Global Agriculture

Grains industry leader to front change for women in ag

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16 June 2023, AU: Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Northern Region Panel member Dr Georgina Pengilley, has been chosen as one of only 12 women nationwide to participate in the Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program for 2023.

The program, run by the National Farmers Federation, strives to remedy the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions within the agriculture sector. It combines a mix of mentorship, networking opportunities, and skill-building sessions, providing a platform for female leaders to thrive.

Dr Pengilley is a driving force in agricultural research and development, with over 23 years of experience in the field. Raised on a mixed farming operation in Tasmania and now the CEO of Rice Breeding Australia (RBA), she offers a unique perspective combining scientific capacity and hands-on farming experience.

She has also been an invaluable member of the GRDC Northern Region Panel. The panel is one of three initiated by GRDC to support the effective identification and delivery of grassroots research, development and extension needs and priorities across Australia. Each panel compromises a mix of grain growers, advisers, researchers and industry stakeholders.

Dr Pengilley has been a member of GRDC’s Northern Panel since September 2020 and her focus has centred on ensuring investments support the enduring profitability of Australian grain growers, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland.

“I’m excited to have been chosen as part of the program, having just met with the other participants it’s clear there are very capable women within agriculture, we just need to see them represented more in senior leadership roles,” Dr Pengilley says.

“The program has both a mentoring and networking component. The opportunity to meet with women that are leading the way in agriculture and being able to seek mentorship is so unique and powerful.”

Dr Pengilley’s selection is testament to her contribution to the industry, most notably her ongoing efforts at RBA to expedite the delivery of new rice varieties using state-of-the-art technology.

GRDC communications and capacity officer Jessie MacLean says GRDC recognises the value that diversity of opinion, age, background, and gender brings to an organisation.

“GRDC has been a partner of the Diversity in Agricultural Leadership program since it started in 2018. The program now boasts 52 alumni from across agriculture, including current GRDC Southern Panel member Pru Cook and former member Fiona Marshall,” she says.

GRDC senior regional manager, north, Gillian Meppem says Dr Pengilley was an ideal candidate and her advocacy for women in agriculture and support for the grains sector more broadly would position her well in the program.

“We are pleased to congratulate Georgina, in her selection to participate in the NFF’s Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program that seeks to promote the representation of women in agriculture,” Ms Meppem says.

“As supporters of the program, we believe in the importance of fostering women’s leadership within the agricultural sector. Georgina’s participation not only showcases the excellence within our team but also amplifies our investment in programs that seek to broaden the diversity of voices contributing to our industry.”

With a knack for translating on-farm needs into practical research and development initiatives, Dr Pengilley continues to bridge the gap between the scientific community and growers.

“Having been a grain grower in the high rainfall zone in Tasmania, I can apply both science capability and a grower perspective to investments. I enjoy both the science behind the investments but also understanding the needs of growers and the issues they are facing,” she says.

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