Inforum, a statewide women’s networking nonprofit, is kicking off its 10th year in the region with an event tonight featuring an Amway VP.
The event will be held in Grand Rapids, from 5-7:30 p.m., at Thousand Oaks Golf Club, at 4100 Thousand Oaks Dr. NE.
The event is at capacity, but there may be room for walk-ins.
Audra Davies, VP of health, beauty and home product development at Amway, will be the evening’s keynote speaker.
Davies has more than 20 years of experience in product development leadership roles, focusing primarily on product formulation and performance substantiation for products based on bioactive materials.
She holds several patents related to formulation and functionality of natural plant materials. She has also authored several publications on plant chemistry. In addition, Davies has partnered with global scientific societies to coordinate conference series dedicated to phytochemicals and has collaborated with Tufts University and Interleukin Genetics on an international conference series focusing on nutrigenomics.
She oversees the discovery, formulation and substantiation efforts for Amway nutrition, beauty, personal care and home care product development. She also leads research and development support efforts around the Nutrilite Health Institute Center for Optimal Health, as well as industry and scientific sponsorship efforts for the Nutrilite brand.
“We are thrilled to welcome Audra Davies to kick off our 10-year anniversary celebration in West Michigan,” said Terry Barclay, president and CEO, Inforum and Inforum Center for Leadership.
Women lag in STEM roles
Davies said she plans to share her personal story, contributors to her success and the impact of her leadership at Amway on the launch of products and research programs that benefit human health and well-being.
Davies is still a bit of a rarity — a woman employed in a science-related field.
Typically, jobs in science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM, continue to show large disparities between female and male employees. In fact, a 2013 U.S. Census report showed that male science and engineering graduates are employed in a STEM occupation at twice the rate of women.
“We need to encourage and believe in each other and coach and mentor women into STEM areas,” Davies said. “These continue to be male-dominated fields, but there are many opportunities for women as these fields continue to grow.”
Davies said it is still uncomfortable for many women who do venture into these fields.
“Sometimes we’re helping to chart new territory, and we don’t always have a roadmap,” she said. “It may be uncomfortable at first, but we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable — that is when we are growing and developing as STEM professionals and leaders.”
Davies noted her own struggles and challenges as she advanced in her career.
“Confidence in one’s own abilities is a challenge for many, and it’s been a challenge for me at certain points in my career,” she said. “Mentors and experiences have shaped my confidence in my own abilities and having the determination and push when you weren’t sure how things were going to turn out has been essential.”
Davies is a big proponent of mentorship. She said she has benefitted throughout her career from several different mentors, both male and female. She encourages others to help mentor the next generation of STEM women.
“It is critical that we pay it forward and encourage and open the next generation of young leaders to the breadth of possibilities and opportunities,” she said.
Additionally, she said employers could see big changes in the number of women moving into leadership positions by simply offering more flexibility.
“As women, we often have many demands on us beyond our career commitments and a little bit of flexibility in the workplace can be a game-changer in work-life balance,” she said.
Inforum plans to hold a series of special events and activities throughout 2015, culminating with a capstone event on Nov. 10, featuring Susan Packard, co-founder of Scripps Networks Interactive, whose media portfolio includes HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, Cooking Channel and the Travel Channel.