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Empowering Women in STEM: Breaking Barriers and Driving Innovation in Cosmetic Sciences


This International Women’s Day, the discussion around “inspiring inclusion” in STEM fields took centre stage. STEM, comprising science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, forms the backbone of modern innovation and progress. Yet statistics reveal a glaring gap: women represent just over one-quarter of the total STEM workforce. This disparity underscores the urgent need for more equal representation and opportunities in these critical fields.

The Importance of Women’s Representation in STEM

So, why is it so important to increase women’s presence in STEM fields, especially in specialised areas such as skincare and cosmetic sciences? The answer lies in the necessity to build a world that not only acknowledges but also actively caters to women’s interests and needs. Achieving this demands the active participation of women in shaping these domains.

One of the primary benefits of achieving more equal representation is the potential to eradicate entrenched gender biases. In fields like cosmetic science, which have historically been male-dominated, products and solutions often fail to fully meet the needs and preferences of female consumers. By integrating more women into these sectors, companies can gain deeper insights into the nuances of skincare and cosmetic requirements specific to women, to develop more tailored and impactful products.

But female representation goes beyond just product development; it plays a pivotal role in inspiring future generations. Women scientists and researchers serve as role models for young girls, showcasing the diverse career opportunities available in STEM fields. Their achievements and contributions not only break stereotypes but also encourage girls to pursue interests in science, technology, and innovation, ultimately contributing to a more diverse and dynamic workforce in the future.

Additionally, empowering women in STEM fields such as skincare and cosmetic sciences contributes significantly to economic growth and societal progress. By tapping into the full potential of diverse talent, companies and industries can unlock new avenues of innovation and competitiveness. This benefits not only individual women by providing them with opportunities for professional growth and fulfilment but also contributes to broader economic development and advancement.

Coursera and Olay’s Partnership: Setting the Next Generation Up for Success

A concrete example of progress in this direction is the partnership between Coursera and Olay, leading to the launch of a cosmetic science specialisation called “Introduction to Cosmetic Science and Ingredients.” This course, taught by OLAY’s in-house cosmetic scientists, including Dr Rolanda Wilkerson, a renowned expert in skin and hair science, aims to educate learners on skincare fundamentals and encourage more women and women of colour to enter the cosmetic science field. Dr Rolanda Wilkerson emphasises, “Whether you are a skincare enthusiast or someone considering cosmetic science as a career, anyone, anywhere can now learn the basics of skincare from OLAY scientists with the new ‘Introduction to Cosmetic Science and Ingredients’ course.”

Women should not feel intimidated about their ability to excel in STEM-related courses. Recent data from Coursera reveals an encouraging trend: there has been a 15% increase in women enrolling in STEM courses and female learners require less time than male ones to achieve skill proficiency, particularly in areas that traditionally require extensive learning hours. Women’s appetite to acquire crucial technical skills is clear – it is opportunity that is lacking, not talent or inclination.

Increasing women’s representation in STEM fields, particularly in specialised areas like skincare and cosmetic sciences, is not just about achieving gender equality—it’s about driving innovation, addressing biases, meeting consumer needs, inspiring future generations, and fostering economic empowerment. Recognising and valuing the contributions of women in shaping the landscape of scientific research, technological advancements, and product development within these industries is crucial as we strive towards a more inclusive and equitable society.

By Marni Baker Stein, Chief Content Officer at Coursera

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