Contrary to what the statistics surrounding women in scientific career fields may lead us to believe, science is not just for men. Women are just as excited about science. Yes, we are doctors, astronauts, and scientists! As our country grows in numbers in the areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) the growth is sluggish and disheartening for women. The U.S. Department of Commerce put out a report in 2011 that showed only one in seven engineers are women and there have not been any employment growth for women in STEM jobs since 2000. We need role models to start the growth for our little girls so I sat down with Sister Scientist to discuss the problem and give us some insight into her scientific world of beauty and wonder. 

What are your thoughts about an industry that is male dominated and caters to minority women?

Beauty has been a male dominated field for years! Men have made significant contributions to the beauty space and admittedly can provide a valuable perspective and touch, but I have been very excited to see more women rise to more powerful roles in this space. We’re not just the pretty faces on the packaging, we should be the brains behind the brands too because who knows what a woman wants better than a woman.

When I first started, the product development side of the business was definitely the good ol’ boys club and it was hard at times working in a man’s world knowing that you understood the psyche of the black woman better than any of them.

Is the beauty industry (scientists) still a male-dominated field or do you see a trend of more women entering?

I am starting to see more women enter the field of cosmetic chemistry, which is awesome, but I would say we have a ways to go. I love receiving emails from young ladies currently working on degrees in science related fields, telling me that they weren’t sure that they wanted to see it through, but by exposing them to my career path, they are more invigorated to stay the course and explore their options in the space. Knowing that the Sister Scientist brand is positively changing the path of young women’s careers is absolutely one of the most fulfilling feelings.

How can we get more girls interested in science?

I think the best way to create more interest in science among our young ladies is to provide them access to more women who they can relate to who are accomplished in creative and interesting STEM fields. We see doctors all the time (no shade to doctors, we definitely need them), but I believe children often have a very narrow exposure to all of the careers and possibilities with a background in STEM. I see it as my and my colleagues’ responsibility to show young women what we have been able to accomplish and the road that we took to get here.  We can show them what their future can look like, but it’s just as important to continue to support, encourage, and engage them to help ensure that they stay the course because it can be very difficult as a woman, especially a minority woman, in these fields. This was one of my main purposes for creating the Sister Scientist platform. I wanted expose more women to the science and business side of beauty. Beauty doesn’t just have to be hobby or interest; it offers very lucrative and engaging career opportunities. And this space needs more women in positions of authority who can speak to our needs in the boardroom and laboratory.

What sparked your initial interest?

I’m a problem solver. I see a problem and I want to immediately fix it. Growing up I had a number of hair and skin issues. My mom wouldn’t let me get a relaxer, and I could never find solutions to wear my natural hair in curly styles. I felt like I was presented with very few options. So I became a slave to my flat iron and hot comb since the age of ten. When I realized that I could use my chemical engineering degree to develop products that I wished I had growing up, I was sold on a career in beauty.

What or who inspired you?

Inspiration comes in a few ways. I am inspired by all of the beauty enthusiasts who I see and engage with via social media. I watch and listen to a very diverse collective of voices who express their likes, disappointments, and desires of what they want in their beauty regimens and I take note when I’m in the lab thinking of new products and ways to innovate older formulations. From a career perspective, I am inspired by the many women who have taken this industry by storm over the last decade, creating and building brands for women who look like us. Observing entrepreneurs like Lisa Price, Karen Tappin, and Jane Carter and how their “out-of-the-box” thinking has helped to change the landscape of beauty inspires me to do my part to help others build their dreams and encourage innovation in this space. This is why I started my company mSEED group, to be a resource for entrepreneurs and companies looking to do beauty differently.

What or who motivates you?

Having the freedom to pursue my various interests and ideas without having to ask for permission or being put “in a box” is what motivates me to work as hard as I do and succeed as an entrepreneur. Matter of fact, I just threw away the box. I believe that it allows me to stay creative and innovative.

Can you give some advice for anyone who is interested in the beauty industry in general or the research and development aspect?

Most formally trained cosmetic chemists have a degree in chemistry, or closely related science related field. There are only a few Masters programs that focus on the specific study of cosmetic chemistry, so most chemists in this field have learned through professional development classes, other experienced chemists and trial and error. I have a chemical engineering degree, which allows me to work on the mass production or manufacturing side of the development process as well as in the product development lab.

Other career paths to consider are in marketing, sales, or operations. Product management, distribution strategy, and supply chain management are very important aspects of building a successful brand in the beauty space. I found it valuable to go back to school to earn an MBA with a focus in marketing management and business strategy, so that I could better understand these areas of the business.

Look for internships with large personal care products companies like L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, or Estee Lauder. Another side of the business that is often overlooked is the chemical/ingredient suppliers. Companies that provide the raw materials (or ingredients) that brands use in the end-user’s product have a lot of entry-level opportunities. It’s a great way to learn the business. Also, use the power of your network. Valuable opportunities can come from sharing what you want to do with people. You never know who can help you connect you with the right people in the right places.

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Are you interested in entering the beauty industry?