Young asian female chemists with senior caucasian chemist working together in lab, looking into microscope, Women in STEM

By Heleen Goorissen, Director of Innovation & Technology, Avantium

The chemistry industry often has a perception of being very industrial and even boring, or people working in this sector need to be very science-oriented to have a successful career.

These reasons often deter people, and women, in particular, from wanting to pursue a career in this area. What most people don’t realise is that working in chemistry involves a lot of creativity and can help make a broader difference in society.

Unleash your creative side

Science in general has the reputation to be dull and abstract.  But without creativity or diversity of thought, we wouldn’t see the incredible innovations in the world today. For those people who are looking to recruit new employees and the next generation of scientists, my advice is to expand your search pool and look for candidates with a wide variety of backgrounds. By including others that have a different perspective, it can lead to better ideas, innovations, and ways of working. Diversity is key! For those who are looking to get inspired for a career in chemistry, don’t be afraid to be creative. Surround yourself with different types of inspiration, like going to an art event, visit museums, or attend a concert – it’ll help fuel your ideas and your thinking.

Don’t be afraid to take risks

As difficult as this may seem, I don’t believe in planning for the next 10 years. Reality will often be completely different. Also, planning so far in advance may close your mind to opportunities that may end up accelerating your career path. Follow your intuition and experience everything for yourself – you don’t want to look back and regret anything.

Additionally, inform yourself as much as you can while embarking on your career journey. Whether that is attending open days, networking events, or setting yourself up with a mentor, surrounding yourself with a robust support network can help provide guidance, especially when you come across any challenges. I owe a lot of my success to people who believed in me and gave me challenges even when I thought I wasn’t ready for them. This is why it is important to give people chances to challenge themselves and excel, as well as giving them the support they need to thrive.

Prioritise

If you ever feel stuck or unsure of what your next path is, look to find a coach to help identify your strengths and where you can look to grow. Also, please be kind and honest with yourself by setting your priorities. By figuring out what is truly important, whether professionally or personally, you can achieve your goals and feel fulfilled.

There will be many instances where you’ll be at a crossroads between your career and personal life, such as if you’d like to start a family. From personal experience and seeing other women go through this, the transition to work after maternity leave can be a struggle. Therefore, you need to be proactive in asking your company to support you in finding the right balance and make family life and your career path work for you.  This requires also flexibility form a company.


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