By Tracy Boyle, Senior Director, Employee Relations and Administrative Services

Companies with greater gender diversity—not just among the workforce, but more specifically among senior leaders—are more profitable and have superior value creation, according to McKinsey & Company. The same report said while companies have made significant strides as of late—including those in the U.S. dairy industry—more can be done.

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) was established more than 30 years ago to harness the collective voice of the dairy industry. Over the last three decades, IDFA has developed and supported many initiatives to build knowledge, expertise, and cultivate leadership across dairy.

This year, IDFA launched the Women in Dairy Network to support a stronger, more diverse future for the U.S. dairy industry by expanding the presence and influence of women from farm to fork. It is an integral part of IDFA’s new People Strategy—a larger effort to build the dairy industry workforce of the future, nurture diversity and inclusion, and put people at the center of everything we do.

The Women in Dairy Network brings together established leaders and young professionals to create a forum that fosters mentoring, supports development, builds networking opportunities, and encourages leadership of the future. The mission is to empower, encourage and support women in the dairy industry through leadership development, mentoring and networking events.

The concept for the Women in Dairy Network was born at Dairy Forum 2019 during a discussion spearheaded by Cary Frye, IDFA’s senior vice president of regulatory affairs. Since that time, dozens of leaders and passionate professionals from across the industry have offered support for the network, including time and expertise.

In October, IDFA formed the Women in Dairy Network Advisory Council, comprised of leaders from IDFA member companies and IDFA partners to help guide the Network. See the full roster of Advisory Council members here.

During Dairy Forum 2020—the dairy industry’s premier event for sharing knowledge, analyzing trends and networking—the Women in Dairy Network was formalized. First, the members of the Women in Dairy Network Advisory Council were recognized during Michael Dykes’ address on Monday morning.  In the afternoon, attendees of the Dairy Forum were invited to a dynamic session featuring the results from the Women in the Workplace 2019 study published by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company. The key takeaway from the report is: Yes, more women were becoming senior leaders; but companies still need to advance more women and improve diversity all around.

Dairy Forum also played host to the Women in Dairy Network reception, which pulled in more than 70 attendees! The enthusiasm of the women who attended the launch reception was palpable. I came back to Washington, DC with a deep passion for the Network and for all the amazing women in our industry.

In my remarks at the reception, I outlined the Advisory Council’s plans in 2020 to use a variety of in-person networking events, knowledge products, electronic communication and social media to connect members and strengthen the Network, including:

  • Future networking events at IDFA meetings
  • A webinar series focused on industry issues and opportunities
  • A dedicated Women in Dairy page on the (, highlighting Network activities
  • Articles and guest-authored blog posts featuring the accomplishments and advice of women in dairy
  • Create a dedicated chat space within to provide a venue for Network information and discussion
  • Collaborate with other organizations that have similar networks and events

As of today, more than 320 people have joined the Women in Dairy Network database – a fantastic validation of this project!

The Women in Dairy Network would not be possible without the engagement and commitment of our IDFA members.  For all of us at IDFA, and for the women in our industry who will benefit from the Network in the future, this initiative is an important step. I’m looking forward to working with you to provide an educational, inclusive and exceptional experience for our members.

Learn more about the Women in Dairy Network here.