International Women’s Day 2022
International Women’s Day is here, and businesses all over the world celebrate the contribution made by females to their industry.
We asked some women from across the mushroom industry to talk a bit about their personal experiences in an industry that is often thought of as male-dominated.
Orla Mitchell, CEO at Commercial Mushroom Producers
Orla began her career in the mushroom industry back in 2011. Starting in Monaghan Mushrooms, she had the opportunity to work across many parts of the business including Training & Development, IT, Projects and as Farm Manager. Her work took her to Sussex, Yorkshire, Holland, Canada and Monaghan of course. Orla later took on the role of Operational Excellence Manager in Moy Park, before returning to the mushroom industry as General Manager here at Mushroom PO, now she is CEO at CMP.
Orla has been asked some questions about her experiences working as a woman in the industry.
Here’s what she said:
The mushroom industry is an incredible industry for anyone to work in, whether male or female! If you can handle the fast pace and you’re good at quick decision making, you’ll find a rich, rewarding and dynamic career.
People assume that the mushroom industry is male-dominated, and to some extent that can be said across the whole horticulture sector. But the reality these days is that there are a lot of women making huge contributions. Across the industry, you’ll find that farm managers are both male and female.
I haven’t experienced much negativity due to my gender, although there were a few times when people asked to speak to the manager, not realising that was me! But as long as you’re doing a good job you’ll only find positivity.
In my experience, the mushroom industry has so many opportunities to grow and learn. I have consistently been encouraged and supported to develop my skills.
I would say that the only barrier to women working in the industry is perceived ideas of what the agri-food industry looks like. Historically, there would have been more male farm managers and business leaders, but this is changing.
There’s an expression ‘you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable’ and this is so true for the mushroom industry. The fact is that if you’re willing to throw yourself in at the deep end and go for it, then you can grow personally and professionally. It really is a thriving industry and if you have ambition and tenacity there are no limits. And you’ll work with some amazingly talented and passionate people who go above and beyond to overcome problems and make a difference!
People might be surprised about the range of opportunities available, from growers, QA, engineers and marketeers to business analysts. And there are more and more roles in science as the industry ramps up its move towards its renewable energy goals.
If you want to be part of the move towards a greener future then this is the industry to be in – it’s a shining example of sustainability and circular economy being applied to a traditional industry. It’s an industry at the forefront of R&D as we move towards reducing our reliance on natural resources such as peat and water.
I’m proud to work in an industry that can boast that it’s Ireland’s biggest horticultural exporter. Not to mention the role it has in providing food security on the island of Ireland. Mushrooms are the protein of the future; a source of high-quality vegan protein that’s produced locally with minimal food miles and can be produced 365 days a year.
Kathryn Gillpin, QA Manager at Annaghmore Mushrooms
Kathryn is newer to the industry and works directly with the operational side of the business. We asked Kathryn for her thoughts so far:
I have worked in the mushroom industry for a year and a half and so far it has been a great experience. It’s a closely connected industry compared to others in food production. In my job I get to see the full cycle from filling of the mushrooms houses to labelling the final product.
I think that the mushroom industry is a great place for women to work. It’s a fast-paced and growing industry where you get to make an impact and use your skills.
There are a number of great opportunities including progression.
Jurate Airose, Accounts Assistant/Office Manager, Mushroom Producer Organisation
While working for this company, I have learned so much about how the mushroom industry works and things that I couldn’t even imagine. I am fascinated by the exotic mushrooms that some of members grow.
I think women have already shown everyone that they can work anywhere, and the mushroom business is no different. Every Mushroom company has its own teams where women are doing great work and feeling great there. So, yes, I think that it’s a good place for women.
I would definitely encourage other women to consider working in the mushroom industry. There are great prospects, you can set your own goal and vision and achieve great results.
They will also be supported to grow their career. I have had the opportunity to learn and pursue my goals inside the company, and also I have the opportunity to study outside company. If you are open to learning, there are many great opportunities and you always have support from your team, manager or directors.