Applications open for WE Lead Food Programme 2020

WE Lead Food, led by Dr Shima Barakat, is a programme and network of women leaders who wish to drive change, innovation and sustainability within the food sector, a particularly pressing need as we face food supply chain challenges due to COVID-19.


After a successful and well-regarded 2019 programme, we are currently recruiting participants for the WE Lead Programme 2020. The programme for women is open to all discipline backgrounds, including research, business, policy, and civil society.

WE Lead Food modules run over three days, with activities centred around:

  • Value creation beyond profit
  • Sustainability
  • Stakeholder mapping
  • Collective leadership
  • The European Entrepreneurial Competences Framework
  • Effectuation
  • Conflict management
  • Transformational leadership

During the programme, participants pledge their commitment to a change initiative and work with mentors to begin their implementation.


The first module, Entrepreneurship for Sustainability with Expert Mentoring, will be delivered in Cambridge on 10-12 October 2020. The second module, Leadership for Impact with Peer-to-peer Mentoring, will be held in Madrid on 13-15 November 2020. Any adjustments necessary in relation to the coronavirus will be made prior to the application deadline of 15 June 2020.


To apply, please visit


Dr Shima Barakat said:


‘The foundation of the programme is: Fix the system, don’t fix the women. The programme offers space and toolkits for researchers and professional women to explore the challenges on the way to a sustainable food system, and to leverage their entrepreneurial and leadership key strengths.’


Several recent research strands have shown that gender-balanced teams and, importantly, gender-balanced top management lead businesses that are more likely to employ sustainable practices. Therefore, the more women that start businesses and take senior management positions, the more likely businesses are to deliver sustainable systems.


A report by McKinsey entitled ‘Women in Food’ highlighted that while the food sector employs around 49% women at entry levels, in the upper levels these numbers drop to as low as 9%. The reasons are many and complex, but some key ones identified in the report and through the work of the WE Lead partners form the foundation for the design of WE Lead Food programme.


Dr Shima Barakat continued:


‘As businesses move to be more sustainable, particularly across the food sector, there are more openings created that reflect women’s interests and talents. Therefore, creating sustainability initiatives, contributes to the natural rise of women in those spaces. It’s a win-win situation: by creating more openings for women, we take bigger steps towards sustainable practices and to delivering a more sustainable food system and as we embrace sustainability further, we witness the growth of increasingly diverse and inclusive teams.’


WE Lead Food has been co-created between EIT Food project partners led by Dr Shima Barakat, representing the University of Cambridge, and the EU Food Information Council (EUFIC), IMDEA, Aarhus University and PepsiCo. The network offers visibility, connections, resources and infrastructure for the WE Lead Food members as well as plugging them into the wider EIT Food network of 54 key organisations including Waitrose, PepsiCo, Nestle, Danone and TUM.


Please spread the word and share this information with anyone that could be interested in the WE Lead Food Programme. For further information please visit

Date published

22 April 2020

For further information please contact:

Dr Shima Barakat


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