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The Women Innovating at Amway

How innovation at the U.S. health & wellbeing company is being powered by critical contributions of its female scientists.

More than 70 years ago, a young medical school graduate joined the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Center. Over the course of the subsequent few years, this person would dramatically advance the way that cancer is treated, ultimately laying the groundwork for successfully treating tumors using chemotherapy.

That innovator’s name was Dr. Jane Wright. And to say that attending medical school (attaining the position of chief resident) in the 1940s as a Black woman, and going on to revolutionize cancer treatment, was challenging would be quite an understatement.

Those challenges may have been familiar to Rachel Carson, a marine biologist who more than 10 years later published a book outlining potential dangers of pesticides and chemicals to humans, plants and animals – providing what would become a landmark moment in the nation’s environmental history.

Battling through entrenched interests, Carson’s book fueled a reversal in national pesticide policy, a ban on DDT and other pesticides and a safer country for all Americans.

These brave and brilliant women innovators were top-of-mind in recent conversations at Amway as we celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11 – honoring the often-overlooked contributions and leadership of women scientists and promoting full and equal access to science for girls.

Thankfully, times have changed dramatically since that earlier era, with women today routinely at the forefront of scientific discovery and achievement reshaping our society for the better. That certainly is true at Amway, the U.S. maker of some of the most popular health and wellbeing products on the market, where women are engaged at every level in its Innovation and Science Division.

Amway’s Chief Innovation & Science Officer is the very accomplished Anouchah Sanei, who brought more than 25 years of global Research & Development leadership experience to Amway. Today, she leads the efforts of nearly a thousand scientists, engineers and technicians employed by Amway around the world.

Many of those scientists are based at Amway’s World Headquarters in Ada, Michigan, applying their talent and skills to product formulation and development, quality assurance and testing, regulatory review and approvals and more.

That’s not to say that women working in Amway’s Innovation & Science Division haven’t faced challenges to get to where they are now.

Kelly Goetgeluck, Principal Chemical Engineer in Amway’s Nutrition Process Engineer Group, said she was fortunate to find math and science very easy at a young age. But she didn’t really see a lot of women she could look to as role models.

“Not a lot of women were going into science,” said Kelly. “Maybe more now. My chemical engineering class was one of the largest ever at Michigan Tech, and about a third were women… One of my first jobs was with a consulting firm, building a plant from the ground up … I was the only female on the project,” she said.

Today, Kelly makes sure to promote careers in science when she meets with young people, especially girls. “I host students on tours here at Amway and talk to children of my friends,” she said, recounting the time she brought a troop of Girl Scouts to the company to learn about the science behind our products.

Kelly has benefitted from mentorship at Amway and pays it forward as a mentor to younger professionals. She also meets regularly with a book club made up of other female scientists from Amway called Tequila Mockingbird. One of the books they covered was, of course, Lessons in Chemistry, a beloved novel by Bonnie Garmus starring the character Elizabeth Zott, who becomes a beloved cooking show host in 1960s Southern California after being fired as a chemist (since adapted to an Apple TV+ miniseries).

Another member of that book club is Aimee Herbel, Manager of Product Experience and Insights, leading programs and solutions for healthy skin and healthy aging platforms. She’s appreciated the mentorship and growth she’s been able to experience at Amway since joining the company straight out of college 14 years ago.

“There’s a real incubator for young scientists to grow here at Amway,” she said. “If someone in formulation wants to learn about something else, senior employees are eager to help them.”

In fact, that sense of community and teamwork has been emblematic of Aimee’s experiences at Amway. She said it’s necessary since there are so many different types of science needed to successfully bring new products to market – from the front end, where scientists are partnering with supplier companies on raw materials and new ingredients, to formulators who create new products to the regulatory group and quality assurance team that ensures the product can even be brought to market.

“It’s fascinating, having all those different components come together to bring a product to life. And all that expertise exists here at Amway to provide a quality, efficacious product,” she said.

Aimee said she’s glad the world – and Amway – have made progress when it comes to opportunity for women in scientific fields. “In Lessons in Chemistry, Elizabeth Zott is paving the way for her daughter. And many of those barriers were simply gone for me. There were so many female technical leaders and people leaders who fought battles for us, and it speaks volumes for Amway’s I&S leadership, too.”

While Aimee was always good at math and science and had the opportunity to attend a math and science centered high school, she can still remember the presentation that set her off on her current career. A scientist from Amway came into her class and demonstrated the formulation of personal care products.

“Her demonstration always made me think it would be cool to say ‘Hey, I made this.’”

And now she can say that! Also, that female scientist who presented to her class is one of the people Aimee now considers a mentor.

Today, Amway celebrates the fact that women are powering innovation at our company and will continue to do so as we await the next great innovation.