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How Olay Is Leading the Way for Future Female Cosmetic Scientists

Published March 21, 2024
Published March 21, 2024

Cosmetic chemists are the magicians of the beauty industry, working tirelessly behind the scenes to make brand owner product visions come to life. With an increasing demand for new launches, there also needs to be the hands and brains realizing them.

A 2023 study into STEM students in the UK (compiled through Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA) and government census data) found that only 31% were female or non-binary. As of 2021, 48.1% of cosmetic chemists were female, with 59% white, 18.4% Asian, 9.5% Hispanic/Latino, 8.2% Black, and 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native individuals (4.6% are unknown). 

Olay is looking to help fund the future generations of this profession. This follows from the brand’s previous efforts such as launching the #FacetheSTEMGap initiative in 2020, which aims to double and triple the amounts of women and women of color in the field respectively. Olay had also teamed up with the Algorithmic Justice League to draw attention to exclusionary biases in coding and AI, which affect women of color; in 2020 the skincare brand had also launched a float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade honoring women in STEM fields.

To help women across the board looking to enter the category, the company is launching a series of courses with online provider Coursera, as well as $2 million in scholarship opportunities. Said scholarships will be provided from 2024-2026, offering 5,000 individuals a one-year subscription to Coursera across the platform’s 6,900 courses. 

"It has been an amazing, supportive effort. We both saw the opportunity and need and together we are fulfilling that need based on two complementary skill sets and expertise. As a result, we are laying the foundation for future cosmetic scientists and knowledgeable skin experts for years to come," Dr. Rolanda Johnson Wilkerson, Senior Director and Beauty Fellow at Procter & Gamble, tells BeautyMatter. The courses will entail different modules led by Dr. Wilkerson, covering subjects such as product development, skin physiology, and best practices for quality control and safety methods.

"Awareness on how to enter the cosmetic chemist/science field has been low, and often there are many barriers that affect how and when women have opportunities to study this subject. There are many ways to enter the field but not many clear paths on how to do so. We’ve made the course available to create a pathway for more people seeking to enter the field and to help bridge the gaps in STEM," Dr. Wilkerson adds.

The initiative is open to anyone, although the companies are especially encouraging women to apply to increase their representation across the industry. "Cosmetic science continues to be a growing area. Many of the programs in this space tend to be at a more advanced level of education, e.g. graduate school," Dr. Wilkerson concludes. "With the advent of more people on social media discussing and seeking skincare solutions, we thought there was an opportunity to enable more people to pursue this space while growing the pipeline of STEM talent. So whether a person is a skin enthusiast or interested in pursuing a career in cosmetic science, this course is for them."


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