February 11, 2023

Women in Science Encourage Next Generation of Female Leaders

International Day of Women and Girls in Science is February 11th, and we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the incredible female leaders within Nestlé Health Science who are helping shape innovation to empower healthier lives through nutrition now and in the future.


The United Nation’s theme in 2023 is Innovate, Demonstrate, Elevate, Advance, and Sustain (I.D.E.A.S.), recognizing incredible women around the world who have led the way in the field of science. 

Our core values at Nestlé Health Science (NHSc) look to provide opportunities for women and close the gap on key issues such as access to resources and research grants, the gender wage gap, male-dominated jobs, and more. According to the United Nations, women hold only one in five positions (22%) in cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence, and female researchers tend to have shorter and lower paid careers.  

We had the chance to speak with women working at NHSc globally to learn about who and what inspired them to work in this field, some challenges they’ve faced, their motivation in their careers, and advice they have for the future generation of women and girls in science. Let’s see what they had to say!

Innovation is born from inspiration

As we enter adulthood, a critical decision we must make on our life’s journey is what field we’d like to work in. Some find inspiration from educational studies, others from family members or friends, and for some it has been a lifelong dream since childhood. 

For Litao Yu, a Manufacturing Service Lead at NHSc in Taizhou, China, her curiosity as a child and wanting to know the ‘why’ was what drove her to pursue a career in science. Guénolée Prioult, Director of Science and Technology, NHSc USA found her inspiration from her experience as an athlete growing up, where she noticed a gap in the market for products that would support nutrition in sports. She took it upon herself to find a solution through her career. Petra Kopecká, Global Project Leader Nx, took her inspiration from her enthusiastic high school chemistry teacher and love for nature.  

With differing approaches, each of these women have found a way to channel their sources of inspiration and utilize them for a career that has resulted in greater scientific innovation within NHSc.

Demonstrating the importance of science in nutrition

Through childhood, education, and work, women at NHSc have demonstrated their passion through committing to the field of science.

Gauri Rao Sharma, Head of Medical Writing did this by being curious throughout her childhood, noticing science come up in every interesting question she asked, which led to a career in the field. 

And for Valeria Rosenfeld, Head of Medical & Scientific Affairs and Market Access, Brazil and LATAM, she discovered her passion through a project in medical school where she helped collect data for one of the most important studies on hospital malnutrition, which led to an understanding of the lack of attention to the nutritional status of patients.

The field of science is ever evolving and requires the demonstration of agile mindsets and creativity adopted by women such as Gauri and Valeria.

Women elevating the field of science

Pursuing a career in science has put women’s’ minds to the test for decades, through experimentation and perseverance. 

Meltem Yildiz, Product Development Manager, Turkey, told us of the tough economic times her family and country faced when she was a girl, where the educational opportunities required to succeed did not come easily. She pushed through and never gave up, which resulted in being at the top of her class and pursuing a successful career at NHSc.

Throughout her young life, Krys Araujo-Torres M.D., Head of Medical Affairs, NHSc USA expressed gratitude for her mentors who showed herself and others a path forward. Estefanía Araque Velázquez, Head of Quality Vitamins, Minerals, Herbals & Supplements, investigated through conducting lab projects which led her to her vocation and passion – quality.

Advancing the role of nutrition in health through science

Through knowledge gained and applying a test and learn approach, these women have now paved successful career paths at NHSc and gave us an inside look at some of the fulfilling work they’ve gotten to do in their roles.

“I’m responsible for the development and execution of a pipeline of products for our sickest patients, including those that are critically ill in the ICU and those with chronic diseases. This is the most exciting and energizing part of my job because my focus is to bring patients new products to improve not only their health but also their quality of life”, says Maureen Huhmann, Global Research & Development Lead, Acute Care

Jennifer Boyd provided us with some insight into her role as Senior Director of Regulatory & Scientific Affairs, NHSc US, stating “In the regulatory space we are involved in all areas of the business, from ideation and innovation through development, launch and post-launch. We work to ensure the science supports the claims, we need to understand the science behind and the functionality of the products, and we need to be able to explain it all to regulatory authorities.”

Sustaining the future of women and girls in science through words of encouragement
At NHSc, we want to encourage the future generation of leaders to follow their passion and know that a fulfilling career in science is possible for them. We asked the women of NHSc what their top piece of advice would be for women and girls looking to pursue a career in science. This is what they said:

“A non-expected result in science is as important as an expected result, so don’t be afraid of trying and exploring new things.” – Dory Worcman Barninka, Senior Quality Manager, NPTC Bridgewater, NJ

“My advice is for young girls who might not realize that science is a great field to consider.  For those that thrive on creativity, there are many industries that have exciting opportunities rooted in science elevated through inventiveness and imagination.  Science goes well beyond the lab.” – Joy Devins, Director of Personalized Nutrition, Global R&D

“The path into science is not linear, there are curves and many entry points. I studied finance and economics in university, but eventually took a different path. My ‘aha’ moment came during my first role in research and development of new drugs. I felt fulfilled. I remember thinking to myself This is what I want to do.” – Crystal Anderson, Global Clinical Research Organizations Manager

We have some amazing female role models within NHSc who are shaping the future of nutrition, and what lies ahead is looking bright for the next generation of women and girls in science.

1 United Nations. International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11 February. Accessed February 2023. International Day of Women and Girls in Science | United Nations