International Day of Women in Science
Waving the Flag for Women in STEM

Celebrating Mars’ Women in STEM for International Women and Girls in Science Day

To celebrate the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11) we’re shining a spotlight on some of our standout female Associates making waves in science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM) at Mars.

Across our business, women are at the forefront of pioneering research, tackling complex issues, from the impact of climate change to automation and artificial intelligence (AI). The women in STEM at Mars persistently push boundaries as they solve complicated problems with new ideas, methods and technologies that are positively impacting the way we do business.

Lauren Belomy, a digital transformation lead for our Digital Demand team, evaluates the benefits of foundational and emerging technologies, from content data management to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Her favorite project has been growing peanuts using digital automation.

“Growing up in Silicon Valley, I always knew I wanted to work in tech,” says Lauren. “In my job, I feel like I’m helping build the future. By prototyping and experimenting, I aim to develop new ways of working which enable meaningful change.”

Lauren, who has worked in tech since finishing college, advises young women who are interested in a career in STEM to connect with as many people as possible. “Go to STEM-related meetups and events. Listening to other people’s stories will help you find your own focus,” she says. “The more you involve yourself in that community, the more opportunities will open up for you.”

Val Maldonado, a senior engineer of process development for Fruity Confections, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, also managed to turn her passion for STEM into a successful career. A self-proclaimed ‘science nerd’, Val was inspired to blend her love of science with her love of confectionery after a family trip to a candy factory when she was just ten.

“My main focus at Mars is the development of new Starburst ® products, and determining which technology or equipment we need to bring new ideas to life,” says Chicago-based Val. “Thinking about how customers will react to new products keeps my job interesting.”

Val is confident anyone with an interest in STEM can make a career out of it. “You don’t have to conform to a stereotypical idea of how a scientist, for example, looks or acts. Women working in STEM are so diverse, and the industry is full of characters with unique personalities, interests and lifestyles. The main thing is, if you enjoy it, go for it!”

Ashley Allen, a climate and land senior manager in Sustainability, knew she had a passion for science at a very young age. “When I was in high school, my local newspaper dubbed me a ‘recycling crusader’ for my environmental clean-up efforts and can-collecting habit. My passion soon turned into a career and I ended up working at the U.S. State Department promoting clean energy and climate-smart agriculture solutions in developing countries and helping negotiate the international Paris Agreement on climate change.”

Now, Ashley works at our McLean headquarters to advance sustainable development around the world through our Sustainable in a Generation Plan. She helps lead our efforts to take action on climate change by cutting the company’s carbon footprint across its full value chain by 2050.

Ana Marchan-Garcia is a Quality and Food Safety senior technologist at Mars Food whose role is to maintain the quality of consumers’ favorite foods, such as Uncle Ben’s® and Seeds of Change®. Ana’s passion for STEM was sparked by watching her mother mastering the science of cooking by using raw ingredients to create a meal.

Ana is passionate about raising awareness around the interconnectedness between STEM and the food industry. “I think there’s a misunderstanding that if you have a STEM degree, you must work in a laboratory. STEM is really about bringing together the principles of science, technology, engineering, and math to innovate, work on complex and interesting projects, and achieve a common goal,” she explains.

Ana also believes anyone with an interest in STEM should pursue it, despite their background. “Anyone – men, women and kids – who has an interest in STEM should feel empowered to pursue a career or studies in our field,” says Ana.

Dr. Carla Lerum, a senior program manager of Veterinary Support Systems at Banfield Pet Hospital®, works to broaden the scope of work at the Pet Hospital’s headquarters and also build and maintain productive relationships with clients. Carla explains that unlike the cliché she did not grow up dreaming to be a vet, but discovered veterinary medicine in college.

“It was right up my ally – it gave me the chance to incorporate my diversity of interests, and to use my knowledge as well as my hands,” says Carla. “Today, I am fortunate to continually build on my craft and consult across a wide spectrum of categories within the veterinary profession.”

Carla particularly enjoys working at Mars because of the principles (Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Freedom, Efficiency, Freedom). “These practices are embodied by everyone from our corporate leaders to our Associates,” Carla explains. “Although Mars is a large company, the individual focus of each business unit paired with the flexibility of amazing career pathing opportunities makes me excited to come to work every day.”

Stacey Espinosa, a global product development senior manager for Mints and New Benefits for Mars Wrigley Confectionery, pursued a career in chemical engineering by combining it with her life-long love of candy. In her role today, Stacey is in charge of the evolution behind gum and mint brands, leading a team of product developers to bring the latest confectionery innovations to life.

Stacey didn’t always set out to go into STEM, however. “I knew I liked math and science, but I wasn’t sure what to do with that,” Stacey says. “When I discovered that companies like Mars Wrigley Confectionery hired chemical engineers, my time and energy went into boldly pursuing this career path. I thought engineering was cool, and then I was able to add my lifelong love of candy to the conversation – my dream job.”

Stacey explains that it is the support that has kept her at Mars. “From the start, I’ve had the ability and encouragement to navigate my own path by embracing my passions, interests, and values,” she says.

Tina Blackmore, a science engagement research partner at our Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition in Waltham, UK, communicates the significance of research findings to different audiences spanning consumers and industry. Tina made STEM a career after completing a PhD and transitioning from academia.

What does she love most about her role today?

“In the morning, I might be talking to visiting chemists about Waltham before going into a meeting to discuss how to communicate new research to fellow Associates. The afternoon could then be rounded off with a global phone call with Associates from the other Mars Petcare brands about a new event where we are taking animal science to kids and students. Every day whizzes past and it would be impossible to get bored doing this,” Tina says.

Tina advises young women who are interested in pursuing STEM to stay true to what you enjoy.“There are so many jobs and careers out there that you won’t know about. Every experience, the good and the bad, is an opportunity to learn.”

Cui Wang, a global microbiology research scientist at Mars Global Food Safety Center conducts research to ensure that the food consumers know and trust is equally as safe. Cui’s original career plan was to enter the pharmaceutical industry, but that all changed after the news of several serious food safety incidents involving infant formula coincided with her being a new mother. Cui decided to switch career paths to focus on food health and safety.

“At Mars Global Food Safety Center, we’re all able to take the lead in different food safety science projects, depending on our unique interests and backgrounds,” says Cui. “We also always work hard to make sure we’re supporting each other as a team. Additionally, I have the opportunity to work with world-leading experts, from the World Food Program and Cambridge University and enjoy being able to travel and conduct research in the field, such as in corn in China and peanut fields in India. These experiences are truly eye-opening.”

Cui, based in Beijing, China, explains that one of the misconceptions about STEM is that it can be boring and stuff, but clarifies that is not true. “The scientists around me are smart and have a good sense of humor. We’re actually also trying to make our research more accessible, using language that consumers are able to understand and avoiding technical jargon.”

We proudly salute all our Associates in STEM who help us strive to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which informed our Sustainable in a Generation Plan. And, we’re committed to unlocking even more opportunities for women at Mars by continuing toward our ongoing target to increase the percentage of female managers we employ.

Mars women in STEM, you make us proud! #WomenOfMars
Get more Associate advice about STEM careers in Bustle here and follow along on social media with #WomenofMars.


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