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Now is the time for more women leaders in the nutraceutical industry

International womens day
As Expo West convenes on International Women's Day, looking at the ways in which more women in leadership positions and the C-suite would benefit the broader nutraceutical industry.

On International Women’s Day, we connected with various leaders across the nutraceutical community gathered at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim California. The question: Why is now the time to focus on getting more women in the C-suite and leadership positions across the nutraceutical industry?

The most recent McKinsey statistics reported that women’s representation in the workplace improved across all levels of the corporate pipeline in 2020. However, for every 100 men promoted to first-level manager, only 86 women are promoted; this makes it impossible to lay a foundation to help women progress to more senior levels. Women managers more consistently support employee well-being, and champion DEI work, leading to happier employees. Michelle Martin, president and COO of Cypress Systems, commented: "Women bring a unique perspective and power to an organization. They drive cultural change, effective solutions, and teamwork. Skills that are underappreciated and needed in the world today."

Further, Goldman Sachs has reported that organizations with more women in management have more positive stock performance—while not causal, the correlation suggests investing in more women in management has a positive net effect.

Nick McCoy, managing director and co-founder of Whipstitch Capital, noted: “Beyond the social justice, the world has a huge economic growth opportunity in closing the gender gap. The economic growth of the top five gender neutral countries as ranked by the World Economic Forum exceeded the US by 20%.”

When looking at the nutraceutical industry specifically, there are particular concerns. Traci Kantowski, communications director at Trust Transparency Center, stated: “Females are the primary consumers in the nutraceutical industry, yet they are underserved in representation in leadership roles in the companies serving them. We need to work together to elevate women into these critical roles. This will make for a more well-represented and well-rounded industry, which will benefit all.”

Similar thoughts were expressed by Lynda Doyle, president and CEO of Avant Nutrition, who shared, “It is so critical for our industry to have more female leaders in business and science because we bring care, understanding and insights that men simply don’t have. Women make up the majority of our consumer base and have a comprehensive understanding of community. It is not about having women for women’s sake, but to value those experienced and capable individuals for who they are.”

Jan Mills, CEO of Artemis International, observed: “I feel strongly about finding ways to position women in their rightful place as influencers and leaders in this industry. And I believe firmly that increased leadership of women will strengthen this industry.”

And Gillian Fish, CEO of The 6AM Agency, added: "We must be relentless in our pursuit of equality and opportunity for women in our industry today, in order to empower them to have equal influence and impact on the decisions that will lead to a better and healthier world, and pave the way for future generations."

What will it take to start to make the change? Certainly, having the discussions is one step forward, but committing to goals and KPIs will be critical to going beyond the talk and into fundamental change—whether identifying a target growth percentage for women in leadership roles or commitments to levels of funding for female-led businesses.

Andress Blackwell, executive director at Whipstitch Capital, commented: “Awareness and education are key to fundamental change—our industry has historically done an outstanding job of both. Imagine leveraging that same power, which has dramatically changed our food system, to positively impact gender equality. Just like our desire to make better-for-you food accessible to all humans, not too distant in the future, the hope is, we’re celebrating one another every day, with a focus on gender being obsolete.”

A more personal take on the importance of putting the focus on individuals was offered by Doug Reader, CEO of Arizona Nutritional Supplements. “I have a 10-year-old daughter,” he said. “I want her living in a world where she is honored for being a person, has a perspective to be shared, and is a part of essential decision making. I want a world of ‘people,’ not diversity to achieve ‘numbers,’ but a world where who you are as a person matters. I would like to see this world well in place before she ever starts a career.”

So why is now the time for the nutraceutical industry to commit to more women in leadership? Karen Howard, CEO and executive director, Organic & Natural Health Association, sums it up: “Why? 50% of the human race running 50% of the nutraceutical industry will absolutely ensure 100% of women, children and men have access to the best health products we have to offer.”

Nutraceutical industry leaders supporting women in leadership

Interested in making a difference around women in nutraceuticals? Contact Heather Granato at [email protected].

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