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The entrepreneurial arm of this consumer goods brand teamed up with Her Campus Media to support young women who want to work in STEM…
YPulse’s Self-Taught trend report found that young males are more likely than young females to do research on computer skills (e.g. coding, software, programming, etc.) in their free time. We’ve also found that though 41% of young females say they would rather have a job in science than the arts, Gen Z females are far less likely than males to study computer science, engineering, and other STEM topics in college. According to data from the Pew Research Center, women earned 85% of the bachelor’s degrees in health-related fields, but only 22% of those are in engineering and 19% in computer science. In the face of this gender gap in science, more companies have been launching initiatives to support women who want to be in the STEM industry.
Cue P&G Ventures, Procter & Gamble’s studio startup that partners with entrepreneurs to accelerate billion dollar ideas that improve consumers’ lives, and who recently teamed up with Her Campus Media to launch Her Campus Labs, an innovation hub that is dedicated to identifying, supporting, and empowering the next generation of women scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. As part of Her Campus Labs, the two launched the Next in STEM challenge, which gives women the opportunity to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas directly to the P&G Ventures team, and began accepting applications at the beginning of April.
We spoke with P&G Ventures Senior Director Betsy Bluestone more about their partnership with Her Campus Media, the Next in Stem Challenge, and how the landscape of the STEM industry has changed for women in the last several years:
YPulse: Tell us about P&G Ventures.
Betsy Bluestone: P&G Ventures is really the entrepreneurial arm of Procter & Gamble. The focus of P&G Ventures is all about creating new businesses for P&G in categories where we don’t currently compete. As you can imagine, there are Innovation activities and strategies in every one of our business units. We are constantly improving product and bringing new innovation to market. So, for example, we’re working in non-toxic, insecticide, menopause, eczema, acne. These are all spaces where the core business units do not play today.
YPulse: How did the partnership between P&G Ventures and Her Campus Media come about?
BB: As you can imagine, when you’re working outside of the core businesses where P&G does business today, there is a great opportunity to tap into external technology and to combine that technology that we source externally with the gifts that P&G can bring to those businesses, right? It’s sort of the best of the entrepreneurial world combined with the best of a big company. This is where the next billion-dollar brands for P&G are going to come from. We’re very methodical, thoughtful about our ecosystem and making sure that we are reaching all of the different avenues where we might find some technology. One of the big opportunities that we have had is figuring out how to really penetrate all of the innovation that’s happening on college campuses, and specifically the top research universities. We have relationships today, but it’s more difficult to mine, as you can imagine. You’ve got innovation from students. You’ve got innovations from graduate students. You’ve got innovation from professors. You’ve got innovation from alumni from those research universities. How to create those ecosystems to be able to tap into the incredible innovation that’s happening at those universities is a problem we’ve been trying to solve for some time. So, I met with Windsor [Hanger Western], one of the co-founders of Her Campus Media at an EY Strategic Growth Forum event. Her Campus Media’s position and focus on those campuses was really appealing, so we started to hash this idea that we would be able to tap into their network on campuses of college and graduate school women who understand or are part of these innovation networks. And that that would be a way not only for us to underscore our focus on STEM and women in STEM, but also to source technology that may be the core of some future P&G brands.
YPulse: What is Her Campus Labs?
BB: Generally, Her Campus Media is a media property that has multiple, different products—and media platforms. We are a science company, so everything we’re interested in needs to be technically sound and superior from a consumer usage experience. In addition to wanting to work with female inventors and entrepreneurs, and wanting to employ scouts on these campuses to help us uncover the technology, we also talked about the fact that the most important cohort to reach are those working in science, technology, engineering, and math. That’s the way we focused it, and out of it, the Her Campus Labs idea was born.
YPulse: Why was Gen Z women in STEM a cause that P&G Ventures wanted to support?
BB: First and foremost, we are a company that is entirely and authentically dedicated to women. Many of the products that we create are designed for women. They are used by women. Women are still disproportionately making household purchases. We are a company very focused on gender equality. As I said before, we’re a science company, right? So, it is a natural extension for P&G Ventures, and P&G in general, that we want to support women in STEM. If you think about the workforce, only 28% of the workforce in the STEM areas is made up of women. We know that you have to encourage young women’s interest and propensity to do STEM work early. Today, men vastly outnumber the women who are majoring in STEM fields in colleges. We want to make sure that we are supporting and highlighting their successes, and that ultimately, it is that combination of being a force for growth, which is critically important to Procter & Gamble—but also a force for good. We have for a long time as a company focused on supporting women in STEM, and this is just another way for us to do that, and have the most rapid route to those that are working in the areas that we want to build businesses.
YPulse: What are the ways that the P&G Ventures and Her Campus Labs initiative is supporting Gen Z women in the STEM field?
BB: A few different ways. Most importantly, the scouts that we have. It’s a national program and we’ve doubled down on four univerities where we’ve got on-the-ground female scouts. First, the scouts are generally in STEM. This gives some funding for their education. It also helps them to further tap into the ecosystems within their school. But ultimately what the scouts are doing is recommending women who are working in these fields that we are interested in and it gives them a great opportunity to have their work recognized and the chance to partner with P&G Ventures. Now, even if we don’t partner with those that are in our spaces, we’ve committed to doing work with those entrepreneurs, inventors, and founders to help them get over the big speed bumps that are keeping them from accelerating their business. The biggest piece of this is enabling those who are inventing in these spaces to have an audience with P&G, to look at what they’re doing, and the potential to partner.
YPulse: What has the response from Gen Z students been?
BB: We’re early days in terms of actually getting the applications in, but so far it’s been amazing. We have had a few dozen innovations come in. By the end of this, we will have hundreds of innovations that have been nominated in one form or another, either through our scouts or through the open call for innovation. It’s been excellent so far.
YPulse: Are you seeing that more Gen Z women are getting into the STEM field?
BB: Yes, it’s better than it was, but not where it needs to be. One of the great things about this, and it’s so ingrained in the partnership with Her Campus, is that they are highlighting these innovators. They’re making sure that other women are seeing the great work that those that are being put forward for this challenge are doing. The old “If you see can it, you can be it” adage, one of the great services that Her Campus Media is doing through this partnership is giving voice to those innovators and I believe that gives others the courage, inspiration, and passion to pursue these things themselves.
YPulse: Why do you think it is so important for brands to support the next generation of women in STEM?
BB: We create businesses and invent in places that we are passionate about, and there are a lot of issues yet to be solved for women, for humans in general. I think that supporting women in STEM ensures that we are seeing innovation that is balanced. Certainly, there’s innovation for everybody. There’s innovation for women, and we need to make sure that we’ve got a pulse on all of it. So, that’s why I think it’s important, because it’s the right thing. Because it’s good for business.
Betsy Bluestone is the Senior Director P&G Ventures, the entrepreneurial arm of P&G where they create brands in new business categories for P&G. She has over 25+ years of sales and brand management experience within P&G. Betsy is an experienced business leader who has a track record of success across channels, geographies, billion-dollar brands, start-ups, and acquisitions. Within P&G Ventures she works with some of the world’s most innovative thinkers, scientists, digital marketers, and entrepreneurs.
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