research, still with Plant and Food Research. “I worked with an amazing scientist on the low chill breeding programme for peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums, as well as working on apple rootstock breeding. I loved the role and 80 percent of my work was outside.”
It was a 30 hour a week role, which suited Shayna’s family life, but keen for wider industry involvement, she took an additional role as executive officer of the New Zealand Pink Lady Growers Association.
For the past five years Shayna has been with Te Mata Exports and it’s a job she also loves.
“Maximising returns to growers is what underpins everything that Te Mata Exports does, which is why I consciously chose to work for this company. It is the right fit for my values.”
Still based in the Hawke’s Bay, Shayna has a grower liaison role, specialising in apples and with a focus on quality compliance. The company has sole export rights in New Zealand for the SnapDragon variety of apples, developed in New York State in the United States, and for the Hawke’s Bay bred Bay Queen apple.
A foundation member of the Hawke’s Bay Women in Horticulture, Shayna stood for election to the national executive to ensure women in her region had a voice at that level. “And to give back to an industry which has given so much to me.”