Reshma Shetty: She's Pioneering the New Scientific Frontier

March 24 - On The Dot
 
FIRST THOUGHT: Life, Down to a Science

I’ll be the first to admit I remember very little from science class. But if there’s one thing that did seep into my brain, thanks to Bill Nye the Science Guy, it’s that you don’t need to be a scientist to appreciate and understand this branch of knowledge. Today, we’re getting all science-y because, if you think about it, science is all around us. From colorful autumn leaves to moldy bread, life is full of transformations happening right before our eyes. While we can’t all be like Hermione kicking butt in potion-making class, we can certainly celebrate the women scientists who are braving new frontiers.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: Only 20

From life to physical to social sciences, we all gravitate (Get it?!) toward a specific kind of science, and if you’re like me, scratch our heads at the rest. One of these scientific niches is called biotechnology, and includes applications for everything from growing crops to making medicine. But despite there being some brilliant ladies in the field, there’s a significant gender gap in biotech. According to Bloomberg data, women hold only 20 of the 112 top management positions at the 10 most valuable biotech and pharmaceutical companies in the world.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Reshma Shetty, Co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks

One way we can support women scientists who are out there every day doing the difficult and necessary scientific work is by learning more about them. One such exceptionally talented woman was named one of Inc.’s 17 inspiring women to watch in 2017, and we couldn’t agree more. Her name is Reshma Shetty, and she co-founded a biotech startup called Ginkgo Bioworks.

Ginkgo Bioworks, known as “the organism company,” is on a mission to make biology easier to engineer, and uses that innate knowledge that can only be engineered through biology to make new things. For instance, Ginkgo Bioworks recreated the scent of a rose from single-cell organisms, thereby developing the first new rose oil in 150 years, which one French fragrance company now sells as perfume. Basically, this science is the stuff of the future and has the ability to save companies time, money and lots of resources.

In a stirring speech Reshma delivered at a conference for female founders, she introduced an image of a desk scattered with a variety of materials, including a laptop, lamp, camera, watch and plant. She asked the audience to identify which piece is the most complicated. It’s the plant! It has the amazing capability to do all kinds of things that keep plants thriving in this world. For instance, unlike my MacBook, a plant has the ability to assemble and repair itself. (Get on that, Apple!) It’s just one example of how biology is the most powerful manufacturing platform, Reshma says.

The $151 million in funding that Reshma has raised to re-engineer technology through cells proves that Ginkgo Bioworks is doing some truly groundbreaking stuff. But owning your own badass biotech company isn’t just about the science; it’s also about the business strategy. She has already implemented brainstorming sessions on how to increase diversity at her company, a goal close to her heart. As Reshma says, “It would really suck to someday succeed at our mission…but then wake up and realize we built just another technology company full of white dudes.”

As a female role model, Reshma says she doesn’t encourage women to become entrepreneurs like her. Instead, she tells them to find what they’re most passionate about and what they want to achieve, then go out and work hard for it. That’s great advice from a woman whose life’s work amounts to literally transforming the world!

QUITE THE QUOTE

I’ll leave you with this quote from medical physicist and Nobel Prize recipient Rosalyn Yalow. She said:

“We cannot expect in the immediate future that all women who seek it will achieve full equality of opportunity. But if women are to start moving towards that goal, we must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us. We must match our aspirations with the competence, courage and determination to succeed.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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