IWD 2021: A look at women in STEM

Beth Pontrelli

By Beth Pontrelli


For years, women have been underrepresented in STEM university courses and occupations. Since 2015 the number of women graduating in STEM subjects in the UK has increased by 1% to 26% of total graduates in the field. In the US, this is better still at 32% of total STEM graduates. However, that still leaves a significant imbalance between genders entering the workforce.

With March 8th being International Women’s Day, Chaseman Global sat down with three successful women across agriculture and pharmaceuticals to discuss their experiences and to get a better understanding of what they think could be done to help more females build a career in STEM.

Paula Pinto is the Global Head – Business & Marketing Excellence at UPL.

How have you seen the agriculture industry change for women over your career for the better? 

Since I started working in the late 80’s, it has become easier to be a woman in the workplace, although we still have a long road ahead to ensure gender equality. One of the biggest changes that I’ve seen is women increasing their participation in typically male-dominated roles, such as female airplane pilots. Although most of my peers have been men over the years, it is refreshing to see more women in leadership positions, despite still being significantly underrepresented.

I also believe the work environment is more favourable, with increased awareness of acceptable behaviours which foster inclusion, diversity and overall respect in the workplace. Furthermore, women also have more support towards their careers from a family standpoint, as there are now many examples of spouses increasing their contribution to household tasks.

What do you think we can do to encourage more women into STEM subjects?

When I obtained my Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Sao Paulo in 1987, the representation of women in engineering was approximately 10%. Although participation of women in STEM has certainly increased, women accounted for only 32% of all STEM degree recipients in the USA during the 2017-2018 school year.

I believe one way to encourage more females into STEM is to create visibility of successful women in the different fields. This can bring confidence for young women to pursue similar careers. Also, companies can help by establishing internship and research opportunities to high school female students that are interested in STEM.


Many women early on in their careers may be looking up to you as a role model. Do you have someone in agriculture that helped to inspire you? 

Although I do not have a specific role model, many women have inspired me over the years. The exchange of experiences with other women is extremely enriching, especially in their unique abilities to effectively manage their careers, while supporting their families.


What would your advice be to women in the world of agriculture?

My advice for is for women to be confident in the pursuit of their dreams and goals both from a professional and personal standpoint. They should do so with strong focus and resilience while leveraging their instincts with the belief that nothing is out of their reach.

According to FAO, women represent, on average, 43% of the world’s agricultural labour force and produce more than half of the world’s food. Women in Agriculture are even more prevalent in developing countries, accounting for 60 to 80% of food production. It is important to recognize the key role that women have and will continue to play in feeding the world.

Dena Lipman is a Strategic Pharma Marketing Consultant and has worked with numerous VCs across the pharmaceutical industry.

How have you seen the industry change for women over your career for the better?

Over the years I’ve noticed more women being hired in senior posts, although very few in senior executive team positions other than support specialties e.g. HR (this is changing for the better e.g. Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK). The true measure of success will be when the best person is placed in a senior position irrespective of gender.

What do you think we can do to encourage more women into STEM careers?

Provide strong role models and mentorship. Covid has highlighted many women leading the charge in the world of successful and exciting vaccine/infectious disease research e.g. Oxford vaccine. We need more case studies of successful career pathways to inspire youngsters.

Who would you say are the most inspirational women in the industry right now? 

  • Emma Walmsley (CEO of GSK)
  • Lisa Anson (previous colleague and now CEO of Redx Pharma Plc, ex-President AstraZeneca UK, ex-President ABPI)
  • Camilla Hartvig (previous colleague, varied senior Pharma roles and now SVP International at Alexion Pharma)

They are all inspiring leaders, energetic and enthusiastic.


What would your advice be to women in the sector? 

Women have to stand out to be noticed and achieve promotion. Women are good at generating pragmatic creative ideas and innovate for realistic and achievable business success. Understand your ultimate customers though deep insight and ensure products and helpful services provide meaningful benefits to them

Men and women have differing and complimentary skills - don’t try to compete. Share and augment ideas together for business success. Women are good at building consensus after understanding differing views and perspectives and getting things done. They are well placed to lead team effectiveness, and harness collective skills and capabilities. Teamwork is key, identify and understand each other’s individual and team preferences in order to be most effective. Work must be fun and enjoyable for all to build and maximise success together.

Ultimately, we should not need an International Women's Day to highlight women in business - all should be treated equally based on capability.

Michelle Miller is an international keynote speaker, farmer, columnist and influencer.

How have you seen the agriculture industry change for women over your career for the better?

I think there's more awareness, equality, and very supportive women in agriculture groups and events. More women are taking agriculture related college courses and becoming farmers.

What do you think we can do to encourage more women into STEM careers?

Find mentors and role models. There are more TV shows and mainstream media showing women in these roles. I think this is empowering and offers women more opportunities of inspiration and education. Women in STEM are all around us, and I think it's amazing to watch that sector continue to grow.

Who would you say are the most inspirational women in the industry right now? 

Probably a friend, Kim Bremmer. I watched her do public speaking years ago and absolutely loved her style. She gave me a lot of pointers when it was time to get started in speaking myself. What started out as a fellow woman in agriculture acquaintance turned into one my very best friends. She's always been very uplifting and supportive, tenacious, intelligent and isn't afraid to speak her mind, especially in the form of policy...which is so important. She's amazing.

What would your advice be to women in the world of agriculture?

Be yourself and lift others up! Support and mentorship becomes stronger in numbers. Women continue to get college degrees in agriculture and our numbers as women in agriculture continue to climb. Let's keep going! The world needs more farmers and agriculture professionals... Women continue to shine and outperform in their agriculture roles. It's only getting better.

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