Combining more than four decades of experience: meet Bayer’s leading women in science
10 February 2023, AU: When we look at the field of science across the country and what it means to have a career in science, it’s no secret that across the wide variety of sectors and roles that exist in the field, many of them have been typically dominated by men.
That’s why today, for International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we want to highlight some of our incredible women who work in Bayer’s Crop Science division.
Sue Cross and Lore Saupp-Saunders are just two of the brilliant brains behind Bayer’s Crop Science team, who’ve gone against the grain and are paving the way for future women to make their mark in the world of science.
Sue works as Bayer’s Head of Field Solutions in the Crop Science division across Australia and New Zealand. While she’s only held this role for 11.5 years, her experience at Bayer goes back almost three decades – this year being her 28th.
Sue’s love for science is something she says grew at a young age.
“I grew up surrounded by animals, and biology was my favourite subject at school. So, I always saw my future in agriculture and based around science,” she says.
After completing a Bachelor of Agricultural Science in the UK and taking the opportunity to combine international travel with roles in agricultural research organisations, Sue began working for AgrEvo, a legacy company of Bayer, in November 1995, based in Melbourne but working across regional Victoria. She says back then, there were many challenges being a woman on-farm.
“At times, I found people would make assumptions on your behalf, particularly about things they thought you either would or wouldn’t be willing to do. In the early days, on-farm reception was tough – you really had to prove yourself and convince others that you knew what you were talking about,” she explains.
Despite these societal challenges, Sue says the opportunities and support she’s received from Bayer has meant she didn’t ever feel like a female in science – rather, just a scientist.
“My former managers have all been supportive and have helped get me to where I am today. It’s incredible to have that kind of support, but at the same time, you need to be open and communicate to those above and around you that you’re open to opportunities and willing to do what it takes to progress your career.”
“I love the nature of my job – I love that it’s diverse, the variety of the day, and how you always get the opportunity to learn about all sorts of different crops, how they grow, and different pests and diseases… the most exciting thing is that we’re always working to find real solutions to real problems that farmers are facing every day.”
“Now, after nearly three decades at Bayer, my role looks a little different to when it first started. While my day still begins with coffee and I still get to enjoy the diverse nature of working in science where no two days are the same, I now get to do more of the management side of things and mentor early career colleagues and others who are new to management roles, which brings a whole new element to my job. It’s really rewarding to reflect and pass on my knowledge, to see the new generation of scientists come up the ranks and pave their own way in the industry.”
Like Sue, Lore works in management in Bayer’s Crop Science division as a Territory Business Manager based in Bundaberg in regional Queensland.
Lore grew up on a farm in Germany. With a mother working in the agricultural sector, Lore says she was always drawn to “non-typical” female roles.
“I always loved biology and other sciences at school. I remember when I told my parents I wanted to work in agriculture and in science, they said “What?! Are you sure you don’t want a more laid-back role, where you can work in an office?” to which I said, of course not. I knew I wanted to be outdoors and wanted to be problem solving. Choosing to work in this field has been the best decision,” she says.
“After completing a Bachelor of Applied Science in Horticulture and Agriculture in Germany, I then worked in the livestock field before working in animal health. In my early 30s I came to Australia for what was meant to be only six to nine months, but, nearly 21 years later, I’m still here.”
Lore is approaching 12 years working with Bayer. She says she still loves her role, mainly due to the diversity.
“No day is the same as the next. I love the diversity of science – that’s what keeps it interesting. It’s very rewarding, too, when farmers take your advice and it solves real problems for them, leading to a better outcome.”
Reflecting on her time in the workforce, Lore admits much it was surrounded by males.
“When I did my first trade, there were 50 males and 2 females. Then, my first job after uni, there was one older female and I was in my mid-twenties, the rest of the room was filled with blokes. But now, I have a large number of female agronomists and colleagues, so it is growing. The great thing is that at Bayer, and in many of my past roles, I don’t ever feel like I was looked past for any opportunities because of my gender. Sure, I had to prove myself, but I think any new person in a role in this field has to prove themselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re female or not – once you earn respect, people will listen to you.”
Their advice for upcoming future female scientists
Sue says, “I am really thrilled to see the number of women participating in ag science undergraduate degrees is rising – I think now it’s more than 50 per cent of people enrolled in the degree are female. While women are still underrepresented in our industry, my view for the next decade is that because of the uptake in technology, the playing field will really even out, presenting even more opportunities for women to make their mark.”
“I’m incredibly grateful for the support I’ve had throughout my career through managers and mentors, and I encourage other young women to seek the same. There are excellent opportunities out there, including the ones we have here at Bayer, that are fantastic to get a sense of what the job and industry is like. Internships and work experience are a perfect example – but you have to open yourself up to these opportunities and go looking for them. My advice is, don’t hold back. Women tend to underestimate their capabilities, but if you have the confidence to give something a go, it can lead to so many doors opening. If I hadn’t put my hands up, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today.”
“I’d love to come back in 10 years’ time and really see true equal gender representation across the roles and in leadership across the entire industry. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re getting there.”
Echoing Sue’s comments, Lore says, “I think there needs to be more women out there. The first manager I ever had said, “There’s no such thing as not doable, you just have to find a way” and that would be my advice today, too. If you have a passion for science, stick with it.”
“I encourage females to get involved in physical work as well. Be open to opportunities and what presents itself to you. This is an incredible field to be in, so if you have the passion, go for it. You won’t regret it.”
What’s next for Sue and Lore
As for Sue and Lore’s futures, Lore is sticking with her current role but has also recently been approved for a short assignment in the Regulatory Affairs team at Bayer, helping them with the evolution of new compounds, label submission and extensions.
For Sue, after an incredible career, she’s taking a step back and retiring this year.
We thank them both for their incredible contribution to Bayer’s Crop Science division and for being role models for the next generation of scientists.
To all women and girls in science: thank you
International Day of Women and Girls in Science is something Bayer is proud to celebrate, and in doing so, acknowledges all the incredible females who work across all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines across not just our organisation, but across the world. We thank you for your hard work and dedication.
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