Shining the light for women in agriculture

Commencing her studies at the University of Queensland’s Gatton College, Sharon Dew was sure of one thing; she was going to expel the country’s large wool reserves.

“When I went to university, Australia was sitting on an enormous wool stockpile and it was my idea to help get rid of it,” she laughed.
While her skillset and ambition was, in reality, far more nuanced, it was the same level of determination that would dictate Sharon’s level of achievement throughout her career.

Completing a Bachelor of Agribusiness with honours, it’s fair to say that Sharon had opened many doors. Following a sponsorship opportunity from Colly Farms Cotton, Sharon’s first job out of university was with an agricultural marketing company based in Sydney.

Today, Sharon is the General Manager at Northern AgriServices, a recent appointment following on from a role as State Manager for Queensland/Northern Territory CRT; a role she has held since 2015. Sharon was responsible for significant growth and improvement to the CRT culture in Queensland and her reputation has since flourished throughout the rest of the network.

For Sharon, a normal working day might consist of operating balance sheets or profit and loss statements, but managing people, she says, is always the most important and rewarding job.

“You have to have that ability to walk in someone else’s shoes for the day and empathise with them; people skills are number one,” she said.

Throughout her career, Sharon has seen the industry continually evolve. Advances in technology is one such area that agriculture has progressed at a rapid pace during Sharon’s time.

“Technology is becoming paramount to agriculture now,” she said.
“Once upon a time, the industry did not necessitate participants to be particularly technologically savvy, but those days are gone. Today, you have to be an early adopter to succeed in agriculture.”

The low number of women in leadership positions across industries is an ongoing issue from different areas of society. Sharon has been encouraged to see that progress has been made in the agricultural sector.

“When I first started, a female leader was an oddity,” she said.

“It has been fantastic to see how the environment has changed where we now have a raft of women in leadership positions.”

Sharon said increased diversity could only be a good thing for the agricultural sector as the next generation of savvy young farmers begin to take the reins.
“I think you need to have people that can look at a situation a little bit differently and I think ultimately, having more women brings greater opportunity to the table.”