Five key takeaways from Scoular’s Perennial symposium for women in agribusiness

Sept. 11, 2023

More than 250 attendees participated virtually in Scoular’s Perennial Symposium for Women in Agribusiness last week to learn how they can invest in themselves. 

The free leadership and career development conference was hosted by Scoular’s female-focused employee resource group, Scoular Women Influencing Culture, or SWIC. 

Megan Belcher, SWIC’s executive sponsor, said the symposium is needed because women are not reaching leadership levels in agribusiness despite graduating in near parity with men. 

“Scoular is not only interested in being the employer of choice for high-talent women in agribusiness, we are also equally interested in lifting up all women in agriculture,” said Belcher, Scoular’s Chief Legal and External Affairs Officer. 

Here are five key takeaways from Perennial, focused on individual development and learnings from leading experts. 


1. Exercise your inner curiosity  

Businesses sometimes stall because they’re not asking the right questions, said Diana Kander, who calls herself an “innovation nerd” and shares her experiences as a serial entrepreneur in speeches and best-selling books. 

At Perennial, she suggested reframing the problem to solve it, rating ideas from 1-10 and raising the bar on when to say “yes,” while also re-imagining what’s possible, sometimes by being brave enough to bring outsiders in.  Taking smart risks was a key theme from Kander. 

Kander said a business she studied solved key internal logistics issues only after inviting in a Formula 1 pit crew to observe and identify a list of shifts they could enact to make their processes more efficient. That process, she said, resulted in standards used at similar organizations worldwide. 

Kander also encouraged “zombie hunting.” What is “zombie hunting”?  Look at what your business is doing that is good — but not good enough. Saying no to low-ranking ideas or practices leaves room for high-ranking ones to thrive.  

2. Leverage what comes naturally 

When Navalent looked at patterns among the best female leaders the consultants had coached, they found four areas where women excelled, said Mindy Millward, co-founder and managing partner of the firm. 

Women leaders, she said, tend to:  

  • See and pursue entrepreneurial opportunities;  
  • Build strategic connections that strengthen organizations;  
  • Solve problems holistically; and 
  • Build relationships and networks.  

Millward encouraged Perennial participants to study and break habits that hold them back. An example, she said, is taking responsibilities from your old job into your new one. 

Aspiring leaders also can hone “superpowers,” including sustaining a big-picture perspective and understanding choice, or the ability to thoughtfully construct decisions and solutions. 

3. Craft a roadmap to an authentic personal brand 

Elizabeth Rosenberg, CEO of The Good Advice Company, described personal brand as your projected image, how you show up in the world and your unique combination of skills, experience and personality.  

“I believe your personal brand is how people talk about you when you’re not in the room,” she told the Perennial audience.  

Her advice for building a brand on LinkedIn included:  

  • Spend 20 minutes a day on the platform.  
  • Choose three related areas of messaging and stick to them.  
  • Weave in personal anecdotes and make meaningful posts – articles, for example, or comments that go beyond “congrats” on a person’s new job to say how the person will contribute in the new role. 

4. Create healthy work environments, advocate for other women

Tina May served in multiple roles before becoming Vice President of Rural Services and Chief of Staff to the CEO of Land O’Lakes. Those roles took her to Minneapolis, Capitol Hill, USDA and Silicon Valley before she decided Minneapolis was where she wanted to raise her family. 

May once served as a Scoular intern and merchandiser assistant, and she was grateful when leaders offered her opportunities to stay but understood when she wanted to try something new. Similarly, May credits Land O’ Lakes for creating such an emotionally healthy work environment for the company being such an engaging and enjoyable place to work.  

“I can’t say enough about how all the rest falls into place” in that environment, she said. 

Among the other lessons she’s learned along the way: have a personal board of directors and advisors for career as well as life; always get perspectives from outside the industry; be laser focused on your chosen priorities; know when it’s time to go when things aren’t working out; and be an advocate for other women when they’re not in the room.  

5. Build confidence and bring it to your professional life

Perennial’s “bonus” session featured Laura Sawyier, who is the founder and CEO of LKS Styling that works with Fortune 500 companies and individuals using evidence-based research in the applied psychology of fashion. She shared that what we wear every day is personal, and it affects performance, moods, behaviors and relationships.  

Sawyier encouraged Perennial participants to come up with three words to describe their personal style and take notes or photos when an outfit is complimented — weaving that into their personal brand. She also advocated for flipping negative self-talk into positive, and always reading the room to avoid under or overdressing. 

Cultivating a personal style with everyday basics and layered pieces while purging items that don’t work saves time and avoids “wardrobe rage” that can impact the rest of the day, Sawyier said.  It can also help you be dramatically more efficient with your time.  

“Style can elevate you,” she said. “Intentionally examining what’s serving you and what isn’t feeds into your confidence.”