Women in Science at Syngenta Canada

Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Anna Shulkin

February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. We acknowledge this day annually to promote the equal participation and leadership of women and girls in technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to the United Nations, women represent less than one-third of the STEM workforce. The reality is more women and girls in science leads to better science – they bring diversity to research and provide perspectives that benefit everyone.

Talented people pipeline

I’m proud to work for an organization that values and encourages women in science roles. Currently, 40 female scientists work for Syngenta Canada in an array of roles such as biologists, pathologists, agronomists, toxicologists, environmental and residue chemistry experts, regulatory scientists, and many other disciplines. Among them, a significant number are leading teams and in senior technical positions.

Our tremendously talented team is the reason we have such an exceptional line-up of products that help farmers grow the best crop and meet the challenges of producing food. As a senior leader, it’s inspiring to see our people pipeline at Syngenta, where young female scientists of today are growing to be leaders of tomorrow.

I am thrilled to have witnessed the evolution of women in science roles at Syngenta since starting my career here as an application technology chemist more than two decades ago. While women were certainly present in some functions such as regulatory, they were not found in core sciences or technical and people leadership positions. Over the years, however, important change took place within Syngenta. It was not drastic or sudden, but intentional progress. We began hiring junior female scientists to grow into key positions. Today, I am surrounded by incredibly talented individuals, male and female scientists, working in a broad range of disciplines and dedicating their time to moving the science forward.

My journey in STEM

My journey in STEM was an extremely natural path. I feel lucky to have grown up in a STEM family where my mom, an engineer and college educator, set an early example for me and my sister. She modelled how to balance a professional career in STEM and family life. My dad, a chemist, also encouraged us to pursue science careers. The tradition continues with my daughter who is currently studying life sciences at university.

Though my path forward was natural, it doesn’t mean the journey was easy. Progressing from my B.Sc. to Master’s Degree and then PhD was a long educational road as I balanced my family life and post-graduate education. Difficult choices related to motherhood impacted not only me, but other female scientists at the time. Nowadays, women are having children later and different childcare options are available. There are also more female professors and role models helping young women and girls dream big. The path is becoming easier, but there is still room for improvement here in Canada and around the world. We recognize barriers such as the gender wage gap, lack of gender diversity in senior roles, and access to training and mentors. There is more work to be done and that’s why this day is so important.

Fun, challenging and rewarding

I wholeheartedly encourage young women to pursue an education and career in science – especially if you have a curiosity for how and why things work. Every day is different and it’s a face-paced environment. For me, it’s fun, challenging and rewarding.

Syngenta is an inspirational environment for cultivating female roles. It is exciting to be part of an organization where female and male scientists alike can flourish.