As International Women’s Day takes place today (Friday 8th March) with a theme of “Balance for Better” ifac has taken the opportunity to celebrate some of the women who are changing the face of Irish agriculture.
Deirdre O’Shea, Executive Director of Agri Aware is the perfect example of a successful woman working within the agriculture industry. She’s successful in her career, a member of the organisation Ceres, is back in college studying for her 3rd IMI diploma and is a keen GAA football and soccer player.
Deirdre grew up on her parents’ farm in Laois with her four older brothers and considers that perhaps this environment made her feel more comfortable working in what was traditionally considered a male dominated sector.
Deirdre didn’t start out looking for a career in agriculture, and studied human nutrition in UCD. From here she started work in Ulster bank and with an intention of going back to study further. However, a move to the agri-advice sector within the bank eventually led to her take up a position in the IFA at 23. It was here that her interest in the agriculture sector really kicked in as she was dealing with all areas of the industry and building relationships with key stakeholders. In 2016 she began work as Executive Director at Agri Aware which is her current position.
Speaking about women in agriculture Deirdre says “it definitely has become more acceptable for women to work within the agriculture industry, even in my six years of involvement I have seen significant changes. In my opinion, and there is extensive research to back this up, the value of diversity within any sector is huge, as it contributes to better overall company performance.”
To help promote diversity Deirdre is also involved with Ceres, an organisation that was founded to develop and promote leadership and diverse thinking within the industry, including gender diversity. It is also important to create an environment that is attractive to young females as an industry to consider as a career.
‘There are still gaps but they are getting smaller and smaller. While there are some amazing women working in the industry, it is at board level and senior management level where I see the slowest change. The changes that are happening need to continue and they won’t happen overnight and it’s great to see the progress that is being made.’
As well as her successful career, involvement in Ceres and further studying, Deirdre is also still massively involved in sport. She believes that sports are massively important in honing your life skills. ‘The discipline, team work and leaderships skills I have learned from participating in team sports has been invaluable to me. GAA has been a huge part of my life from a young age and is part of me and who I am. When it comes to balance, passion and enjoyment are key. Once you have these in your life, be it work, social or hobbies it won’t feel like you’re struggling to balance everything. The one piece of advice I got that has stuck with me is that you can’t do it all yourself. So delegate, ask for help and take time out if you feel you need it.”