Despite the visibility of the issue, women are still not present in great numbers in the STEAM industries.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t women at the very top of these industries though. Kirti Sharma, Consumer Technical Insight Lead for Beauty and Personal Care Unilever ANZ is definitely involved in a STEAM industry.
She admits to having had a head start, Sharma’s father used to teach science and piqued her curiosity to explore how the world works.
“I do not think you need to be a science teacher to encourage your kids’ interest in science – you just need to keep the conversation going and encourage them to keep asking questions, even if you can’t answer them all. Better yet, find out the answers together – that is what I do with my kids, Paarth and Gauri (14 and 10 years old).
“As I entered the later years of High School and began to be exposed to more in-depth science study, my interest grew, and I knew that I wanted to continue learning about science after high school,” Sharma says.
Her interest has led her to a rich, rewarding work life applying her science based skill set to gain insight into how Unilever’s products are working. Introducing some scientific rigour to how the company presents itself is another big part of her role.
“As a Consumer Technical Insights Lead at Unilever, my job is primarily to provide technical insights around claims, trends, and the science behind Unilever’s products, providing the scientific evidence for the claims that are featured on them.
“Another large part of my job is communicating to our customers the technology behind our products, such as explaining how specific haircare formulations work.
“Unilever is like a university, you learn something new every day. There is opportunity to learn about new technologies daily."
Unilever is a vast company and within that there is a plethora of experiences to be found. There are always different teams working on something new. Scientists here are exposed to multiple learning opportunities and possibilities, and have the advantage of learning from each other and building upon their own skill sets.
“With a global company comes exposure to lots of different opportunities, for me, this is one of the greatest benefits.
“I want to keep progressing my career in the field of science. Unilever is at the forefront of Microbiome research, an area of particular interest for me, and through my work I get the opportunity to meet the leaders in this field and learn and broaden my knowledge within this field,” she says.
Sharma’s colleague Jacqueline Mowad, Technical Project Lead for hair Unilever ANZ also developed an interest in science early.
“I was always fascinated by science and by scientists – the likes of Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and Sir Isaac Newton kept me intrigued. I was forever reading science books and watching documentaries, seeking out new ways to learn about the topic.
“I’ve been especially intrigued by science ever since high school. The subject of Chemistry and understanding the principles of science is what really piqued my interest to pursue this as a career.”
Her Mum is a nurse so she had a certain understanding of science. When Mowad mentioned that wanted to be a chemical engineer or chemist, Mum encouraged her to pursue whatever career path would make her happy.
“I find it really interesting that the new Sunsilk research revealed that almost one in ten women feel pressured by society to choose a career considered “more fitting” for women. I always say to my friends that there is no such thing as ‘guys work’ and that nothing should stop you from achieving your dreams,” she says.
As the Technical Project Lead, her day-today focus is on delivering innovation and supply chain projects, however, she also does formulation development and testing.
“My role is quite extensive, working with cross functional teams (both local and global) across the supply chain to review and design product concepts and bring them to market. A lot of this involves looking at data insights, product testing and the science behind the products we are introducing to consumers.
“I love the variety of projects that I work on and the fact that I never stop learning. Every project that I work on is an achievement for me as I get to see projects through from formulation development and testing, all the way through to the final product. At the end of the day, seeing the Sunsilk products out on shelves is especially rewarding, particularly as our brands are underpinned by purpose."
By working in a global company, she has had the opportunity to build a network of colleagues, mentors and leaders across multiple disciplines.
“I’ve had many opportunities at Unilever to try new disciples and learn new skills to broaden my career to date. There are lots of opportunities available to you if you are ambitious, for example I was lucky enough to do a short-term assignment to Thailand.
“Currently my ambition is to excel in my technical expertise in the hair category. Whether it’s learning new product technologies, formulations or concepts.
“I would also love to take my skills globally and work in Unilever’s global team to further learn and grow."
STEAM career workshops
For young women interested in a STEAM career Girl Geek Academy x Sunsilk workshops will be streamed live on YouTube at 2:30pm (AEST) over the September school holidays. Sunsilk invites Australian girls and mums to visit www.GirlGeekAcademy.com/Sunsilk and register their attendance.
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