Since 2016 the proportion of women working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries has increased to 28%*. A huge achievement for an industry which has long experienced significant pay gaps and a lack of gender diversity. The uptrend is said to be a result of the sectors new approaches and policies, as well as the impact of incredible role models. One of these roles models is Dr Sue Amatayakul-Chantler, Director of the Bioanalytical Science group at CSL Australia – a leading global biotechnology company. As part of CSL Career Files series presented by Business Chicks, Sue sat down with Business Chicks’ Briony Hunt to share her experience and important lessons along the way.
What drew you into the world of science?
Early on, I came across an inspiring book that was written by Watson about what it took to discover the double helix. At school I discovered that I enjoyed chemistry and biology. This, combined with the fact that my father was also an endocrinologist, meant that it wasn’t long until I was enthralled in the world of science.
You’re had roles working in the UK, USA and now Australia, what did you get out of these experiences? Would you advise others to work overseas also?
I would encourage anybody and everyone to work overseas. Australia is a country of about 25 million. Science as an industry is quite small, so spending time abroad opens you up to the best in your industry. From my experience, living in different countries has also widened my perspective. It has taught me to adapt, be flexible, and allowed me to step out of my comfort zone.
You have led many teams throughout your career, how would you describe your leadership style?
I don’t have a single leadership style. My leadership style is adaptive and really depends on the teams which I lead. I enjoy a coaching style when I have team members who are not so experienced or need help in one area. Contrastingly, when I have an experienced team, I lead in a democratic style. I think this is the best way to get the most out of your people.
What are the biggest misconceptions about working in science?
I can think of two. One is that people think it is easy to develop products. For example, when we were hit by the Pandemic, it took time to develop vaccines to combat the disease. Secondly, is that a career in science is too hard. That can really put people off but work within science can be one of the most rewarding experiences.
When you are hiring, are there specific characteristics you look for?
Someone who is resilient and not afraid of challenges is important. I look for someone who is positive in nature, proactive, engaged, hardworking and is willing to accept feedback and learn.
What is your favourite part of your role?
My favourite part of my role without a doubt is knowing that I am making a difference. A difference to my team, to the business, and ultimately the patients. Delivering success as well as developing my team allows me to create change.
If you were to give one piece of advice to a woman reading who would love to follow a similar career path to you, what would it be?
Give it a go. Be patient. Work hard.
Want to hear from more inspiring women in STEM? Catch up on our chat with CSL’s CFO Joy Linton where she shares her tips on influencing, leading on a global stage, and managing the juggle.
*STEM Equality Monitor Report 2021.