Female #FoodHeroes

Marion Matthewman

Marion is the Global Head of Logistics and Trade Operations for Syngenta. Along with her global teams she ensures that Syngenta’s products are delivered to its base of customers and farmers on time for use in their fields.

What is the most impactful project you have worked on?

The most impactful project I have worked on was the implementation of a global technology platform, which enabled real-time visibility of where Syngenta products are around the world – from the raw materials we pick up from China, to the last mile of delivery for customers in Brazil or France.

This solution is enabling access to powerful data that helps us reduce our impact on the environment by optimizing routes, looking at alternatives that have less carbon impact, being accurate with service delivery to our farmers, and making delivery data available so that farmers can plan their crops more accurately.

I am extremely proud of what we have achieved, and it is truly leading the way in the ag industry.

Why are logistics important for agriculture, especially women?

The logistics sector plays a profound role in the global economy. In the agrochemical industry it is vital to efficient and effective management of accessing crop protection and seeds worldwide.

Yet research suggests that the logistics sector remains a male dominated space despite the rise in number of women in the rest of the business world. There are a growing number of statistics and trends emerging to prove the true worth of placing greater numbers of women into these positions.

We all need to do much more, logistics jobs in the 21st century often amount to much more than ‘moving and lifting’, with business development and customer-facing personnel required alongside the more stereotypically expected drivers and warehouse operatives.

We also know that access to transport and logistics would improve the mobility of female farmers and with that access, over time they could sell more of what their farm produces. Also, empowering and investing in women, specifically in rural areas, would significantly increase productivity while reducing hunger and malnutrition.

To achieve this, we need more investment in transport and logistics from other industries, including automotive. Providing access to transportation will change people’s lives in rural communities.

I have had the opportunity to be a keynote speaker in supply chain and logistics events, discussing how to get gender balance, encouraging and demonstrating the opportunities for women in the supply chain and in our industry.

Why do you love your job?

My job is about connecting, listening, and communicating with people. I am lucky to have a role that allows me to do that across the globe and to learn and work with many cultures where every day you learn something new.  I also love that I have the opportunity to work with incredibly talented logistics and trade professionals. It’s so rewarding to celebrate with a team the success of going live with new solutions or just getting products to the customer exactly as we promised. The satisfaction of knowing that we can make a difference to how the customers and farmers’ experience Syngenta makes me very proud of what we do, and the team does a great job.

How did you get here?

I am naturally optimistic, and I truly believe that you have to create your own opportunity and not wait for others to do it for you.  My background is in Business & Finance Processes which gave me a good base for thinking about things in a structured and methodical way.  I have used this transferable skill in many of my roles: quality management, risk management, trade management and logistics operations.

When offered new roles, I spend the first months listening, learning, and creating the right trusting environment, and then I formulate ideas. I believe this discipline has helped me get to where I am today.

What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?

If I was giving advice to my younger self, I would say to be more curious and open to exploring and understanding the food chain, asking, “what is the eco system that exists around food and farming?” By doing so, you will see and learn about the numerous activities done by different roles that go into producing food and this will help you explore what you feel connected to.

I believe in knowing yourself and understanding what values you hold, so that you can develop your ways of working and a leadership style that is authentic and true to your values. Don’t pretend that you know everything, be confident in admitting when you don’t know, ask, and listen.

Always treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, celebrate every contribution, value all individuals and don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?

I don’t believe that feeding a growing population is about quantity, I think it’s about quality. The piece I would change is that all those contributing to or producing food – organic and conventional – should have a dialogue to see how they can support each other. Instead of making consumers think that they have to choose between types of food, or that there is a competition between one and the other. They need to collaborate so that agriculture explores all technologies to leverage more from less so that impact on the planet is reduced.

We also need transparency and education in agriculture. Development of crop solutions by organisations such as ours should be more open earlier in the development stages, for input and collaboration from others who may be impacted by them.

 

Marion is just one of many inspirational women working in agriculture. Visit our Female #FoodHeroes page to hear from other women working to improve plant science and nutrition.