IWD2021: Celebrating the Women at Erthos

by | Mar 8, 2021

erthos™ began with a founding team of 3 passionate women back in 2018. My co-founders Chang, Nuha and I could have never imagined that just a couple years later, we would have grown to a team of 19 – 53% of which are women – composed of scientists, engineers, and environmentalists working in both Canada and China to develop revolutionary materials and implement change within the plastics industry. 

Our journey towards building a diverse team has not always been easy: we have faced rejection every step of the way and have come to realize the need for more women, and women led ventures within a primarily male dominated space like plastics and advanced materials. erthos and its philosophy is shaped by our experience as women in STEM, and diversity is at the core of who we are, and what we value. To us, International Women’s Day is a day to not only celebrate the trailblazers in our lives and communities, but to also reflect on all the work left to be done to ensure access to platforms and resources for all women. 

Today, we are so proud of the diversity within our team across international borders, and of the equality within different streams of erthos.

This International Women’s Day, we are proud to highlight just a few of the many strong, intelligent women we have on our team who #ChooseToChallenge the status quo everyday. Below are excerpts from my interviews with Taylor, Sunny, Shadi and Wendy: 4 rock-star female engineers at erthos.

Let’s start off with introductions. Tell us a little bit about yourself, and your journey with erthos so far.

Shadi Meshkat, Senior Research Associate

I have a PhD in chemical engineering, and after years of being involved in research on polymer composites in academia, and enjoying every moment of that, I was sure that R&D in this field would be what I want as my life-time career. At erthos, I love the fact that we are all making something from scratch: we are all on a journey together. I also admire the friendly ambiance at erthos, and the co-founders’ approach to leading a team.

Sunny Zhou, Senior Research Associate

I have a chemistry background, a PhD from Hong Kong Baptist University, and a PostDoc from Shenzhen University. I am very optimistic about the R&D direction of our environmentally friendly materials, and I was aligned with the company’s philosophy from day one!

Taylor Stimpson, Junior Research Associate

I hold both a B.Eng & Society and MASc in Chemical Engineering from McMaster University. I work with the Product and R&D teams to help develop the next generation of plant powered materials. When erthos was hiring, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity for me to combine my knowledge of polymer engineering with my passion for sustainability to help fight the negative impacts of traditional single-use plastics. I was also drawn to the team because of the inspiring leadership and incredible expertise of the executive team who built the company from the ground up.

Wendy Wen, Product Associate

I have a Master’s degree in materials science and engineering.  I’m responsible for the development of novel bioplastics, and also work towards securing relevant product certifications in China for our materials. My academic background fits perfectly with erthos’ mission, and I am passionate about solving the problem of plastic pollution. I love that I can work well with the team and achieve personal and professional goals by doing what I love.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you, Shadi?

International Women’s Day is a time to acknowledge influential women everywhere. As I browse through social media, I am able to see and know many women in various sectors and read their stories. To me, all those stories are encouraging. I think it has been several years now that women are contributing to society and the economy as much as men, however this fact has not yet been acknowledged by a noticeable number of people. I appreciate that there is a day in 365 days in which women speak up and I hope they can be heard by other women.

Which women have inspired you in your life, Sunny?

Tu Youyou, China’s first Nobel Prize winner in medicine. Tu Youyou is a Chinese pharmaceutical chemist and malariologist. She discovered artemisinin and dihydroartemisinic, used to treat malaria, a breakthrough in twentieth-century tropical medicine, saving millions of lives. Women like Tu Youyou, inspire me to lead the way towards developing truly sustainable plastic alternatives to save our planet.

Wendy, as a woman in STEM, what gender-specific challenges have you had to overcome in your past?

Unfortunately, I have found many companies and organizations to discriminate against women of “marriageable age”, because of the outdated belief that a woman’s pregnancy and birth will impact their ability to work.  I think we still have some work to do in ensuring the legal rights and interests of women globally. Women should have access to the same resources as their counterparts and be able to realize the results of all their hard work.

What does Diversity mean to you, Taylor?

Diversity means that in everything we do, we are including the voices, perspectives, and stories from folks who represent our whole population. It also means including diversity in decision making and leadership – far beyond just gender diversity. I believe that our biggest global challenges require solutions that are devised not from just one perspective, but from many that represent all of society. Our greatest challenges don’t just affect one type of person – so we shouldn’t have just one type of person solving them. It’s also important to recognize that not everyone sees themselves in the spaces they dream to occupy. By building diverse teams we can set an example to our youth and allow everyone to imagine themselves in their dream role, and to see it as possible. 

What is something you will all do this Women’s Day to celebrate yourself and all your accomplishments?

Shadi: This year, I would like to celebrate starting my career at erthos and entering this field as senior research associate. I have enjoyed every moment of that so far, and I am thrilled for what is yet to come.

Sunny: I’m going to watch a movie, and eat some delicious food!

Taylor: I’m going to treat myself to a delicious pastry, listen to the audiobook version of All We Can Save, and feel both proud to exist in a world that has been built up by women, and at the same time empowered to make the world better for women of the next generation.

Wendy:  I would spend it like any other day, because we should be working towards diversity and inclusivity every day!

What we choose to challenge this year at erthos

As our team continues to grow, so does our commitment to diversity. This International Women’s Day, we at erthos #ChooseToChallenge ourselves to expand our outreach and advance inclusivity within our company. As Canada announces its 50/30 challenge, we are proud to announce our commitment to meeting these goals. While we already have a widely diverse team with over 50% women, we want to keep this momentum going, and invite you to join us in our mission to develop not only truly sustainable solutions for the planet, but to promote an inclusive culture within conventionally male dominated spaces.

What do you #ChooseToChallenge this International Women’s Day?

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