STEM Leadership Roles in Natural Products Industry

Opening Opportunites for Women in STEM

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Natasha

By Natasha Dhayagude, CEO, Chinova Bioworks

The STEM workforce is crucial to building an innovative and competitive job market. However, women, especially women of color, remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce. Even though the natural products industry may have a mission-driven focus this industry is not immune to this inequality and underrepresentation. While the industry may hire women at the junior level as lab scientists or technicians there is a lack of women in leadership positions. There remain challenges to address hiring, advancement and day-to-today experiences that could promote a more flexible and inclusive workforce.

Creating a workplace where all employees, including women in STEM and minorities, feel valued should not only be done to fill a quota or for the sake of political correctness. It should be about companies and organizations drawing from a wide and equal talent pool, helping all employees reach their full potential which leads to a true diverse workforce.

Creating a more diverse work culture helps employees feel more included and at ease which helps to drive innovation and achieve company goals. In order to help women succeed within this field, employers need to expand their understanding and knowledge of the hurdles women face. It is important to focus not just on objective criteria like wage discrimination or adding women to the team to fill a quota, but also on workplace culture.

It is an employer’s responsibility to check in and with their employees to make sure equal opportunities are given when it comes to promotions or even in team meeting settings to see if women are heard and taken seriously or if they are even present at those meetings. 

Women in STEM are crucial in shaping the future of the natural products industry. Opening up opportunities for women in leadership positions within this industry is key to transforming company culture. A lack of inclusion and mentorship is a major factor noted by many women in STEM. One way for companies to help level the playing field is simply to promote women within the company. It is inspiring for young women to have a role model who looks like them, taking on a leadership role that they can aspire to fill one day.

Having women in leadership roles also allows for mentorship of women by women who have an understanding of the distinct challenges women face in STEM. If there are no women in leadership roles it can be discouraging for women entering the workforce. That is why it is important that male leaders actively include and mentor their female employees to ensure they have access to the same opportunities as their male colleagues. In these situations, it can be helpful to start a workplace community of women where they can support each other and work to solve common issues together. For this to be effective company leadership needs to be open to suggestions and improvements to their company culture. This will really help in achieving equality within the workforce especially within leadership roles and nurture a more collaborative and positive work environment. 

Millennials who make up the largest segment of the labor force now favor mission-driven companies that have a diverse and inclusive workforce. They expect equal opportunities and are really helping to drive the change we need to see within the natural products industry. They are also the consumers that support brands that prioritize diversity and inclusivity, pushing companies to prioritize diversity in both their workforce and their marketing and outreach efforts. To be successful, and keep up with these expectations, companies must expand their talent pool and utilize the varied perspectives that a diverse workforce, that includes women of colour, provides. 

Biography: 

Natasha Dhayagude, CEO and co-founder of Chinova Bioworks, a food technology company founded in 2016 to develop natural, clean-label preservatives extracted from mushrooms for the food and beverage industry. Chinova is headquartered in New Brunswick, Canada, and 90% of her team is made up of women practicing in STEM fields. Dhayaguede was named Startup Canada’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and Startup Canada’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019 for her role in co-founding Chinova. Since then, she has raised $4.5 million in capital investment from major food-technology venture capitalists and has formed strategic partnerships with major multinational producers in the food-technology industry. Dhayagude earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from the University of New Brunswick. For more on Chinova Bioworks, visit: https://www.chinovabioworks.com.

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