Tina Hunt is General Manager for Elanco Animal Health UK and Ireland. She is passionate about the wellbeing of animals, people and the planet. This year, she’s getting involved with the Women in Food and Agriculture initiative. We caught up with her to get her thoughts on the industry and the upcoming event.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your role with Elanco Animal Health.
I started my career as a veterinary surgeon and after 10 years in farm and equine practice I moved into the animal health industry. I have subsequently held a number of local, regional and global commercial roles, based in the UK, the US and Canada. Currently I am General Manager for Elanco Animal Health UK/Ireland which manufactures and commercialises products to prevent and treat disease in pets, farm animals and fish.
Q: At the WFA Summit this year, you are participating in the panel discussion on female leaders in agribusiness. What has been your experience in developing and encouraging female employees to pursue leadership roles and what advice would you have for organizations to help them foster growth and diversity?
During my time as a farm and equine vet, and when I first started in industry, there were not many female leadership role models. I see that as a very important part of my career – to show other females that it can be done. I am very open with my team about the challenges of working full time with young children and a spouse who also has a career, and really encourage that free discussion. I believe that organisations need to be as flexible and receptive to new ideas as possible for both men and women to make dual careers work with family life. This is not just a gender issue; to create a diverse and inclusive workforce we need to develop new ways of working that enables everyone to get involved and be engaged.
Q: What are the top challenges you see for those looking to make a career in this business? Do you think that there are challenges specific to women working in what many consider to be a male-dominated agriculture industry?
The top challenges I see for those looking to make a career in this business are a) Exponential rate of change; people need to be comfortable working in that environment b) Consolidation and globalization leading to increased competitiveness at every level (retail, agriculture, suppliers) with resulting pressures and c) This business has many truly passionate individuals so to influence others you need to be prepared to speak up and demonstrate leadership at all levels.
Round the business table I see no challenges specific to women working in the agriculture industry. However, I am often the only woman around a dinner table when the social conversation can be based on topics where I have little interest eg. Some sports, certain TV shows, etc. Do men reflect on what it might be like to go out for dinner with 7 business women?
Q: Our research shows that at boardroom level there is an under representation of women on company boards. In your view, are policies focused on improving the gender balance at leadership level too limiting? How can we ensure that they open doors to broader workplace diversity?
There is an under representation of women on company boards across all industries – this is not specific to agriculture. I don’t think that the policies focused on improving gender balance are too limiting. The gender imbalance is improving over time and we have more women CEOs than ever before. I just think that a cultural and social change like this takes time as women need to step up, and organisations need to enable and support that.
Q: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the food and agriculture industry going forward?
- How do we support the production of enough safe affordable food? Exponential population and economic growth over the last 50 years is set to continue with the global population expected to hit 8 billion in 2024. This will result in a continuing increase in the demand for meat, milk and eggs with estimates suggesting we will need 50% more than today by 2050. How do we enable this when according to the WWF, today the Earth takes 1.5 years to regenerate the resources we use in just one year?
- Responsible use of antibiotics. The concern about reduced effectiveness of antibiotics is real and must be addressed. Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally over time. All those involved – the human, animal and environmental health communities – must take responsibility and work together to develop long-term, responsible solutions.
It is important that we all are committed to bringing greater clarity and collaboration to issues around antibiotic stewardship. Elanco is actively engaged in shaping science-based recommendations on responsible antibiotic use, animal welfare, and the long-term sustainability of the food system.
Q: Where do you think opportunities exist for women seeking a career in food and agriculture today?
I think there are more opportunities for women seeking a career in food and agriculture today than ever before. With demand for food increasing and resources depleting we need to have as diverse a group looking at these challenges as possible.
Q: Lastly, you are sponsoring the upcoming WFA summit, what does this initiative mean to you and why do you think it’s timely and important?
I think that now we must all work together across geographies, genders, roles, industries to come up with solutions to the food and agricultural challenges that we face. To create the right future, women need to have a seat at the table. If this summit encourages one more woman to step up, it will have helped ensure our success.