Five Ways to Find STEM Success: An Interview with Nici Bush, General Manager of Mars Symbioscience

Mar 19, 2019 12:00 PM ET

1. What do you like best about the STEM field?

As a women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), I love the way you can work in a lab or sit in a small pilot plant but work on something that has a ripple effect so big it goes out to affect a lot of people. A scientific or technical breakthrough can create a better future for people… how’s that for a nice sense of purpose?

2. Why is it important to support women in STEM?

We don’t work in a bubble. It’s a big STEM world and it’s just a fact that men hold more STEM positions. As women in STEM, it’s important to spotlight our roles. The problems we work to solve with math and science are often problems facing society… which, don’t forget, is 51 percent female. So, if your workforce demographics don’t match the population demographics, women’s voices aren’t truly being heard and you might not be addressing the problem in full. That’s why it’s vital to have the right balance of diversity—of gender, race and expertise—in the field.

3. What are your thoughts about the importance of mentorship for women in STEM?

Mentorship is very important to me. We have to push beyond just filling job vacancies with women to actually serving as a role model for—if not a mentor to—women coming up in their careers. Through my formative years working in Supply roles, as I pushed myself in a male-dominated environment, I needed someone who had my back. If I felt myself experiencing doubt or confidence issues, having a mentor to talk things through made me braver during meetings on the factory floor. I just needed a safe environment where I could talk and feel supported.

4. What are you doing to be an advocate for women in STEM?

I was fortunate enough to be mentored from plant management to supply leadership, so now I advocate for women in STEM. I want to ensure I’m paying that back. When I started heading up Supply for our global Chocolate segment, two of 28 of our plant managers were women. Four years later, there were six and I made sure that group regularly connecting with each other. I’ve also worked to help other women through critical moments: the first days after maternity leave; applying for promotions; pushing beyond comfort zones; balancing dual careers. It’s not technical skills women are lacking; it’s often confidence and setting boundaries.

5. Why do you think women are not joining STEM fields?

When women are pondering certain professions, they naturally look for people they can relate to or follow. If they don’t see any in positions both achievable and those they aspire to, they tend to assume that field isn’t one they should pursue; it’s just human nature. We did some work a few years ago when I was heading up a Women in Supply initiative at Mars and surveyed to ask why aren’t women moving up in STEM positions? Many responded, ‘I need to see a role model closer to my position.’ Not eight steps above, but one step or maybe two. If you don’t find role models in attainable positions, there’s less examples of success.

6. What advice can you share with women in STEM fields who want to see positive change in the workplace?

Just because you decide to pursue a scientific career, that doesn’t mean you’re all about intelligence and not about people and making teams work. If you look at Mars, most people work in manufacturing, so you have to be good with people. If you love working with people and value team dynamics, you need the emotional intelligence even more when you have to work together.

7. If you could go back to the beginning, what advice would you give your younger self?

If I could go back and change one thing, it would be to set those boundaries sooner—both personal and professional—and realize that other people would support me on that. That way, I could offer Mars, my family and myself the best version of me. Set boundaries. It’s okay. If you don’t, others won’t either.

The Balance for Better starts with us. Women in STEM unite. When you stand up and make yourself visible, the next generation will take note!

With more than 25 years at Mars, General Manager of Mars Symbioscience, Nici Bush, is dedicated to promoting better lives through nutrition at Mars Edge. Nici and her team are responsible for expanding CocoaVia™, our cocoa extract dietary supplement, to help more people benefit from cocoa flavanols, which promote healthy blood flow to vital organs like your heart and brainShe salutes all the #WomenofMars and wishes all women in STEM careers a Happy #WomensHistoryMont​h!