CBH not sexist: deputy chair

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CBH deputy chair Natalie Browning on her Kondinin farm.
Camera IconCBH deputy chair Natalie Browning on her Kondinin farm. Credit: Karl Browning

She’s the lone woman on a 11-strong board, but Natalie Browning says sexism is not an issue at Australia’s biggest co-operative.

The Kondinin farmer, who runs a 6400ha grain property with her husband Karl, made history when she became the first female grower director at CBH in February 2018.

Now, two years on, she is smashing glass ceilings again after last week being appointed the grain marketer and handler’s first female deputy chair.

Ms Browning said being the only female on the board was “not something she put a lot of thought into”.

“It has not bothered me at all,” she said.

“I have always thought things must be merit based.”

The issue of potential sexism at CBH was thrown into the spotlight in recent months, after CBH’s former chairman Wally Newman was accused of making inappropriate comments about a woman at a grains conference in 2017.

It posed a bigger question about whether the internal culture at CBH was supportive of women, with only one female currently on the board.

When asked whether she believed CBH had internal sexism issues, Ms Browning said she firmly believed it did not.

“Not at all, I think the opposite ... we have a really good culture,” she said.

“We have amazing female leaders at CBH ... the culture is right.”

Ms Browning named CBH grower and external relations general manager Brianna Peake and CBH’s new Kwinana South Zone manager Carly Heales as two “outstanding examples” of female leaders at the company.

Ms Browning said while her position on the board had attracted attention, she believed “male-female was only one part of diversity” and the grower-voting system of CBH’s member director elections was allowing diversity to be “achieved naturally”.

“Diversity of thought comes through lived experience, background, age, gender... I think we are achieving diversity bit-by-bit,” she said.

“We are achieving it naturally and not forcing it... but we must have the best people for the best roles.

“In saying that, if there have ever been any barriers that have stopped diversity or slowed it down, CBH is always playing its part to make sure there are not any barriers there.”

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