D&I in Agri-Food Sector

19th September 2018

Posted In: FYI

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, recently launched the results of the first agri-food industry survey into levels of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the sector.

The survey is an initiative of the Agri-Food Diversity and Inclusion Forum (AgDIf) led by Bord Bia and Aon, in partnership with The 30% Club, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and industry representatives.

Supported by the evidence that gender diversity delivers improved business results, the initial focus of the forum is on women in the workplace. The survey, developed by Bord Bia and Aon, captures current levels of gender diversity and inclusion in the sector in order to understand present challenges and measure progress over time.

Commenting at the launch of the survey, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, said: “Attracting, developing and retaining the best talent is a key pillar of Food Wise 2025 and vital to deliver upon the sector’s growth, development and sustainability targets. This survey is important to examine where the challenges lie for both individuals and companies within the sector to determine what steps can be taken to attract, retain and develop a diverse and inclusive agri-food sector workforce.”

Conducted with both individuals and companies, the survey captured responses from 664 individuals and 50 CEOs and senior leaders representing a range of sectors in the agri-food industry including dairy and ingredients, meat, seafood, prepared consumer foods and alcoholic beverages.

CEO of Bord Bia, Tara McCarthy commented: “The high level of response to the survey confirms that diversity and inclusion is an important topic for those working in the sector. We found that agri-food companies have a strong interest in developing a diversity and inclusion strategy with half at the planning stage. However, the data suggests that there is a need to assist companies to define, develop and implement their diversity and inclusion strategies.”

Informed by the survey responses, the Forum has developed a Toolkit for industry which includes templates and links to reliable sources of expert advice and guidance on how to implement D&I considerations into recruitment processes. This will help drive change with the objective of positioning the Irish agri-food sector as the industry of choice for Ireland’s best talent at all levels and across all fields of discipline.

“Attracting, retaining and developing talent is regularly called out as a Top 10 business risk in the research we conduct at Aon. It makes practical business sense for agri-food businesses to strive for a diverse workforce. Having a mixture of perspectives, experience and capabilities at all levels in an organisation is proven to improve business results.” commented Ciara Jackson, Food & Agribusiness Practice Leader at Aon.

Survey Results

Gender Balance

Total responses were split evenly between men and women. At middle management, men and women are equally represented; however, men are more significantly represented at Board of Director level (64%) than women (36%). Of the 16% of respondents who reported as being at junior level, 61% were female.

Diversity and Inclusion Maturity

Individuals were asked where their company lay on a spectrum of diversity and inclusion (D&I) maturity from ‘not started’ to ‘advanced’. Over half (58%) of individuals believe their organisation is either advanced (19%) or intermediate (39%) in relation to D&I maturity. Companies are less positive with 5% at advanced and 47% at intermediate.

Work Environment 

Flexible working conditions are ranked as extremely important (56%) or important (24%) by 80% of individual respondents. Family or caregiver leave was considered either extremely important or important by 62% of respondents, followed by parental leave (61%) and the provision of career breaks (58%).

The majority of CEOs (85%) reported that their companies offer flexible working conditions with 60% providing paid maternity leave. Although a lesser number of companies, at 45%, provide paid paternity leave, 15% are interested in learning more about it.

Female Career Advancement 

There is consensus among Senior Leaders and employees that a combination of increased confidence, knowledge, skill & experience, and career self-management are critical to achieving gender diversity in the agri-food sector.


The majority of CEOs (82%) believe their business is either somewhat or significantly challenged in attracting, retaining and developing staff.  Key recruitment challenges were cited as salary (56%) and a lack of suitable applicants (51%). Recruiting for jobs outside of urban areas was also highlighted as being a challenge for 54% of participating organisations.

A full report into the survey findings along with the practical toolkit is available here>>

Pictured: Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD and Ciara Jackson, Practice Leader, Food & Agribusiness, Aon.