How has being female affected your work, for better or for worse?
I think being a woman in the roles I’ve done has affected me for the better, it has enabled me to have a different perspective on situation and issues. I’ve generally tried not to dwell on what gender I am and more what I can do and be successful in.
How has the industry changed over the years?
I have been working in FMCG Quality for over 15 years. At the beginning, the main thing that struck me was how small the women’s changing rooms were, with less than 10 lockers in big companies! When I joined my first senior leadership team, I was the only woman in a seven person team. Now I am more likely than ever to be dealing with women in senior technical managerial roles in the third parties we deal with. That said, I still haven’t had a female boss in any of my roles in the food industry however, working for PepsiCo we have one of the biggest female role models as our CEO, Indra Nooyi. I am personally very proud to work for a company with a female CEO.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
There were times, when I was younger, that there would be unfair references saying, well you’ve only go the job because you are a woman or slightly more degrading comments than that! These just make you go out of your way to prove that you are good at your job, you are more than capable and will be successful whatever. I much preferred influencing opinions by doing my job well, than dwelling on inappropriate comments. Yes, it helps to be “one of the lads” but it doesn’t need to define who you are. I’ve found all the male dominated teams I’ve worked with to be very supportive and fun to work with.
Why women should consider a career in food science?
A career in food science is for anyone. It is a complex industry with many jobs and challenges suitable for anyone. There’s a great range of flexible roles and working options that can suit any life style or working requirements.
Do you think there will be more opportunities for female food scientists in the future?
I think, whoever you are, no matter what gender you are, there is a role for you now, if you want it enough. Now, more than ever, you are much more likely to be assessed on your skills and capability for the role, than your gender. Don’t consider gender as a limiting factor. I think all women should consider food science as a great area to work in and we should do more to encourage women into the industry. I also think as processes become more automated and PLC driven, the days of purely male engineering teams (due to the work being hard and physical) are starting to leave us. Initially the food manufacturing industry was very manual and employed mostly women, then when automation came in, more men came into the industry, I think we are now in the part of the cycle where more women will enter the industry again over the last few years I have seen more female engineer apprentices come through company schemes.