Impact leadership accelerator

This is a time for new leaders to stand up.

They will be deeply connected to place and committed to growing others. They will embrace collaboration and seek out diversity. They will lead with their values. 

As our food and fibre sector and rural communities grapple with change, women with purpose will show us the way.

Women like you.

Escalator is our impact leadership accelerator programme - empowering purpose-driven women with the mindsets, skills and connections to create systemic change in our sector and rural communities. 

It’s about unleashing your true self in the service of others - reconnecting with your strengths, embracing your leadership style and developing the hard and soft skills that define modern, mission-orientated leadership. 

Along the way, draw support from a cross-sector group of aspiring fellow leaders. Form lifelong connections with likeminded women and develop a network of progressive primary sector New Zealanders, including many Escalator Alumni.

The 10-month, five-module programme combines best-in-class leadership, governance and personal development, with practical application. It is a blend of face-to-face group facilitation, personalised learning and executive coaching, with support and inspiration from established leaders navigating change daily.

At its core, Escalator is about choosing to step up, take responsibility for the future of the people, places and organisations you care about - and lead others through change. 



The skills of leadership

Understand the why, what and how of impact leadership and influence. Learn how to coach individuals, communicate a shared vision, build trust and set a successful team culture. In addition to the people skills, experience the ‘hard’ skills of leadership first-hand - joining established primary sector directors to learn about critical thinking, strategic decision-making, governance and fronting to media.

The confidence to lead 

Escalator is specifically designed as a space for your confidence as a leader to flourish. Through guided self-reflection - explore your strengths, personal story, leadership style and your space to make meaningful impact. Look outward and take inspiration from rural role models and industry leaders. Through facilitated learning, explore the science of leadership and grasp the fundamentals of influence.  Find support from your cohort, executive coach, AWDT facilitators and Escalator Alumni as you turn it all into action.

Set your direction

By building on your existing skills, cultivating confidence and taking inspiration from new connections – you will redefine your aspirations through Escalator. Explore your place to make positive changes for people, planet, profit and progress. Map the obstacles ahead, identify the new skills or experiences you need, seek out allies and set the roadmap to make it all happen.

Gather allies

Escalator is not a solo journey. Through group problem-solving, shared experiences and peer coaching, you will leave Escalator with a life-long connection to 13 other women intent on leading with impact. Your network expands through the Escalator Alumni and AWDT’s partners, reaching into the boardrooms of some of our sector’s most influential organisations.

Applications for Escalator 2024 have now closed, please register your interest below to be notified when 2025 applications are invited.


Photo (Escalator Alumni from left) Poto Davies – Empowering whānau with pathways back to their whenua.
Julia Jones – Challenging the status quo of food & fibre.
Donna Cram – Uniting catchment groups to protect our environment together.
Heather Atkinson – Nurturing the growth of primary sector New Zealanders.
Nicky Berger – Connecting urban and rural New Zealanders through a love of food and farming.
Jen Scoular – Creating opportunities for NZ’s fresh produce.


Register interest for a future programme

Her Story - Escalator Alumni

  • Leading positive change
  • Tracey Collis
  • Mihirangi Hollings
  • Nicki Mackay
  • Fi Dalgety
  • Andrea Murray
  • Karen Williams
  • Bronwyn Smits
  • Leading positive change

  • Tracey Collis

  • Mihirangi Hollings

  • Nicki Mackay

  • Fi Dalgety

  • Andrea Murray

  • Karen Williams

  • Bronwyn Smits


Programme content

On Escalator, leading facilitators support participants to combine best-in-class leadership, governance and personal development skills with their lived experiences. This process centres around five face-to-face modules:

  • Module 1: Understanding self – then, now, in the future
  • Module 2: Governance, strategy, finance
  • Module 3: Leadership
  • Module 4: Communication, influence, decision making
  • Module 5: Future direction, impact with purpose

In addition to the five face-to-face modules, the Escalator journey includes:

  • One-on-one executive coaching throughout the programme
  • Self-directed learning through online modules and practical application
  • Consistent group connection and peer support
  • One-on-one support from an Escalator Alumni member, acting as a sounding board and connector
  • Attendance at key AWDT events, together with food & fibre sector leaders


Who should apply?

An Escalator woman is committed to making positive change in the communities, landscapes or organisations she cares about. While every cohort is different and there is great diversity within cohorts, Escalator women are:

  • already at the forefront of local or iwi issues but wanting to be more effective in her role
  • farmers, growers, executives working in primary sector organisations, community contributors, iwi members, entrepreneurs, trustees or directors.
  • involved in any part of the food and fibre sector, across the supply and value chains - arable, horticulture, dairy, sheep, beef, deer, Māori agri-business, animal welfare, biosecurity, apiary, wine, fishing, forestry, shipping or professional services that support the sector.  

Strategic Partners

Programme Partners