Nutritional Outlook’s 2023 Best of the Industry Awards, Industry Leader: Women in Nutraceuticals

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Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 26 No. 10
Volume 26
Issue 10

Women in Nutraceuticals is a catalyst for change, bringing awareness to, and taking steps to fix, the lack of gender parity in the nutraceutical industry.

Despite being a young organization, Women in Nutraceuticals (WIN), a nonprofit whose mission is to empower women to become leaders in the nutraceutical industry, has already had a substantial impact. Specifically, the organization’s goals are to increase the number of women serving in leadership positions, increase the number of women in science and research, expand investment opportunities for female-run businesses, and ensure opportunities for rising female leaders. These lofty ambitions have struck a chord and as a result have brought a diverse group of stakeholders together to achieve these goals.

WIN was officially chartered in March 2022 and launched publicly at SupplySide West in October 2022. After launch, WIN brought in 34 founding sponsors and 20 partner organizations. Since that time, it has grown to nearly 450 individual members. According to Heather Granato, vice president of partnerships and sustainability at Informa, and WIN’s president, the organization’s initial success was indicative of “right time and right focus,” and though WIN continues to grow and evolve, it remains very much a labor of love.

“Since we started with a group of 10 committed industry friends, we’ve grown to more than 100 volunteers,” says Granato. “It hasn’t been easy as everyone has their demanding full-time jobs; however, it represents the passion and commitment to the future that we feel.”

One major sign of positive growth, says Granato, is the evolution in the makeup of WIN’s membership. “While upper management made up most of our members in the beginning, we are seeing more members—women and men—joining from all levels of their professional development,” she explains. “This is tied to the way we are rolling out programs focused on added benefits to our members, including the launch of our mentorship program and programming that resonates.”

Critical to this growth, of course, have been WIN’s sponsors, adds Granato. “They came on board from the beginning based on our mission, vision, and promise that we would make a difference,” she says. “The integrity and quality of our board members, committee chairs, and volunteers assured them we were in it to make a difference.”

For example, a sponsorship from Informa Markets made it possible for WIN to commission NEXT Data & Insights to conduct a global survey so that WIN can bring hard data to support its ambitions. This survey—WIN’s Gender Diversity in Leadership report—established benchmarks that allow WIN to track progress of gender parity in the nutraceuticals industry.

The study found that, globally, fewer than 3 out of 10 CEOs are women, and fewer than 4 out of 10 women are in leadership positions. Additionally, North America and Europe, in particular, need to strengthen the presence of women at the board of directors level, which currently stands at 1 in 5 board positions being filled by women.

“We will use this, along with input from our sponsors and members, to set KPIs related to gender representation in leadership,” explains Michelle Martin, president and COO of Cypress Systems, and WIN’s engagement chair. “As we grow and conduct follow-up survey work, we want to see that positive change. This helps us stay accountable for making a difference and reflects the difference people can make when they work together. And while the data does help convince people about the need for WIN in the nutraceutical industry, it’s only part of the dialogue that is happening across business and generations—this desire to ensure we’re creating a more inclusive, innovative industry.”

While raising awareness about the lack of gender parity in the industry and having the numbers to back it up is crucial, finding ways to intervene and engender change is even more important. WIN’s Gender Diversity in Leadership report cites data from McKinsey’s 2022 Women in the Workplace report which found that for the eighth consecutive year, there was a “broken rung” on the first step to manager, a point at which only 87 women out of every 100 men are promoted from entry-level positions to manager. This means that there is a continuous shortage of women to promote to senior leadership positions over time.

“The newest McKinsey data is showing a solid increase in the number of women moving into the C-suite, and that aligned with WIN’s initial focus to make an impact to support women moving from senior leadership into C-suite and board positions. But we’re not stopping there, and we want to evolve what we offer to support industry and member growth,” says Granato. “We are seeking champions to serve as mentors and sponsors for those senior-level women while also developing tools and programming that will serve women in earlier stages of their career to develop key skills and take risks to fill the management pipeline. We are also exploring how we can work directly with our sponsors to develop programming and support mechanisms for their teams that can embed gender equity within their organizations.”

WIN launched its pilot mentorship program for senior-level women in October 2023, with plans to launch the full program in early 2024. The program endeavors to help more senior-level women earn C-suite positions.

“The process involves identifying and getting aligned with their values and needs, and going through a process of releasing oneself from self-limiting beliefs,” explains May Yamada-Lifton, CEO of Maypro, and co-chair of WIN’s mentorship committee. “This will happen during the six meetings, with questions, tools, and additional homework to be done in between sessions.”

“Cedric Bourges [certified professional coach with GOHELOE], Mary Phillips [marketing director, dietary supplements, for DSM], and Joanne Lasrado [director of sales and technical services, North America, for Kemin Human Nutrition and Health] have created professional frameworks and assets to help mentors guide mentees on the path to self-awareness and freeing oneself from boundaries that may be holding them back from their own possibilities,” explains Sybille Buchwald-Werner, PhD, managing director, Vital Solutions, and co-chair of WIN’s mentorship committee. “There are also gap analyses/checklists and frameworks provided on skill sets and experiences such as creative thinking, decision making, organization, project management, communication, financial management, and personnel management.”

WIN will use feedback from mentees and mentors to eventually expand the program to support women at different levels of their career, and incentivize mentors. “We believe that in a second phase using this community of mentor/mentees, we can expand to lower career levels,” says Yamada-Lifton. “We are grateful to all the volunteers who have made this program possible. It is our hope that we can charge for the mentors who have been volunteering their services and time in the future.”

WIN hopes that in the next three years, 10% of mentees will move into C-level positions as a result of this program. Ultimately, empowering women to meet their personal and professional potential is how WIN believes it can achieve its vision of economic and societal equity that will transform the global nutraceutical industry, says Martin.

“This positive change benefits everyone—both within the industry and the consumers we serve—and that means ensuring we are inclusive in our approach,” she explains. “When two-thirds of senior leaders are men, we want to engage with them to help them drive change, because it’s good for business and good for people. And it’s not only the companies that are directly producing ingredients and finished products; laboratories, lawyers, journalists—we all are a part of the global nutraceutical industry. Everyone is welcome and has a role to play that accelerates our momentum. It will take everyone working together from every area of the industry to make a difference.”

Progress still needs to be made, but WIN is setting the stage for change in the industry, encouraging a substantive dialogue and giving women a platform to succeed.

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