Five Steps to Inspire the Next Generation of Female Scientists

02/28/2020

Dr. Tang Silin

Senior Scientist, Mars Global Food Safety Center

There has never been a better time to get into science. Advances in sequencing technologies and bioinformatics have ushered in a new dawn for food safety and the work we do today has a positive effect on shaping our planet tomorrow.

My work at Mars is very rewarding. At the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC) we are focused on ensuring safe food for all; we know we can’t do this alone which is why we collaborate with NGOs, academia and even our competitors. We believe we have a responsibility to generate insights and share knowledge to help build a better world tomorrow. That’s why we created the center in 2015. Each day, I work on cutting edge science and evaluate new technologies which have the potential to save the lives of millions of people. The best part of my role at the Mars GFSC, is that it is meaningful to the world and to my family too, which makes me even more dedicated.

One of my career highlights has been contributing to the evaluation of a new method for foodborne pathogen identification. In the fast-moving world of food manufacturing, where rapid identification and the ability to respond fast to potential pathogen contamination is required, developing a more efficient pathogen identification method is critical. This method will help the food supply chain find the true genesis of pathogen contamination more efficiently, raising the bar on food safety. I’ve often been asked about my views on women in STEM and gender equality and it got me thinking about what’s impacted my career.

1.     Tend to a passion for science early

Stop telling girls, boys are better at science! Although schools and universities have made efforts toward positive improvement over the last decade, for me, women are still underrepresented in the scientific community. It is curious to me that, despite women having achieved major discoveries in science, the number of women in leading positions remains low. It is well documented, that women are often held back by a lack of self-belief, making them less likely to compete against men for so-called ‘top’ jobs. Even though efforts have been made to tackle gender equality in science, there remains an urgent need for effective new approaches to address this issue.

When I think about where we need to make the greatest gains in order to achieve equality, for me it’s cultural and social. Once people end the culture of judging a person by gender and believe that for any work, both men and women can do it well, we will be a giant step closer to achieving real equality. More importantly, society needs to recognize the implacable contribution of a woman to family life and provide more understanding and support when a woman gives birth and raises children.   

2.     Who inspires you in STEM? Allow yourself to feel inspired!

My father inspired me to become a scientist. He was trained as an immunologist and works in science and technology. He instilled in me a love of medicine, immunology and microbiology. Through his work, I had the privilege of meeting many notable scientists and saw first-hand the important work they were doing to make the world a better place.

3.     Think about what gender equality and a great workplace means to you

I am proud to work for an organization that really values equality, quality, responsibility and mutuality. The Mars GFSC is a very good example of gender equality. In our research team, there are five female scientists and four male scientists. We listen to everyone’s viewpoint, irrespective of gender. Different viewpoints help avoid bias and prevent mistakes arising from incomplete knowledge or lack of information.  

Our Microbial Risk Management research team illustrates that diversity at the Mars GFSC is so much more than gender equality. Our scientists come from a number of different scientific disciplines including veterinary medicine, molecular biology, food microbiology and genetics. We have very different educational and cultural backgrounds and a mix of soft skills which ensures a strong synergy and high efficiency among the team.

4.     Find opportunities to learn and grow

Working as a senior scientist requires strong leadership, strategic thinking and good communication skills. It is not enough to have a thorough understanding of science, you also need to focus on stakeholder management, program design and prioritizing workload.

Stepping up to these challenges has improved my leadership skills and given me the confidence to develop a holistic management approach to the robust, original research we conduct at the Mars GFSC.

I am very proud to work with a hugely talented team on cutting edge science and technology that has the ability to make the world a better place.

5.      Believe in yourself!

What I’d say to next generation of girls and women entering STEM is believe in yourself. Knowledge, integrity, empathy, and technical skills are also key fundamental factors to career success, particularly in the world of science, and they reflect the individual person, independent of their gender. Believe in yourself and work hard to reach your dreams.

This blog originally appeared on LinkedIn, you can read more blogs from Dr. Silin Tang here