10 Women Changing the Landscape of Leadership
In critical fields like agriculture, science, finance and technology, they have staked a claim with their pioneering work and are building a path for the next generation.
Verónica Pascual Boé, of Spain, recalls being asked by customers early in her engineering career: Can I speak to the man in charge?
“At first I got angry,” she said. “But then I discovered it was quite fun to say things like, ‘I promise you will not waste your time’” — and mean it.
Ismahane Elouafi, of Morocco, spent three years training to be a fighter pilot — until the military halted her program, believing that women were not equipped for the job.
“I was 17, and found it really unjust, really unacceptable,” Ms. Elouafi said. “Why could I not do what a man could do?”
Today, Ms. Boé is an aerospace engineer, leading a company that builds driverless vehicles. Ms. Elouafi went on to study agriculture and genetics, recently becoming the first chief scientist of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Each of them, in her own way, is upending norms in fields historically dominated by men.
Those women include Aya Mouallem, an electrical engineer from Beirut, Lebanon, who is working to encourage girls to study technology.
There’s Fatoumata Kébé, an astrophysicist who grew up in a working class suburb of Paris, the child of immigrants from Mali. She leads an organization that teaches astronomy to students who may not otherwise have that opportunity.
Ms. Kébé studied her father’s astronomy encyclopedia as a child, but it was not until she was 24, gazing at a star-filled sky while on a trip to Yosemite National Park, that she said she realized she had found her calling. “It was as if I had been struck by lightning,” she said.
The women you will read about here say, for the most part, that they have found their calling. In the words of Ms. Canales: “My generation is rejecting the situation of past generations where women weren’t allowed to lead.”
They are also cleareyed about what hasn’t changed enough — including support for working parents. Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist in Switzerland, noted that scientists often have to make important career choices in their late 20s and early 30s, at the same time many might consider starting a family. “But of course women pay a higher price as far as household expectations,” she said.
As these leaders upend the old rules, they are finding ways to create more equity for the next generation. These interviews have been edited and condensed.
Jessica Bennett is an editor at large at The Times covering gender and culture.
When I graduated from high school, there were perhaps less than 50 Native Hawaiians that had a Ph.D. in any field. And because of that, there was a big push to get more of us into science. But the message was that we had to change ourselves, we had to change our priorities, to be successful. I was told from the beginning that if I wanted to have a career as a scientist, I needed to get my Ph.D. outside of Hawaii. But I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sail, wouldn’t be able to surf, if I was away from home. I knew I couldn’t leave.
So I stuck it out, and I attempted to be a voyager as well as do graduate school in science. Now that I look back, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. The time that I had out at sea, away from a university setting, shaped my approach to science, the questions I ask, the tools I use and my ability to think under pressure. And when I got my job as a professor, those experiences and qualities were all seen as strengths.
I just really wanted to understand the vulnerabilities, the resiliency, the strengths, the weaknesses of these islands to changes in the climate. And I wanted to offer guidance on when certain things may happen, whether it be sea level rise doubling or tripling beyond what the current rate is. I looked at fossils from coral reefs and tried to understand how high sea levels were when that reef was thriving, and how high the sea level was when the island itself formed.
When you look at these islands, everything that’s above the water is actually relatively young, only a few thousand years old. It’s some of the youngest places that people are living. And these islands are going to begin to see sea level rise that’s greater than anything that has happened to those islands before.
Rather than focusing only on the vulnerability and the threats, I’ve tried to look at different aspects of resiliency. How do reefs provide beaches or islands with sediment to help buffer the impacts of erosion? How quickly is a reef growing, and how does that compare to how quickly sea level is rising?
I also work with communities to try to get a holistic view of exactly what might happen with sea level rise. What is their ability to plan for the future? What are their biggest concerns, and how can we help them plan for the long term? I try not to focus just on the impacts and all of the doom and gloom, but I ask: How do we plan so that we’re prepared for these impacts?
It involves navigating on a canoe without the use of GPS, or sextants or any modern instruments. At night, we rely upon the stars and the planets — we study where they rise and set, and we use them to hold our course. During the day, we rely on the sun, on where it rises and sets. We also study the direction of the wind and the swells.
I try to incorporate navigation into my research, too. When you’re on a large research vessel, you spend most of your time indoors in a lab, analyzing your data. But when you’re on a canoe, you’re out there in the elements, and everyone — the crew, the scientists — needs to work together to get where we want to go. You end up building a relationship and it becomes a lot easier to ask difficult questions, or to be creative about solutions.
Whenever I talk to students who are about to embark on this journey to becoming a scientist, I tell them: Find a group of people that you can lean on for support, both in your successes and your challenges. Maybe they’re other scientists, maybe they’re not.
I just went out to sea with one of my girlfriends — we were among the only students from Hawaii majoring in oceanography at our university. And we now both have our Ph.D.s. She’s a chemical oceanographer, and we’re looking at deep sea corals and trying to understand the chemical environment they live in. We’d always dreamed of doing science together, and we’re hoping that this turns into a bigger project that we’ll continue to work on.
First my generation achieved international acclaim, then came local acclaim. For years I received phone calls from people telling me how much they admired my work, so I was the ideal person to recommend a male architect for their house. It is a real motivator to prove that you have a profession, that your time is worth something.
I think we are still waiting to see what our cities will become when they are designed by women. I think the sensitivity you just mentioned is also about thinking about different things. It’s about involving half the population in design. When we incorporate more ideas, desires and priorities, our designs will be more complete.
Many of the things we now know don’t work anymore. I think a great change is going to come from having more diverse participation, a more active role of women — and many others who have been left out — in making decisions about our territories and cities.
These neighborhoods, largely because of security concerns, have responded with a kind of violence — closed buildings, razor wire, thick walls. We’re trying to create architecture that opens up, connects to the sidewalk, to nature and to the community. We want to change the perception of these areas and provide a sense of visibility, comfort and security.
You can think of architecture as something that encloses and excludes. That makes you feel trapped or vulnerable. Or you can think of it as something that invites and opens and gathers. That is sensible to landscape and history and culture.
I think that is one of the big changes we are going to see in the next decades. That we don’t want to build higher walls, more massive structures or more divisions. We need to change the way cities understand public space.
That’s what I would have thought. How are you going to put yourself in front of 50 or 100 construction workers and make your voice heard? Or your rules followed? Or your project respected? But I have found the project site to be a very respectful place and an encouraging environment. I have found that male construction workers don’t have the same prejudice as clients.
I think the greater challenge has to do with issues dealing with family, maternity and business. The expectations of how many hours you have to do the work, even if you have a family.
We still have a long way to go. In 2010, I took part in a competition to design a memorial to mark Mexico’s bicentennial. The government commissioned 50 firms, and 48 were led by male practitioners. All 48 proposed vertical monuments. The two proposals from women wanted to do horizontal memorials centered around parks and public space — connecting to the landscape and the city. We are bringing new ideas and new priorities to the design discussion.
It’s difficult to say. I don’t really have an established firm; it’s been really improvised. I don’t have an established team. I try not to lose direct contact with the work, the site, the materials, the client or the construction workers. I try not to see things from above.
I don’t want to become a manager of projects that somebody else draws, visits and thinks about. For me, leadership is about having personal, direct contact with the issues.
I always loved math and physics, so from very early on I knew I wanted to be an engineer. I was really lucky because both my parents encouraged me. My dad is an engineer, so I think he had fun having a daughter with similar interests. He is Spanish; my mom is French. I was born in Spain, but between the ages of 4 and 18, I lived in six countries. It was a very international background that allowed me to learn different languages and experience diverse cultures at an early age.
The small, 20-employee company my parents founded, which manufactured industrial equipment, was not at its best when they asked me to help. I saw that there was a huge need in the market for automated equipment that could help companies become more flexible and competitive. Conveyor belts used for luggage at airports, for example, were very customized solutions that could not be easily adapted or moved.
With robotic technology, automation can be easily modified. After two years, I acquired 100 percent of the shares of the company and transformed it into mobile robotics. Today, our robots allow for increased customization of products, from sport shoes to cars, and efficiently move materials and products in many industries. When you order something online, a mobile robot in a warehouse moves the racks where the goods are located, which streamlines the picking process.
There is often a mismatch between how you see yourself — aerospace engineer, speaker of five languages, two master’s degrees, very international — and how others see you: daughter of previous owners, you’re here because you can’t do anything else, you’re a young woman in a very male-oriented world. I learned that you can’t destroy labels; you can only dilute them. I just concentrated on gaining the confidence of our customers and employees, and on what I wanted to accomplish. Once I directed the energy into making the company grow and making it international, labels were no longer part of the equation.
I’ve heard so many times that things are impossible. For me, that becomes a big driver. Both my parents were entrepreneurs, my grandparents on both sides were entrepreneurs, so that was very much part of my family background.
My second master’s degree, in positive psychology applied to leadership and strategy, focused on the way you lead companies: You need to transform yourself first if you want to be able to lead others.
The most important thing for growth is to be able to develop talent fast enough. In the field of robotics, it’s not easy to find people with experience. Also, ASTI’s headquarters are in Burgos, a small city in the north of Spain not known as a tech center. We were very aware that there weren’t many women in technology, which is why we started doing programs for promoting science and technology among youth, with one specific talent development program for girls, beginning at age 13.
Being passionate about what you do is very important; that makes everything else flow easier. And I’m quite disciplined both at home and at work. But you can’t do everything, and you need to accept that you can fail sometimes. I have a great team in both places. I always say to the girls at the foundation that choosing a partner who supports your dreams is crucial, because you’re not choosing someone for today, you’re choosing someone for the journey.
And sometimes when you’re in performance mode, you forget about having fun. To be sustainable, you need to have fun in what you do.
When I was a child, my father bought a multivolume encyclopedia, each book with a different subject. One was science and inside there was a section on astronomy with lots of photos. I knew nothing about the sky. I didn’t even know what a star was. But I knew I had to work inside this world. It was only when I was 24 and visiting Yosemite Park that I saw the sky with my own eyes in all its beauty — filled with clouds of stars. It was as if I had been struck by lightning. I said to myself, “You have found your vocation in life.”
I didn’t have much support. My parents didn’t know how the educational system worked in France. I had a lot of gaps in my education and had to find my own way. I also had to work part-time to support myself — as a caterer at Disneyland Paris, a breakfast waitress in hotels and an information guide at train stations.
I have faced hurtful comments along the way. I look very young and sometimes people dismiss me with comments like, “Oh, you’re cute.” Some people have said, “Oh, someone with your profile cannot succeed in this world.” I always replied, “I am here, and it’s normal that I should be here.” I don’t want to be identified as the Black wonder woman from the Paris suburbs. My mother would smile and tell me, “You are born as you are.” I don’t want to have to carry this fight on my shoulders. I want to be taken seriously as an astrophysicist — and a normal human being.
The French educational system is known to be very unequal. There are obstacles depending on where you come from and where you go to school. It’s not necessarily true that if you work hard, you will succeed. I am only one person, and I cannot change the system all by myself. So I just contribute with what I know.
The association provides young people with general scientific culture so that they can better understand the universe. One of our projects is to promote science to girls between the ages of 8 and 18. Many studies have shown that stereotypes linked to gender are internalized as young as the age of 6. Among other things, Éphémérides wants to destroy the bias that conditions girls in their professional choices.
I tell them to avoid the impostor syndrome, that it is normal to be afraid. I tell them that even if they are not sure of themselves or don’t know how to do something to keep moving. I have had failures and they have in some ways made me better. Believe in yourself. if you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never make it.
This conversation, conducted in both French and English, has been edited and condensed.
In high school, I was pretty good at math and science, but it was all fairly theoretical, not hands-on. So my teacher thought it would be a good idea to sign up [students] for a national science fair. We taught ourselves basic programming online — we did not have access to resources or mentors.
We designed a program that gives metrics on building a spiral staircase depending on the user group, such as the elderly or children. It was very simple, but it felt magical to address real-world problems. We won first place and ours was the only team in that category made up of three girls and one guy — all the other teams were only guys.
In Lebanon, that is a big trend now. Women are encouraged to pursue STEM at university; in some Arab states, women make up 50 percent of the students studying STEM. But once they’re done, they’re definitely encouraged to stay away from working in their fields and pursue a more socially acceptable career, such as teaching. There’s an economic crisis in Lebanon right now, so the trend is for women to work, but STEM is frowned upon, especially if it involves long hours, being around a lot of men or, say, in civil engineering, going to construction sites.
Yes! The first summer we hosted about 80 girls, and so far we’ve had more than 500 girls — ages around 12 to 19 — attend. It started as a three-day summer program where we spend half the day introducing girls to technology buzzwords and then the afternoon teaching coding. The last day is a small hackathon. The events are free, and now we offer other programs and mentorships year-round.
So far, 90 percent of our girls who have gone on to university are studying STEM. And some of the members who joined us are now running the program. So Maya and I are on the board of advisers, but have stepped away from the day-to-day.
Around six years ago, my grandpa passed away due to Alzheimer’s and that was actually one of the reasons I went into engineering. I want to focus on advancing health care products and systems. Circuit designing is designing the heart that runs technology all around us. During my last year at college, I worked on a design that would power an artificial pacemaker.
When the explosion happened, the response on the ground by the government was very slow and the process to find the missing victims was very inefficient — it was citizens who tried to help. It was very frustrating for those of us who came from tech backgrounds that the government didn’t have such a system.
People, especially young people familiar with technology, built up platforms such as mapping disaster zones and pinpointing shelters on Google Maps for those who had lost their homes. I worked with the Locate Victims Beirut team on the database that continuously updated those known dead, and missing victims.
I led everything related to recruiting volunteers, including the tech team responsible for maintaining the database and an outreach team that had to verify information by calling or going to hospitals.
Definitely. Technology played such an important role in responding to the crisis. When the explosion happened, phone networks in Beirut and some surrounding areas went down. We were all communicating on social media. It also reinforced how important it is for me to study in this area and return to Beirut with my skills.
We’re hoping to provide useful insights into how the variants are arising and whether there’s ongoing spread. It’s used in parallel with what governments are getting from case information. So, for example, if you have 10 cases, you can’t tell if they are 10 introductions by people who arrived through travel, or whether the variant was introduced by one person that then spread to nine others locally. That’s an important distinction: Is it here and spreading or is it arising [from elsewhere]? With phylogenetics [the study of evolutionary relationships among biological entities, including viruses], we can tell you that. That can inform your country-level responses, for example, on how to contain a new variant.
It has improved over the course of the pandemic, but when we see the headline people who have been chosen to be part of decision-making groups or advisers who are shaping this pandemic, those are a lot of time still men. Here in Switzerland, there really is a dearth of female professors in general and especially in infectious diseases. So if you don’t have a big pool of people to pick from to begin with, they probably won’t end up being the key figures who have a voice in addressing the pandemic. On the upside, people become aware that there’s a gender disparity here, so journalists are trying to reach out to get more women speaking on the subject.
We definitely see high numbers of women who get biology degrees these days. Even up to the Ph.D. level, the situation for them remains pretty equitable. But as you get into the higher level positions within the ranks of academia and research, that number drops off quickly, sometimes quite dramatically. Some people will say that this will change over time as more women enter the field, but I don’t think this is going to be a problem that will solve itself.
We still have a long way to go when it comes to unconscious biases in what people expect from women, particularly as biology has increasingly become quantitative, which means you need good computer skills, coding skills, mathematics, simulations. Unfortunately, that’s starting to butt up against traditional expectations of what “girls are good at” and this can impact not only how women’s work is weighed against that of their male peers, but also what women think they can do. Women may be more hesitant to believe that they can be as good at coding or math as their male counterparts, just because of societal expectations.
A lot of the barriers happen in particular at a tender age for a lot of scientists, sort of late 20s or early 30s, when you’re on short-term contracts that require you to change institutions fairly regularly. That might well be the time when a lot of women — well, actually scientists of both genders — would like to start a family. But of course women pay a higher price as far as household expectations, looking after children’s education, doctors’ appointments, that sort of thing. This not only indirectly or directly impacts women’s career choices, but we also see that a lot of women give up before they even get there, just because it looks like an impossible balance.
I don’t have kids or a family yet, and several times during this pandemic I have thought, I don’t know how I would have been able to do this over the last year if I did. The institutionalized expectation that I’m going to be the one to sacrifice my career to be able to have a child definitely weighs heavily on me. I admire women who have managed to make this balance work, but I don’t think it’s easy. If I do decide to have children, it will probably be the biggest challenge of my career to balance the two.
This pandemic has been great for many women’s careers if they are working on the pandemic, but I also know that many women scientists are suffering, particularly those working in other fields in biology. Their labs are shut, the schools are shut, they don’t have time to write for grants or keep up with all the other normal things they need to do to keep their careers on track. I do worry about the long-term impact on women’s academic futures from the career hold that 2020 and potentially 2021 will leave. I have read some really heart-rending blogs and Twitter threads of women whose work has just ground to a halt. They’re trying to juggle child care and care for sick relatives. Are we going to account for this in future job applications and grant applications? I haven’t seen concrete plans for this, and I would love to.
When I was in high school, I was very good at mathematics, so my teacher encouraged me to enroll at a special aeronautics school where they were training Morocco’s first female fighter pilots. I was quite a hardheaded kid, so I got my parents to accept. I was in the program for three years. But then the military decided to stop it. They said women were not ready to become fighter pilots. To this day, more than 20 years later, there are no female fighter pilots in Morocco.
I was 17, and found it really unjust, really unacceptable. Why could I not do what a man could do? That was my feeling at the time, and it still is. We need equal opportunities for women. Even if we have to engage in positive discrimination, I think it’s necessary.
The United Arab Emirates are in a really deserted area, and all the water they have is saline. The ecosystem is very difficult to work with: very hot temperatures, very scarce waters, very poor soils. You need lots of innovation. My job was to use genetics to breed crops that could withstand salinity and grow in very hot temperatures.
They needed a person in charge of bringing science and innovation into all programs and decisions at F.A.O. — as a way to increase the impact that we can have on the ground, be it for malnutrition or poverty alleviation.
The changes are horrific. The people that understand it the best are farmers. I don’t think there’s any farmer that will tell you, “It’s the same as 10 or 15 years ago.”
Not only is the climate heating up, but we have huge variability. In a region where it always used to rain, let’s say, in the middle of January, people start having no rain at all in January. Maybe it happens in February or March. All of this affects cycles and affects productivity. This affects my job in terms of malnutrition and poverty.
Absolutely. I came across it in many instances. It’s often very subtle; it doesn’t always come out as rude and in your face. There’s always a smile at the corner of their lips — like, “Can she really do it?” — and misplaced jokes, because men are used to being among themselves, and can make very sexist jokes.
Either I asked them to shut up, or I just ignored it. I never felt that I was weak and couldn’t claim my rights.
I think the biggest obstacle is our desire to have a family. Biology and culture make you really strive to have kids. This is the most difficult challenge, because most women are going to give up their career to have a family or to please their cultural setting. And that’s where I think policies should help women have a family and a career.
Kay Firth-Butterfield | Artificial Intelligence | Texas
When I started practicing, there were not many women who were barristers; we were hustled into family law and all things touchy-feely. But it was the perfect place for me, because I liked helping people. There comes a time, however, when barristers become judges, and while I was duly selected, I found I didn’t like being a judge. I opted to retire, and I moved with my husband and daughter to Texas. There, I taught law, became involved with a local nonprofit which worked to rescue human trafficking victims, and wrote a thesis on the future of the law, including the impact of A.I.
On a plane from London to Austin in 2014 I met the C.E.O. of an A.I. start-up, who was, by serendipity, moved to my row. We spoke for 10 hours and he asked me to be the chief A.I. ethics officer at his company. Eventually, I was recruited to join the World Economic Forum.
There are at least 175 different principles out in the world regarding ethical A.I. But whether you’re in Beijing, Boston or Bogotá, the principles all have 10 fundamental aspects that we, as humans, clearly believe, including transparency, accountability, privacy and explainability about what you’re doing with data. In addition, we need to ask if the use of A.I. will benefit humans and the planet, or is this just a company that wants to make as much money as possible and then sell out next year. And of course, there are the really important pieces like bias, inclusiveness, safety and security.
It depends how you define “ahead.” The E.U. is likely to legislate on A.I., specifically on what we call high-risk cases that involve facial recognition and human resources. But equally, it’s debatable whether legislation is the right thing for A.I., simply because legislating is a slow process, and by the time a law or regulation is enacted, the A.I. tools already may have changed. What is needed are agile governance tools.
Companies should definitely have an A.I. ethics officer, as well as an ethics statement as a start — it’s what customers and the public want in terms of trust. But we will need some sort of regulation for things like facial recognition and cases where A.I. impinges on people’s rights and liberties, such as in judicial uses, hiring and loans.
We’re allowing our children, including those under 7, whose minds are very receptive to embedding values which can last a lifetime, to play with A.I.-enabled devices and toys. But we don’t know what the toy companies’ privacy rules are, and even though they may be labeled educational toys, we don’t know what they’re teaching.
This may not be a problem with companies we trust, but the majority of A.I.-enabled toys are created by small start-ups around the world. Everyone says A.I. will be able to educate the world — that’s the holy grail. But let’s do things safely.
I have not felt as many obstacles in this part of my career as I did as a young barrister, but I know women who are A.I. scientists feel this.
After grad school at University of Michigan and time in Israel and Singapore, I moved on to Wall Street. I wanted to get in the game and be part of that world.
I was at work in my office [at JPMorgan Chase & Company] when I got the news that I had cancer, and I thought, “I can’t die in this chair and at this desk without really having made an impact like the trailblazers before and those women like my mom.”
After I got over my fear of dying, I got this courage for living. And at that moment, I became bold and fearless to be a champion for the women I knew — women who looked like me.
So much of investing is not solely picking companies and doing the due diligence, it’s also helping them build, so we can monetize and return capital to investors.
I’m now a middle-aged Black woman, and I have accomplished a lot in my career. I am now at an age where I can authentically give that to the start-ups.
I don’t live in fear of where my next paycheck is coming from, how my mortgage is going to get paid. I’m at a point in my life where I can take everything I’ve done and put it toward those that I believe are worthy of investing in. It has become my why.
My sisterhood and I don’t always have a seat at the table, and we are not always invited into the room, but I’ve gotten real comfortable being a party crasher.
And just a little secret … the party is always better when my sisterhood and I show up.
The fundamentals haven’t changed: People love winners. Markets love winners. Money follows winners.
People need to put money where their mouth is. What is happening these days is there are too many press releases being issued by people and big corporations proclaiming their financial commitment to Black businesses or racial equity, but the dollars show up as marketing, sponsorship dollars or loans.
We need more checks to the Black businesses and new Black venture capitalists who are investing in Black, women-led, diverse companies and less headlines about people’s intentions.
I always tell them be bold, be courageous and double your number. Whatever you are asking for, double it. You have choices, so look for investors who will build with you.
Be a problem-solver. Entrepreneurship is about being a problem-solver. Build things that are big ideas, that are going to change how we work and how we live and consume.
I get noes every day. What is worse is the silence, or the nice “let’s keep in touch” and the pat on the head. Those cut deeper than the noes. At least with a no, you know where you stand. My mother always said, “Go ask. No one has ever died of the word no.”
And really, don’t tell my mom, but I’ve stopped asking. Now I’m inviting, and only inviting those that truly get it. Women and women of color are crushing it in the tech world and too many are going to miss out on sharing in our success.
My biggest reward is the people who have rallied around the fund since we launched. I am not alone in this. The fund is a network of allies and mentors. I love how we have raised the money. JPMorgan contributed the initial funding to what is now the WOCstar Fund.
Two of our initial investors were Caucasian men, who live in my neighborhood in New York City. It’s grounding to know I can see them in the grocery store, or the gym, and they don’t have shared experiences as me, or look like me, but trust me to know the best investments by people of color.
Finally, it’s the conversations with the founders. It is the mentoring. It’s the tough love. That’s where I get my joy and my energy.
I love film and media and getting more women and people of color in media.
I didn’t have a lot of time with my grandfather because he died when I was very young. But from my aunts and uncles and my father, I really understand the struggles and injustice of poverty.
Through food activism and through a love of justice. And not just justice for human life, but for all life, including the life of the planet. Agriculture and food just really sit in a sweet spot for me. You can touch on human rights and human dignity. You can touch on climate action and caring for the earth and making decisions that protect and nurture the planet that protects and nurtures us. Through growing food you’re impacting local economy, you’re creating jobs and you have an ability to touch everyone and anyone who’s interested because everyone needs to eat.
What’s beautiful about where we are right now is that it’s given us 10-plus years of land and infrastructure and support and healthy soil that we’ve been able to steward and care for.
I’m in partnership with a friend who wrote a master’s thesis on farm-to-school. She and I have been working together on this project for almost three years now, Small Bites Adventure Club, to help young people get over the hurdle of preference, so they can become lifelong eaters of fruits and vegetables. And it’s been directly out of the food innovation that I was doing with PeachDish.
It’s innovative food distribution for teachers and classrooms, and for parents and kids at home. But it’s very limited — just helping young people discover, learn about, taste and try to get familiar with food from farms. The research shows that if you build those connections early and often, as adults, young people are much more likely to eat fruits and vegetables.[We have] a taste test box and it helps teachers conduct nutrition education and aligns with curriculum standards to do a quick taste test in the classroom and teach about a fruit and vegetable farmer. Then we have a kit that goes into the home to help parents conduct a monthly activity to explore a farm and a fruit or vegetable.
The worker-owned cooperative model we really see as a pathway to longevity for a farm business. So often farms of our scale really depend on one person. So how do we create the sort of reinforced network of owners and stakeholders and partners to really support a farm and grow food for a wider swath of the community that can go on well beyond any one person?
When my now-husband started working on a biodynamic organic farm and started bringing that food into our lives and we started eating it on a regular basis, not only did my health change, my mental health changed. That’s what I really want for everybody. If people can eat good food, they can feel better physically, mentally. We can get to a place where maybe there’s not so much war and strife. For me, nothing is more important than the food that you eat because it is you.
Source: New York Times