28 October 2020     New Zealand is committed to getting more women into the meat sector with new research showing women account for only 36 per cent of the industry’s global workforce.

The independent report, Gender Representation in the Meat Sector 2020, commissioned by Meat Business Women, shows women are under-represented at every level above junior positions, holding just 14 per cent of board-level director roles and just five per cent of chief executive roles.

The study also identifies ‘broken rungs’ in the career ladder that prevent women in the meat sector from advancing to more senior roles. It suggests women find it easier to pursue careers in marketing, finance, human resources, research & development and quality fields, however those disciplines rarely act as stepping stones into the most senior positions.

The New Zealand meat sector and Meat Business Women have signed an agreement aimed at boosting the number of women in the industry.

Meat Industry Association CEO Sirma Karapeeva, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd chief executive Sam McIvor and Beef + Lamb New Zealand Inc chief executive Rod Slater have signed on as a territory partner with Meat Business Women, which gives New Zealand access to the tools and resources supplied by Meat Business Women to tackle gender imbalance, alongside a position on the Meat Business Women Global Committee to provide strategic input.

“Committing to the global vision of Meat Business Women to create opportunities for more women to enter into, and advance within our sector is the first step to addressing the shortfall of female talent,” says Ms Karapeeva.

“The report highlights a starting point to develop a more diverse New Zealand meat workforce. Women are vital to a long-term sustainable future for both the New Zealand and global meat industry by bringing differing perspectives.”

Meat Business Women founder Laura Ryan presented to the United Nations last year where Meat Business Women was recognised as one of the contributors to their Sustainable Development Goals. This new report was in response to a challenge from the UN to gather insights to create and record impactful change.

“Companies which have executive committees with female membership of at least 33% have a net profit margin over ten times greater than those companies with no women at that level.  Fundamentally, businesses with diverse workforces are more profitable and have better share prices,” says Ryan.

Drawing on survey data from five nations, the UK, Ireland, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, the global report identifies five key themes, alongside actionable solutions.

Meat Business Women New Zealand intends to engage its network and the wider industry over the coming months to discuss the report’s findings and identify actions to address the key barriers to attracting and nurturing female talent. 

For more information, contact:
Lisa Moloney |027 632 1644

Meat Business Women New Zealand


Ashley Gray | +61 436 803 805

Meat Business Women New Zealand Chair

Supporting Video

Fiona Smith
Director at Niteo Development & lead researcher of the Gender Representation in the Meat Sector 2020 Report talks through the findings.

Download HERE

Background information

Meat Business Women was launched in 2015 with a goal of assuring sustainability of the meat sector by attracting and retaining the best possible talent. The organisation now has more than 5,500 members from across UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA.

The full report including methodology can be downloaded here



There is an embedded perception that work in the meat sector is more physically demanding than other sectors. There are also strong, negative preconceptions about the working environment. Despite the existence of a wide variety of jobs in a range of environments, many people outside the sector are only aware of a narrow selection of roles, usually limited to farming and butchery.

“When I say I work in an abattoir, people don’t understand. They assume it’s horrific, it’s not a job for the girls, it’s a job for the boys.” – survey participant


Inclusion is still seen as an optional ‘nice to have’, rather than a key part of business strategy in many meat businesses. Where there is a drive for change, it often comes from outside the sector in the form of customer pressure or the appointment of a senior leader from a more inclusive sector.

“When it comes to inclusion there’s an action and strategy gap. Businesses in the sector want to do the right thing – but they don’t know what to do.” – survey participant


There are ‘broken rungs’ in the career ladder (i.e. key career steps where men are more likely to progress than women). Job design, combined with stereotyped perceptions about what makes a good operational leader, discourage women from pursuing senior operational roles. Women in the meat sector find it easier to pursue careers in Marketing, Finance, HR, R&D and Quality roles – yet these roles are rarely career stepping stones for the most senior roles.

“There are pockets where women do well – Quality, R&D, Finance and HR; outside of these it’s much harder for women to get senior roles.” – survey participant


The meat sector has fewer senior women than other sectors, meaning there are less opportunities for women with leadership roles to network together. The absence of senior, female role models in the sector can send the message that senior roles are not available or suited to women.

“It’s about being positive as a woman and promoting the industry … We all have ... to stand up and help who is coming behind us.” – survey participant


Workplace flexibility is an essential enabler for creating an inclusive workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged perceptions about what is possible, and greater workplace flexibility is becoming the norm. Creating working models that support women and men with family responsibilities is one of the most important actions that businesses can take to enable women to progress into leadership roles.


“Women leave the sector too quickly – the early-years roles are not fun, and the work patterns aren’t conducive to caring responsibilities. We end up with a gap in the pipeline which doesn’t get refilled.” – survey participant