Meet three young women forging ahead in areas crucial to rural communities and agriculture – and smashing the myths around gender-stereotypical roles. Their achievements and pathways show the importance of following your interests, knowing your community, having mentors and stepping up when opportunities arise.
Jessie Holmes, 32, is Victoria’s youngest female local government Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and heads Yarriambiack Shire in the North West. “There are 79 CEOs, and 20 are female. I’m definitely on the younger side but I never find my opinion is not listened to because of my youth,” she says.
Jessie, from Dimboola, Western Victoria, began working in local government more than 10 years ago, building on undergraduate and postgraduate studies in community development and planning. She says women’s voices are essential in local government policy development and if there are barriers to rural women contributing, “Then we need to adjust things so they can take a seat at the table.”
Dr Meagan Craven
Deakin University’s Dr Meagan Craven recently won an award in the Australian Government’s Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for her work researching pigeon milk’s potential to prevent salmonella in chickens. The implications for the poultry industry are immense and Meagan says it is gratifying to work on something likely to have widespread health and commercial impacts.
The mother of two is the first in her family to attend university. After completing a Biomedical Science degree she was mentored and encouraged by CSIRO scientist Tamsyn Crowley to continue her studies. “I did Honours and then a PhD and now I’m on my second post-doc working with Tamsyn again. It’s really interesting,” she says.
Dr Jo Newton
Research scientist Dr Jo Newton was in the third year of her Rural Science degree before she met her first female livestock geneticist. It is one of the reasons she is now such a passionate supporter of young women keen to advance in science and agriculture. “It’s that saying: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’,” said Jo.
Recently acknowledged with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Jo says she has been blessed with two great mentors in her career – Tim Bower of Stanley Vale Merino Stud and CSIRO’s Dr Sonja Dominik – and wants to replicate that role. She adds: “I will continue to advocate and support young people, especially women, in science and agriculture.”
Tell us about women you know challenging traditional gender roles.
Pictured above: (From L-R) Jessie Holmes, Victoria’s youngest female local government CEO, award-winning scientist Dr Meagan Craven (Pic credit: Steve Keough Photography) and Dr Jo Newton (Pic credit: Picture You in Agriculture), who was named in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours List