Inspire, network, grow

Struck by the lack of women working alongside her in the meat industry, Laura Ryan set up Meat Business Women in 2015. It is now a global phenomenon.

When Laura launched Meat Business Women (MBW), there was a shortage of female talent for her to work with in the sector, particularly at board level. Her goal was two-fold; to connect and support women already in the industry and inspire more to choose a career in the sector.

The professional community, of which she remains chair, now extends across the UK and Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, with existing meat industry organisations becoming strong territory partners.

“But our vision remains the same,” said Rebecca Fearon, Membership Marketing Manager. “To assure the sustainability of the meat sector by attracting, developing and retaining the best talent, while driving positive industry transformation.”

Essentially aimed at helping women grow through connecting with each other, MBW began with a series of local networking events. From here the group’s activities have developed into international conferences, campaigns and business consultancy/mentoring support.

“Last year, our ‘Challenge of Change’ conference sold out and included speakers from McDonald’s, Morrisons, Linden Foods and NFU,” explained Rebecca. “We ask the best minds in the industry and beyond to share their knowledge, insights, stories and inspiration.”

And change is happening. In 2020, a MBW report on gender representation showed women made up a little over a third (36%) of the meat industry workforce, 14% of board-level director roles and just 5% of chief executives.

This year’s sequel shows board-level positions have increased to 23%, with high-level leadership and middle-management roles both at 32%. The number of chief executives has increased too, by 3%, although the overall number of women in the industry has fallen slightly (33.5%).

Since publishing the 2020 report, MBW has focused heavily on perceptions of the industry through activities such as its #SheLooksLikeMe campaign and ‘spotlight on’ videos.

“This year’s report showed respondents believe perceptions are improving but more work is needed to tackle misconceptions and make the opportunities for women more visible from outside the industry,” commented Rebecca.

Inclusion was another area under scrutiny. In 2020, it was seen simply as a ‘nice to have’ and although it’s moved up the agenda since then, the gap appears to be widening between the most inclusive and least inclusive businesses.

“Our latest campaign #ThePowerOfYou hopes to help address inclusivity by empowering women recognise their strengths, respond to action when needed and reciprocate by sharing their experiences to inspire success in others,” concluded Rebecca.

To find out more about Meat Business Women, go to: