Susan Hooke is one of only two women leading Local Land Services boards across regional NSW.
The chairwoman of Hunter Local Land Services, Mrs Hooke would “be delighted” to see another woman around the board table – her board are all men. “Women can bring a different lens to look through,” she says.
But she believes changing the way women value their experience, rather than quotas, is the answer.
“There’s an appetite from government to increase the number of women on boards, but quotas are abhorrent to me. You have to look at the skill set, and make sure women are heard.”
Many rural women have experience running the school P&C, or community organisations such as Landcare, but didn’t realise these skills were relevant training for a board position, she says.
“Women need to get out there and blow their own trumpet, so they don’t get passed over because of their modesty. They often have people management and organisational skills that are critical for a board.”
Mrs Hooke previously worked in a large city law firm and had experience on statutory corporation boards and a not-for-profit school board.
She bought a weekender property at Gloucester 15 years ago, and became interested in sustainable agriculture and started doing courses. The cattle grazing property has since doubled its carrying capacity.
She applied for the position of chairwoman of the Hunter Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority two years ago when it was advertised.
People challenged her, asking what would a city lawyer have to offer, but she was able to pull apart her skills and show how her corporate governance experience was relevant.
Now, Mrs Hooke says: “People are forgetting gender when you get into these meetings. You are just a member of a board and doing your job.”
The boards, introduced this year, manage agricultural services in regional towns, replacing water catchment, emergency management and livestock authorities.
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