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Diversity in Science: Making a Difference on Aging Brain Research

Discover how aging brain research benefits from diversity in science. And help address disparities in health by taking the MindCrowd online test.

When we learned about Dr. Huentelman’s MindCrowd project and his team of scientists, two things caught our attention. First, he achieved diversity in science. His team consists of more women than men with a variety of backgrounds. Next, his cognitive function and aging brain research study was designed to allow everybody to participate.

Achieving diversity in science is no simple feat. Science can benefit from the varied perspectives brought about by a diverse team. Each team member contributes different approaches to problem-solving and research analysis.

Not only has this team achieved diversity in science in their workplace, they also want to engage the largest and most diverse group of people to take part in the MindCrowd study. Many demographic groups (including women and Latinos) are often absent from clinical trials and scientific research studies. Minorities’ lifestyles, genetics and environmental factors are not studied or taken into account. This lack of representation has serious consequences like inaccurate findings and/or healthcare disparities.

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MindCrowd is the largest online scientific research of the aging process. Backed by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in collaboration with the Universities of Arizona, Miami, Emory and John Hopkins.

Its goal is to find out how to extend quality of life by helping people keep their cognitive abilities in old age. In simple terms, they are trying to help us keep our thinking, learning, understanding skills and working memory for as long as we live.

Given the impact of the study, we sat down with Dr. Matt Huentelman, TGen’s Professor of Neurogenomics and Dr. Carol Barnes, Regents Professor and Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Arizona, to learn about this powerful project and to listen to some of their insights on achieving diversity in science.

Bonus for those who read to the very end. These two scientists share their recommendations on dealing with COVID-19.

If you want to take part in the study, grab your laptop, desktop or tablet and visit mindcrowd.org. The test takes about 10 minutes, it’s like a video game and you will find out how your brain compares to others like you.

MindCrowd, the Most Diverse Aging Brain Research Online Study

Dr. Matt Huentelman envisions a future where successful aging prevents age-related disease. Discover how aging brain research benefits from diversity in science. And help address disparities in health by taking the MindCrowd online test.

Dr. Matt Huentelman envisions a future where successful aging prevents age-related disease.

RSM – Matt, what led you to study the aging brain?

MH – Aging has always fascinated me because of its complexity. Our differences in aging are due to our genetics, our lifestyle choices, the diseases we have, and even diseases we may have had and recovered from. The long-time frame of aging in the human being is such a tough thing to study… and I have always been attracted to that. The process of time – aging – amplifies our individual differences, which is both interesting and difficult to study at the same time.

RSM – Carol, are there similarities between the animals you have studied and the human aging brain?

CB – Yes, there are actually many similarities between them. I have been studying memory and the aging brain for over 4 decades in rats and monkeys. And there is one kind of memory we can test across animals – spatial memory.

That’s the kind of memory that allows you to remember your way home or where an object is in relation to another. Something you may have noticed people with Alzheimer’s dementia have trouble with.

Spatial memory worsens with age across every examined species, including humans. Of course, a rat is old at 2 years of age, monkeys at 22, and  humans at 65. So far, the fundamental biological process of “brain aging” is similar across species, but sped up in other animals compared to humans.

RSM – What is the difference between normal brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease?

CB – Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias are not part of normal aging. Furthermore, only humans develop Alzheimer’s disease – other animals do not. Thanks to this difference we are able to use these other animals to define what to expect for normal aging.

There are two consistent changes in normal brain aging. A lower number and reduced function of connections between brain cells or synapses. And a reduced ability to strengthen the connections made between cells that are thought to be the biological basis of memory.

So, in normal brain aging you may forget which word to use, you may lose things or make a bad decision once in a while. You may even forget what day it is but remember it later.

While Alzheimer’s usually occurs in an aging brain, its changes happen in a cell type that is well preserved in normal aging. Some warning signs of dementia are life disrupting memory loss, confusion with time and place, difficulty having a conversation or completing familiar tasks. The good new for us is that, only 14% of people over 70 have dementia symptoms.

Latinos are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. And they are severely under represented in scientific research studies for Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. Taking the MindCrowd memory and reaction time test can help scientists find out how to slow down brain aging.

And they are severely under represented in scientific research studies for Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. Help scientists learn more about the aging brain by taking a short memory game at MindCrowd.org

The MindCrowd Project: A Scientific Study of the Aging Brain

RSM – What is MindCrowd and what is it trying to achieve?

MH – MindCrowd is an online scientific research study of the brain whose ultimate goal is to learn how to slow down brain aging. That way, people can preserve their memory for their entire life. And by doing so, avoid diseases of learning and memory like Alzheimer’s.

To achieve this goal we need to engage one million participants with the most diverse backgrounds in the United States and the world.

RSM – Who should take the MindCrowd memory and attention test? Why?

MH – Everybody who wants to be represented in scientific research or is curious and would like to know how their brain compares to others like them. All they need to take the memory and reaction time test is to visit mindcrowd.org on a laptop, desktop or tablet.

Lack of representation in medical research often translates into health care disparities. Quite often, scientific research is done in person. That is not convenient for those who work full-time jobs, have more than one job, or live far away from a University. This results in a lack of scientific and medical information for these underrepresented groups of people. This can then translate into poorer medical care.

In short – the discoveries made in science and medicine are most specific for those groups who take part in scientific studies. We recognize that this is a problem, that some groups of our United States “melting pot” are being left out of research.

We hope that by conducting a study online, we can encourage everybody to be part of our human brain research and help end disparities in healthcare.

Participating in scientific research is a step towards addressing disparities in healthcare. Test your brain and be counted!

Participating in scientific research is a step towards addressing disparities in healthcare. Test your brain and be counted!

CB – We want to expand MindCrowd to include studies of people across the United States that are representative of the population. Most studies of cognitive health in aging have been small, cross-sectional, and geographically and ethnically constrained. We need to study more people so we can understand what groups will benefit most from what types of treatments.

A so-called Precision Medicine approach such as used in cancer research, is a must to understand how to avoid age related cognitive decline. We want to be in a position to guide public policy and health decisions, and to take the next steps to personalize intervention strategies. When we apply these approaches to the process of aging we call it Precision Aging.

How to Achieve Diversity in Science

RSM – What do you believe it takes to achieve diversity in science?

MH – I strongly believe that diversity in science is driven by actions that encourage participation by young students. We have to begin to encourage grade and high schoolers to consider science as a career. Help them understand that they can be leaders in high tech fields. So, I believe it starts with a focus on the young minds out there.

It is critical to develop and support programs that have a focus on the recruitment of diversity into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math-based fields). Support the teachers who foster and represent diversity in the grades and high schools. Help students of all types understand that their future is their own and that they can overcome any perceived pre-destiny.

I admit that it is a tall order. That our society for all of its opportunities has competing stereotypes that serve to push certain groups away from some careers. However, in science, we thrive on creativity and differing viewpoints and world views… so I really view a lack of diversity as a disservice to science and medicine.

CB – I served in many service capacities at the Society for Neuroscience, including President. One of the working groups I was involved in was tasked to try to figure out why there are so few female Full Professors in Neuroscience. At that time it was about 11%. While there are about 50% women graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, somewhere after that we start to lose women – the classic “leaky pipeline.”

No one has a good answer, of course – other than active mentoring, and developing support groups.

The situation is even more severe with respect to achieving ethnic diversity in science – where the numbers are even more extreme. Most now think we need to start at early ages to show kids how amazing STEM can be. Getting them to actively participate and realize they can be ‘good at science.’ But first, we need to tackle as a nation health and wealth disparities that need not exist.

Diversity in science: Making a Difference on Aging Brain Research

Diversity in science: Making a Difference on Aging Brain Research

RSM – What would be your message for women who are considering a career into STEM?

CB – Find out what really keeps your attention – find something you are passionate about – and, if it is in the STEM field – I say go for it!! There will be challenges to overcome as in any area of life – but I believe the key is to follow your heart with respect to where your passion is.

Every day I feel lucky to be in a position to ‘go in and learn and discover something new.’ My determination to understand brain aging and memory so that I can help people maintain their brain health is truly sustaining. To be sure, there are obstacles to overcome for women in STEM – but if we don’t fight to do and excel at what we love – we all lose.

I’ve gotten many awards for my work and have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. But the award I treasure most is the Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award for mentoring women in neuroscience. So, a final word – once you find your stride in STEM – encourage others.

COVID-19 Recommendations for Dementia Caregivers

RSM – What are your recommendations for people who live and care for others with age related memory issues during this quarantine?

MH – For the caregivers, life during stay-at-home orders and quarantine can be especially challenging. Here are some suggestions that are important to consider.

Keep yourself well: This is the time for the caregiver to pay special attention to themselves. Follow the basic precautions, such as hand washing, physical distancing, don’t touch your face, and clean high touch surfaces (like doorknobs) frequently, and follow the guidelines about face coverings.

Keep others well: Remember that you can carry the virus and not show symptoms. So, when you are in public you should wear a mask.

Think of others, think of the people those you encounter will be in contact with and make sure you protect them. After all, it’s not only about you. This is a pandemic.

Keep physical distance but don’t socially isolate: It is critical to protect the most vulnerable by observing physical distancing guidelines, but we cannot let this slip into social isolation. We know that a lack of social interactions has a negative effect on the brain. Humans, by nature, are social animals and this aspect of the pandemic is perhaps one of the most significant.

Be creative about ways to keep in touch with loved ones. Each case is different, but consider video visits, phone calls, and writing letters. There are many games that can be played online with a loved one. And sometimes listening to music together or sharing a meal on a video call can be calming.

COVID-19 Recommendations for Dementia Caregivers: Keep physical distance but don't socially isolate

COVID-19 Recommendations for Dementia Caregivers.

Carol A. Barnes, Ph.D.

Regents Professor, Psychology, Neurology and Neuroscience
Evelyn F. McKnight Chair for Learning and Memory in Aging
Director, Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute
Director, Division of Neural Systems, Memory and Aging
University of Arizona

Matt Huentelman Ph.D.

Professor, Neurogenomics Division
Scientific Director, Center for Rare Childhood Disorders
Head, Neurobehavioral Research Unit
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)

What will we and the world be like when this is over?

Gustavo Carvajal is the #IDEAcatalyst, an open-hearted and open-minded thinker with a passion for dreaming ideas and sharing them with a world that he wants to improve and make more flexible. Today he tells us what we will be like when this is over.

Gustavo Carvajal Red Shoe Leader Award

Gustavo Carvajal- Winner of 2019 Red Shoe Leader Award

Gustavo Carvajal, one of the winners of the Red Shoe Leader Award 2019, and the creative mind behind some of our most successful communication campaigns, is a coolhunter and anti-marketer born in Bogotá who has resided in New York for many years. From the Big Apple, he shares his unique, fresh, and multicultural perspective through #IdeaTherapy consulting sessions.

Briefly: this is his story. The #IDEAcatalyst shares his passion for ideas through #IdeaTherapy: creative consulting sessions for marketing and communication. Gustavo has contributed his qualitative experience in advertising agencies, thus promoting his Coolhunting platform. He specializes in marketing and communications for lifestyle and social causes.

Before settling in New York, he worked in the film and television industries. He was part of the international marketing teams at Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and Disney. Gustavo is the International Cultural Ambassador of the Patronage Ruta de la Amistad – World Monuments Watch 2012.

Lover of dynamic ideas, Gustavo believes in the importance of being empathetic in the ways in which we communicate with each other, especially in a world that feels vulnerable as a result of the new normal. We are, the IDEACatalyst says, in an era where emotional intelligence needs the effective use of our “EQ” (emotional quotient) for necessary societal changes to take place.

We spoke with Gustavo about the way the world is changing, the repercussion of these changes on each one of us and how things will be when this is over.

We have to work together to create a better future. An inspirational quote by Gustavo Carvajal #IDEAcatalyst

We have to work together to create a better future. An inspirational quote by Gustavo Carvajal #IDEAcatalyst

Anti-Marketing: An Important Tool for When This Is Over

Aline Cerdán – Please tell us about anti-marketing? What is it and how does it work?

Gustavo Carvajal –Innovating, frequently means to step out of our ‘comfort zone’, which affects costs, production processes and interaction dynamics. It also requires an open-minded leadership and causes an increased risk for the operation.

Today, forced confinement has promoted introspection as a vehicle to search for trails leading to the light at the end of the tunnel. This healthy exercise is not frequently applied within work teams, even less so at the level of companies and their ecosystems.

The starting point of anti-marketing must be at least a certain ignorance about the new product or service. This way, the team can discover it as a consumer as well as define the type of communication matrix that is most appropriate for launch or sustainability campaigns.

Part of the creativity must be applied to the renewal of marketing strategies, so that communication about products and services is not just aesthetic ‘noise’. Anti-marketing can definitely stimulate a jump-start and the visualization of how we are going to position ourselves within the ‘new normal’ world that is already happening.

AC – How do you think life will be transformed as a result of the restrictions brought by the global pandemic? How will things be when this is over?

GC–We will live at a distance. With events that will be impossible to attend physically, but that we will be attend virtually. There probably won’t be a shortage of virtual therapy sessions when someone discovers that they’ve been left out of a Zoom party. People won’t be able to claim that the invitation was lost in the mail and an entire digital etiquette manual will be built on the fly, just as new pathologies will be added to the catalog. Instead of “spiritual” retreats, more and more digital detoxes will have to be made available.

At the other end of the equation, there will be classes to rescue the art of interacting in real-time with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. We’ll all have to learn to ‘digest’ losses, where the feelings of mourning will be even more intimate, since the absence of social rituals will not allow us to face them as a group. There is a risk of becoming colder in difficult situations, but hopefully not indolent.

Creativity will rescue us when this is over- Photo Credit- Sharon Mccutcheon-Unsplash

Creativity will rescue us when this is over- Photo Credit- Sharon Mccutcheon-Unsplash

When This is Over: No More Business as Usual

AC– What is “GloCal” and what part will it play in our lives when this is over? How do you think we’re already being redefined by this concept?

GC – The social distancing that’s bound to continue and the more widespread adoption of home office setting will lead to the impracticality of the use of mass transit services. This will determine the existence of demographic groups that won’t be able to leave their communities, in addition to the highly vulnerable groups and the most cautious sectors that will not be able to travel.

I have always known that the more ‘local’ you are, the more ‘global’ you can resonate. This applies to both rural and urban settings. This concept is a tool that we could use with our friends and neighbors to be more aware of the resources at hand.

Today, great talent inserted in the community can find possibilities of expression in existing organizations or new groups so that unsuspected collaborations can blossom at a global level. This will be new support networks that create community and at the same time interact with the networks that each member currently has.

When this is over- Photo Credit- Annie Spratt-Unsplash

When this is over- Photo Credit- Annie Spratt-Unsplash

Entertainment and Our “New Essentials”

AC – How will new essentials be defined? How will consumption change when this is over?

GC – Lifestyles are evolving rapidly. In the recent past, the fascination with a brand was based on the wide variety it offered. The “New Normal”, as the prevailing reality, can mark the return to a more generic product, both due to the production capacity, price, availability of supplies and the desire to buy local to rebuild communities.

During their quarantine, a revealing number of consumers have discovered a series of expenditures that were inserted into their daily agenda in a mechanical way, like a routine. This circumstance opens the opportunity to discover ourselves beyond being “Objects for Consumption” and to review how we invest our time and resources. Our real choices.

With more people telecommuting, it will be vital to find more pioneers and promoters who are focused on promoting stores and small business. Individuals integrated into the neighborhood for consumers to explore in more intimate and controlled spaces. This format would refute the ‘Destination Store’ that has been promoted so aggressively and which we have repeatedly turned to. This moment is an opportunity to adjust our “essentials”.

AC – How do you feel areas like entertainment and tourism will be transformed when this is over?   

GC – Currently multiple platforms have been delivering content for free. But behind each piece of content there are creators. When it comes to culture, it’s important to stop to think that the talent behind the creations has also been impacted by this. The operating models of companies and organizations must include this factor even more when planning for various future scenarios.

The availability of tons of content promoted to “kill time” does not help the solution. This is all the more paradoxical when audiences, now truly captive, discover that many of the content forms are not designed to be consumed in‘ loop ’24/7.

Media overstimulation requires periods of silence. It is imperative that we all learn to spend more time with ourselves. As a personal opportunity for reflection and human recharge.

Likewise, there are examples of active citizens who provide well-being to communities that come together around particular interests. This is the case of a young Iberian poet who just in March was scheduled to launch her book in South America. For obvious reasons, this was postponed. However, in conversations with friends, they came up with a very poetic solution … #PoesiaEnTuSofa (#PoetryFromYourCouch) via Instagram.

In the end, we have all been affected in one way or another by this global circumstance. Perhaps the way to face vulnerability is through the force of hope and the multiple manifestations it has…in my case, in the form of poetry that emerges in the spring.

Ideas for when this is over

Ideas for when this is over

Imagination to the Rescue!

AC – You believe creativity will be the basis of productivity, can you elaborate a little?

GC – The average marketing professional has had a “One-Size-Fits-All” approach when it comes to providing answers to consumers. Over time, we have found that this approach is too limiting.

In a way, we have to understand that we are all creative and that we can make creativity intrinsic to everyday moments. It would be beneficial if we understood the creative process as an integral part of productivity and not exclusively as a playful exercise.

We can only build a “new future” if we have an “out-of-the-past” attitude to be part of the solution, we all have to put our hearts, minds and hands to work. Feel, think and DO.

AC – How can we go from reactive to proactive?

GC – Although such an unexpected circumstance initially implies a natural attitude of reaction, we as a community must have an aptitude for action. It is a call to use the sense of ingenuity for community well-being and thus build ties, lasting bonds that design and forge the future.

It is time to take advantage of flexible, future-oriented thinking – with the ability to adjust the sails to the wind, to challenges – and exercising a leadership which includes empathy. It is a time to experiment solutions and get “modest big” common achievements.

In the end, all of us have simultaneously learned during these weeks to live without some things that we previously considered absolutely essential. It is time to focus on the “On/Off” interaction with our surrounding environment. And above all, it’s time for a much-needed personal, family, community, and business introspection. So, as a group, we can make life a little bit better.

Follow Gustavo Carvajal’s #IDEAcatalyst #IdeaTherapy

Instagram: @IdeaCatalyst

Twitter: @IdeaCatalyst1

Female Entrepreneur Takes on Shoemaking in Nigeria

We live in a time when it seems to be getting a little easier to be a female entrepreneur in many areas of the world. Yet in Nigeria, for a courageous, passionate shoemaker, building a business in a male dominated field is still an uphill battle. Don’t miss this inspiring interview with Olamide Ogunsanya!

A creative and versatile footwear innovator and trainer with a fantastic eye for detail, product design and development, Olamide Orgunsanya is among the very few female entrepreneurs in Nigeria that is pursuing shoemaking while empowering young people and women to acquire the right skills to become financially stable.

Committed to education and knowledge transfer, Olamide is a seasoned trainer with The Lifematics Center. She uses an experiential and engaging approach in delivering content. She is a dynamic educator, lover of children and runs training and workshop for math educators across the country. She volunteers with One African Child Foundation where she helps in the development of training curricula and serves as the head trainer. She’s also a certified educator with The Teaching Network Foundation. Today we talk to her about her love for making shoes and helping others discover their own passions.

Olamide Orgunsanya shows her showmaking skills

Olamide Ogunsanya, a female entrepreneur, shows her showmaking skills

How did you start in your path as a female entrepreneur? Tell us about your business and why you chose shoemaking.

I started my path as female entrepreneur years back as an undergraduate. I loved making shoes, so I went ahead to meet a trainer who gave me an outrageous price, which I could not afford as a student. It was really a hard time for me because friends and family didn’t see what I was seeing. I saw myself in an unusual profession for ladies.

So I took up the challenge to start selling plantain chips and some other items just to raise funds for my training fee to realize my dream to be a graduate of shoemaking and acquire skills in footwear production from an institution. I couldn’t afford the training fee until I graduated from school. I kept my money to be able to attend the training after graduation at which time I enrolled and was trained by one of the leading shoe making institutions in my country. I will be forever grateful that I was able to achieve part of my big dream as a female entrepreneur.

Today, as female entrepreneur I own a training base and solution hub for a beauty brand that deals with shoemaking and makeovers. I focus on two key areas: production and training of women and unemployed youth. Our company helps bring out the essential beauty in every individual. The target audience for our products and services are children, youngsters and adults. We specialize in building different kinds of slip-ons and unisex shoes. We create a memorable look for our clients through our makeover.

Understanding the true essence of looking good in this 21st century our vision is to give essence to beauty. The company is called Beauty Matics and it’s registered under the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

I hope to acquire more skill in shoemaking and footwear production from a world- renowned shoemaking institution.

Here’s a great organization for Latina entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Shoemaking in Nigeria by a female entrepreneur

Shoemaking in Nigeria by a female entrepreneur

What’s unique about your designs?

When it comes to designing, I try to use color, a mix of materials and to modify existing designs. And most importantly, I take into consideration the style and expression of my target audience. They like elegance, simplicity and comfort.

We know you train people in your field. What does it take to become a really good shoemaker?

To become a good shoemaker, you have to really have a thorough knowledge of your materials because materials have a lot to do with the outcome. The second thing I will highlight is having an eye for detail. Making sure that your final product has the kind of aesthetic appeal that will get the attention of your client. For that, you need to be detailed oriented in your design and production. Lastly you need a lot of practice, particularly when you are a female entrepreneur. Practice is like polish; it will ultimately make your skill glitter. 

Olamide Orgunsanya of Nigeria teaches children

Olamide Ogunsanya of Nigeria teaches children

Do you know a lot of other women shoemakers? Who are they?

Yes quite a number of females are becoming shoemakers and for me as a female entrepreneur, that is inspiring. I have female shoemakers who I trained as well as others I met in various networking platforms. They include Bunmi Giwa, Otobe, Christy Ezemba, Adebukunola, and Choima Madueke of Madulabels.

How common is to be a female entrepreneur in Nigeria?

There are quite a number of female entrepreneurs in Nigeria and I believe the level of interest is very high. You can find them in occupations that are natural to women such as fashion designing, makeover, hairdressing, and male dominated occupations such as shoemaker, mechanic, etc. What has been a challenge is having an environment and the funding that enable these female entrepreneurs to thrive. I use myself as a case study of female entrepreneur in my country Nigeria.

Olamide Orgunsanya a Nigerian shoemaker offers inspiration to female entrepreneurs

Olamide Orgunsanya a Nigerian shoemaker offers inspiration to female entrepreneurs

Female entrepreneurs helping each other

Where do female entrepreneurs get support to carry out their business in your country?

We rarely get financial support because nobody is ready to invest in startup businesses. So most female entrepreneurs end up giving up their dreams due to lack of financial support. Emotionally it’s not always easy to combine the pressure from works, family and friends who don’t belief in our dreams. We end up being a mentor to each other or to ourselves.

Tell us about your network of female entrepreneurs. Do you attend conferences together, collaborate with one another?

I’ve being to several conferences. The most recent one that I attended was at Addis Ababa where I was able to connect with like-minded people. Now we are able to assist each other through mentorship and support strictly for women via our online platform. I can say it has been effective and tremendously helpful for empowering women ever since I returned to my country.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young female entrepreneur, what would it be?

Keep striving hard and don’t give up on your dream because people are watching you.

Connect with Olamide via Twitter  Facebook or via email at ogunsanyaolamide@ymail.com

And as always, if you’re ready to pursue your passion and need to build some skills, join our Step Up program. We have individual memberships. 🙂

 

Ladies: Find Your Dream Job with Fairygodboss by Your Side

If you’re ready to find your dream job you landed on the right page. Meet the people who are connecting women to great places to work.

How often have you tried and failed to find your dream job stepping instead into another organization ill prepared to nurture your potential? The truth is that until fairly recently, it wasn’t that easy to know enough about a company’s culture before you signed up for the position. Much harder to figure out how committed to a woman’s career trajectory it was. But Fairygodboss is changing that with a marketplace where professional women looking for jobs, career advice and the inside scoop on companies meet employers who believe in gender equality.

Today we talk to Georgene Huang, Fairygodboss’s CEO and co-founder, a leader obsessed with improving the workplace for women. A graduate of Cornell and Stanford Universities, Georgene ran the enterprise business at Dow Jones and was a Managing Director at Bloomberg Ventures before co-founding her new venture.

Georgene Huang CEO Fairygodboss

Georgene Huang CEO Fairygodboss

RSM— For a large part of your career you worked for large organizations. What prompted you to start Fairygodboss?

Georgene Huang (GH) —Fairygodboss was born from a personal experience I had while job searching and two months pregnant. I was in an executive role, looking for a job and not telling people in my interviews that I was pregnant. I wanted to ask about maternity leave policies, how much face time a company required, how flexible it was in terms of working hours and whether there were women and other mothers in senior management. I felt that asking these questions outright was taboo in 2015 and is still taboo in 2017. It meant risking negative judgments of myself even though I was — and remain — incredibly career oriented.

Fairygodboss is a safe place where women can hear from other women about their job and workplace experiences and ask questions of each other without worrying about judgment. You may get different opinions from women on Fairygodboss but everyone will give it to you straight.

Fairygodboss a marketplace to improve workplaces for women

Fairygodboss a marketplace to improve workplaces for women

How hard is it to find your dream job?

RSM— What makes it challenging if you are a woman to find your dream job?

GH— Women still face an unequal playing field for a number of social and cultural reasons even at the most egalitarian and inclusive of companies. Women in our society tend to bear the brunt of caretaking (whether for children, relatives or parents.) As a result, many women tend to have more to juggle in their lives beyond work and if you find a dream job, it often comes with demands that you are always on, always present and available. This is completely compatible with caretaking if the company allows you to be flexible and has a supportive culture and policies — but it can be hard to figure this out in advance.

A great read on best ways to find a job by Susan Landon.

RSM— How exactly does Fairygodboss help women find their dream jobs?

GH— Everyone’s dream job looks slightly different. Some want the corner office and executive role while for others, a dream job is simply one where their work-life balance, vacations and paid time off are respected, and they are paid and promoted fairly at the same time. We don’t assume any individual woman wants the same thing as another woman, which is why our platform let’s women’s individual voices speak for themselves. Fairygodboss’ role is to let women’s opinions help other women figure out whether a job, department or company is the right employer for them.

Fairygodboss can help you find your dream job

Fairygodboss can help you find your dream job

RSM— What are some of the most candid insights women share about their workplaces on your site that they don’t on others?

GH— A small group of women bravely discuss sensitive and personal topics such as sexual harassment experiences or learning about being paid unequally to men doing similar work (or even that report to them.) Some of them will share what their manager or HR did in response to complaints about these things. Thankfully this is a minority of women in our community. Most seem to hold and share balanced views about things their employers are getting right and areas where they could improve. A lot of women also tend to weigh in their salaries, work-life balance, flexibility, the promotion track for women and whether there is a good maternity leave policy. We’ve created crowd-sourced databases around each of these topics as a result.

RSM— Your website offers inside scoops on pay, benefits and culture. Is all this information posted by individual users or do you gather independent info as well?

GH— Almost all of the information on our site about pay, benefits and culture comes from female employees’ mouths, directly. The only places that are an exception to this are official company profiles (labeled clearly as such) where employers that Fairygodboss partners with elect to share that information from their point of view.

RSM— As a woman, what should you look at when evaluating an organization where you might find your dream job?

GH— You should do all your homework. Use Fairygodboss to read what other women say, and to connect with women who work at a company (you can message women anonymously in our community if you sign up and leave a job review yourself.) However, don’t just stop there if you’re seriously trying to find your dream job. Talk to people in your personal network, ask them to introduce you to others who’ve worked there and read everything you can about the company even from an editorial, news or social media perspective. Try to see if what you hear and read is relatively consistent across different sources to get at the truth of what it’s like to work somewhere.

Georgene Huang CEO & co-founder Fairygodboss

Georgene Huang CEO & co-founder Fairygodboss

RSM— Do you see real efforts being made by organizations towards attracting and retaining more women? What are some of those efforts you’ve seen?

GH— Yes, absolutely. Our mission at Fairygodboss is to improve the workplace for women. We do this by creating transparency and highlighting best practices at employers, so obviously we have learned about some amazing programs employers are using to attract and retain women. Women share openly with us what they think works and employers tend to ask us what other employers do, as well.

We’ve heard that mentorship and sponsorship programs are incredibly important to individual women. Women care a lot about the ability to have and take maternity leave — and think its important their companies also offer gender neutral benefits so that the probability of taking a full, extended parental leave is not stigmatizing. Flexibility and flexible working policies that are official (as opposed to case-by-case depending on your manager) are also viewed as very important by women who have care-taking responsibilities or strong outside work interests. Any employer who has been brave enough to tackle the issue of equal pay and correcting any discrepancies in this area (e.g. Salesforce and their pay gap audit) are also seen to be taking real action to improve gender quality.

Great piece on how to prepare for a job interview by Lily Benjamin
Fairygodboss a a place to find your dream job

Fairygodboss a a place to find your dream job

RSM— Your site is a job board as well. Do companies review resumes submitted on line? Any suggestions on how to use the job board to maximize the potential to find your dream job?

GH— Yes we list jobs from companies who are our partners — by definition, they are companies that are committed to transparency and gender equality. Our partners connect their job listings to our site and every company’s application process is unique, but in general requires a resume to be submitted to them. You can always send an email to us at info@fairygodboss.com if you don’t see a job opportunity that you’re interested in but want us to keep an eye out for you. Next year, we’ll be starting to match candidates and employers based on profiles that users may create with us, so keep an eye out for that!

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Skills and Talents of Pianist Make for Great Perfumer

So many of us grew up thinking that you need to have specific skills and talents to enter a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) That unless you are a nerd with a highly analytical and logical mind, you couldn’t enter the field. Today we interview a mother and daughter who prove our assumption wrong.

For the past 24 years, Judith (Jude) Hollingshead has developed perfumes for Olay, Pantene, Herbal Essence, Fabreze, Pampers and other P&G brands. Mind you, there are only around a thousand perfumers in the world.

Judith Hollingshead had the skills and talents of a pianist. She ended up studying Chemistry and entering a career as a perfumer.

Judith Hollingshead had the skills and talents of a pianist. She ended up studying Chemistry and entering a career as a perfumer.

When I first met her I was curious about what skills and talents are required to be a perfumer and how does someone even decide to become one. The answer surprised me and I wanted to share it with you. See, Jude is not the stereotypical nerd most of us imagine would choose chemistry as a career plan. She was a piano player who studied Chemistry and became a perfumer. And most of it happened because someone saw skills and talents in her that she didn’t yet see.

Because she was always curious and willing to try new things she explored the possibilities presented by others and has had an incredibly successful career as a result. Along the way she has raised, as a single mother, two children. Her daughter Shealyn, a very artistic child, is now finishing her sophomore year as a student of Chemical Engineering at Ohio University – Russ School of Engineering. We talk to both of them about their unusual experience.

Skills and talents required for the job

MD- You are currently a perfumer at P&G. What skills and talents does your job require?

Judith Hollingshead in the P&G lab

Judith Hollingshead in the P&G lab

JH- Perfumery is a blend of Art and Science. A perfume is made up of a blend of

100’s of individual ingredients. A perfumer needs to understand how the ingredients’ smell and how they blend together to form specific odor. For example, an orange is made of materials XYZ, and an Apple is made up of materials ABYZ. A perfumist needs to understand how all the 1000’s of materials smell and how to combine them to achieve a specific and pleasant odor.

So the skill necessary to become a perfumist is, first and foremost, an excellent sense of smell. Another skill that is a close second in importance is the joy of smelling, and desire to constantly want to push out on the boundaries of what is possible. Most perfumers are never satisfied with the perfumes they make, they are constantly working on making them better.

MD- Did you grow up wanting to be a perfumer?

JH- I grew up in the Midwest in the USA. I had a very traditional family. My mother was a stay at home mom who managed the family and my father was a banker

Some of the most important skills and talents Judith Hollingshead transferred from being a talented pianist into chemistry were her perseverance and drive to achieve perfection in her work.

Some of the most important skills and talents Judith Hollingshead transferred from being a talented pianist into chemistry were her perseverance and drive to achieve perfection in her work.

with a 9-5 job. I was not even aware that the career of perfumer was a possibility. In fact, I grew up not even thinking about having a “career” because I did not have very many role model females in my life for this. Throughout my childhood I studied piano, and as I got into my teen years I began to think about what I would do for the rest of my life. Since piano was such an integral part of my life it made sense that continuing to study music, specifically as a performance major in college, would be my course of action. And I pursued that thru about my senior year in High school. It was that year, that my High School Chemistry/ Physics teacher approached me to discuss my high aptitude for Chemistry, Math and Physic. And encouraged me to investigate this as career and major in College.

I am always up to trying new ideas so I began to investigate this direction as an alternative. I found the world of science that year and while I still play piano today and love classical music, I have never regretted becoming a scientist/Perfumer!

We can help you explore your interests and passions at any level of your career! Sign up for our Step Up Program!

MD- Which of the skills and talents needed to be a concert pianist could you transfer to a career in Chemistry?

JH- The most important skill that transfers from music performance to chemistry/perfumery is hard work, tenacity and the pursuit of perfection

As a performer you must work hard and practice constantly to get a piece to perfection. This is the same for perfume experiments. We are constantly reworking the blend of ingredients to make the perfume the most perfect execution of the idea that we have in our head.

Both represent a sensorial experience. A piano performance is an auditory sensory experience and a perfume is an olfactive sensory experience. And both should give the receiver of the experience a sense of pleasure and enjoyment.

Sometimes people see in you things you still don't. The interviewer at P&G saw in Judith's extra curricular activities something they were looking for. A creative person with a hard science background.

Sometimes people see in you things you still don’t. The interviewer at P&G saw in Judith’s extra curricular activities something they were looking for. A creative person with a hard science background.

MD- What exactly did you think you’d do in this field?

JH- My high school teacher was a huge influence to help me understand I had an aptitude for the hard sciences and the job opportunities that were available.

I realized that while I could always have music with me, that science was a new pursuit I would have to learn.

In college, I fully immersed myself into my science studies, I was not sure what I wanted to do, but as I went to Graduate school to pursue my doctorate, I started working in the area of superconductors and semi –conductors. This was an emerging area, and I loved the research.

It was only after I finished graduate school and started to investigate potential companies that the idea of becoming a perfumer became an option.

Definition of perfumer

Definition of perfumer

As part of the job placement services at Iowa State University, our resumes are posted for recruiting companies to review and request interviews.   Procter and Gamble chose me to interview. I had no intention of seriously considering working for P&G because they did not do work research in the area I had focused on in my studies. I was frankly surprised that they even wanted to interview me.

The interview took a strange turn as the interviewer did not ask me about my research or my work in chemistry, as was the case with all my other interviews. He continually probed me on the hobbies I listed on my resume: playing piano and needlework.

I finally asked him about this and he told me that P&G was interested in someone with a strong scientific background and with a strong interest, skills and talent in artistic, creative endeavors. He explained the job of perfumers, and I was immediately intrigued by the idea of being able to use both my creative, artistic side and my technical work. I loved the idea so much I took the chance and shifted my career to perfumery.

Here's a post about an orthopedic surgeon "I find my passion in the most unexpected places."

Like mother like daughter

MD- Shealyn, you are finishing your sophomore year in college. You’re studying Chemical Engineering but you also have the skills and talent to follow an artistic career. What made you decide to give engineering a shot?

Shealyn Holligshead

Shealyn Holligshead

SH- My mom was very persistent in showing me that I would exceed in my academic endeavors as a woman in STEM even though she knew I would be successful in the art field. What really persuaded me to turn my attention to STEM was that she showed me a Ted Talk by Debbie Sterling about a woman in the engineering field. This Ted Talk was about how Debbie created a children’s toy for young girls that will inspire them to build and create like most boy toys that are currently sold today. Her point was that most girl toys, like Barbie’s, teach girls at a young age to focus on building relationships not physical things.

Deb’s talk discussed her struggle to get through school as a woman in STEM, and then on getting her toy design to the market. This Ted Talk really caught my attention, and I decided that I should give STEM a shot because I have the creative ability to innovate. I just needed to apply this ability to a more advanced curriculum to create/innovate more practical inventions that I believe can have a larger impact on the world.

MD- Jude, what are some of the aspects of your career that you love the most?

JH- In my job I get to develop a perfume that is used by millions of consumers. I consider myself very lucky to be able to touch peoples live and make them more enjoyable. I love the ability to work on perfume design for our products. A tremendous amount of effort goes into making sure the right perfume gets combined with the right product at P&G. In addition to that, in other parts of my job, I get to also work on technical upstream research this allows me to use my technical scientific talents. I have the best of both worlds.

Skills and talents needed to enter a career in STEM

MD- From your own individual experiences, what recommendations do you have for young women and their mothers regarding careers in STEM? Do people need to have a specific set of skills and talents or should a wider range of women give careers in STEM a try?

JH- Having a career in the STEM field can be exceptionally rewarding and I believe we need more women to bring their viewpoints to the problems of today. So many women are brought up to believe that they are nurturing, caring or creative and that this is the direct opposite of STEM. It is a misconception that STEM careers require highly logical and analytical mindsets. In reality, we need MORE highly Creative people to be trained in STEM to develop new Inventions and solve today’s problems in NEW and CREATIVE ways.

If you have creative skills and talents you (or your child) may find great satisfaction in a STEM career. Make sure to explore the possibilities!

If you have creative skills and talents you (or your child) may find great satisfaction in a STEM career. Make sure to explore the possibilities!

Another post on finding your passion with your nose you'll love.

SH- When I talk to young women who are considering going into the STEM field, the first thing they ask is, “how hard is the schooling and the work?” It took me aback the first few times I heard this because I never considered this when I chose Chemical Engineering. Maybe this was because my mom is a woman in STEM and my whole life I saw how possible it was to succeed in this field. I never considered the difficulty. But being asked this many times has given me the chance to really consider how to answer this question. It has led me to my most common recommendation for young women:

Whatever you choose to do for your education and/or work life is going to be difficult whether it is STEM or not. It is going to take a lot of work and effort to be successful in any field you choose. So, if you are interested in STEM fields, go for it!

My experience has been that every class I have taken has been nothing but foreign and intimidating to me. The only way to get through it is to just apply yourself and do the work. Eventually, it won’t be so foreign and intimidating. After working thru a class for 15 weeks, by the end, you will be close to mastering the material if you put in the work. I strongly believe that a wider range of women should give STEM a try, especially if you have any interest in science, math or technology.

I would never recommend it, however, to someone who has no interest in these topics.

 

You can connect with Jude Hollingshead via email at Hollingshead.JA@pg.com or on Linkedin: Judith Hollingshead.

She shares her artistic endeavors (weaving, sewing quilts, knitting and other lace making techniques) on her Instagram: Judeh22

You can reach Shealyn Hollingshead at: ShealynHollingshead@gmail.com or on Linkedin under Shealyn Hollingshead.