Desire from women involved in the primary sector to lead and contribute in their industries, businesses and communities has seen a new leadership and governance programme offered in 2020.

Researched, designed and delivered by the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT), the six-month ‘Next Level’ programme supports the desire of women to create positive change in their industries, businesses and communities.

The programme was initially delivered this year to 26 women from diverse farming and corporate backgrounds in Hamilton and Christchurch. In 2020 it will be extended, starting with Palmerston North and Christchurch in March, with potential to add a third programme.

Drawing on the trust founder Lindy Nelson’s nine years of research and work with more than 4,000 women across New Zealand, Next Level empowers women to understand their leadership ‘why’, set their direction and map a pathway to reach their goals.

AWDT general manager Lisa Sims said the new offering filled a gap in the trust’s pipeline of development programmes, enabling more women to access sought-after leadership development and support.
“As women aim to play bigger in creating positive social, economic and environmental change in their primary sector careers and communities they are looking for ways to step up and to find non-traditional pathways to achieve this.”
Taking a strengths-based approach the programme has an innovative mix of face-to-face group interaction, individual online learning options and executive coaching. Learning is condensed with minimal time spent away from home.
“This approach puts the learner in control in a way that meets their individual needs and aspirations while drawing from and supporting a like-minded group of women.”

Graduates of the two 2019 programmes come from a diverse range of backgrounds include dairy, sheep and beef farming, horticulture, and leadership roles in companies, industry and service organisations.
They include dairy farmer and university student Cheyenne Wilson who had “learnt that I can achieve more than I thought I could, and so my goals have gotten bigger”.
“Before the programme I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do but not a clear path about how I would get there. Now my aspirations feel more definite, achievable and attainable and I have clear direction about how to achieve them.
“As a long-term goal, I’m passionate about bringing our rangitahi (youth) into our primary industries, exposing the opportunities available and showcasing pathways into the industry, then ensuring there is support for them to thrive.”

Another 2019 graduate, Heidi Sixtus, chief operating officer at Hopkins Farming Group and regional leader for Dairy Women’s Network said the programme had filled a gap in her knowledge and understanding of leadership and governance in the agri-sector.
“Previously I lacked confidence to know that I have more to contribute around the table – the programme confirmed that I do. I want to contribute as a board director in the future because I know I can offer a different perspective to the status quo which isn’t always right. There are new and different ways of doing things.”

Next Level is delivered by expert facilitators who are highly experienced in executive leadership, governance and personal development.
Each programme is limited to 15 women and entry is by registration at

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