Escalator – creating primary industry leaders

Based on AWDT’s own extensive research and international best practice, the 10-month Escalator programme equips women in primary industries with skills, development and support needed to successfully lead and govern in their chosen fields.

Now in its sixth year, Escalator takes a multi-layered approach to development, providing women with first-rate skills, and addresses the real barriers women can face when engaging in decision-making.

The coaching, mentoring and support participants receive from AWDT, industry leaders and each other put Escalator in a class of its own. Targeted, individualised learning caters directly for individual needs in a highly-supportive environment.

Each year 14 women are selected for the programme which begins in February and ends in November.

Escalator Alumni impact stories

  • Dawn Sangster
  • Heather Atkinson –
  • Charmaine O’Shea
  • Hinerangi Edwards –
  • Dawn Sangster

    Escalator was the catalyst for Dawn to contribute at higher levels. Five months after graduating she was elected as a director of the Alliance Group Board. Six months later, Dawn was awarded a NZ Institute of Directors’ 2012 Aspiring Director Award. Read more...

  • Heather Atkinson –

    A mixed pastoral and organic farmer, Heather began Escalator knowing that to affect the positive changes she believed were needed in sustainable land use and improved environmental outcomes, she needed to build her skills. Read more...

  • Charmaine O’Shea

    Charmaine started Escalator with a clear goal to develop governance and leadership skills that would enable her to pursue a directorship in the dairy industry. However, the programme delivered much more than simply those two skills. Read more...

  • Hinerangi Edwards –

    Before starting Escalator, Hinerangi had been a director of a corporate land-based company for four years. She had completed a company director course and felt Escalator could provide her with a deeper knowledge base and grow her agri-leader networks. Read more...


Applications for Escalator open in July each year and close at the end of September. A panel consisting of AWDT Trustees and Escalator Alumni select the 14 successful applicants based on their application forms and referee feedback.

Please direct enquiries to Marama Papworth, email

Register Your Interest

Programme content

Five core development areas focus on the ‘what?’ and more importantly the ‘how?’ through Wellington-based modules, distance learning, professional coaching and practical application.

  1. Building individual potential
  2. Communication, decision making, critical thinking
  3. Governance, strategy, finance
  4. Leadership
  5. Collaboration, media, 5-year goals

Graduates leave the programme with:

  • skills, passion and confidence required to take on new governance and leadership roles
  • ability to influence and effectively engage at higher levels
  • a clear vision of where to engage, goals and an action plan
  • a significant support network that includes a mentor where appropriate.

Who is an Escalator woman?

An Escalator woman has invested significant time and energy into her community, career or agri-business and wants to develop her skills.  She:
may already be involved in leadership but wants to be more effective
is often at the forefront of local issues
is recognised as having a view and is prepared to step up and engage
wants to contribute at a higher level for the benefit of her industry and/or community.


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