Growing up with a focus on volunteering and giving back to the community, Sheila Moore, chemist and business owner, wants to blaze a trail for women in the science world while also coming alongside her community and investing back into her town.
4word: As a woman in a scientific career field, has your career journey been difficult? Are you mindful of being a mentor to other women aspiring to enter a field similar to yours?
Sheila: My journey has not been easy. Being the first woman in many of my jobs was very challenging at times! I try to be a mentor to both women and men. Recently, a young college graduate applied for a job and began saying, “I hate my job at…” I tried to point out the reasons he should be patient and try to enjoy the situation; every job offers a learning experience if you look for it and are willing to accept the situation.
Women still have the lowest numbers in the scientific career fields. I would love to help that statistic change! I have seen several great and very capable female engineers decide to walk away due to the work load and being overwhelmed with trying to combine work and family. You have to be incredibility organized and have a great support system in place to achieve work/family balance.
Men still have expectations of how they want life to be and women are pressured/bullied to adhere to these old fashioned standards. Until the workplace puts support systems into our business worlds, women may always struggle. My company will offer on-site daycare 24/7 if needed to support our female employees. I want to provide the tools necessary for women to succeed and thrive in the scientific fields. There are so many opportunities for women but they need the support to combine both work and family.
Side story – there is a woman who calls me each Friday for a progress report on my plant. At first, she would block her phone number and not give me her name. After a few weeks, she gave me her first name. Now she doesn’t block her phone number. In our weekly talks, she has opened up and told me what she likes to do, what she wants in a new job and what she wants to achieve at my company. I am trying to help her realize her dreams and get out of the kitchens she has always worked in as a cook. She is more capable than she realizes and I hope over time, I can help her to secure a different type of position with my company. I see the possibilities in her and I want to instill hope in her for a brighter future.
4word: “Giving back” is something you are passionate about and have always made a point to invest back in your community. Is this a mindset you were raised to have?
Sheila: Definitely! My whole family has always volunteered and been willing to offer our services to others. My dad was the youngest Master Mason in IN during the ’60’s. Now, at 82 years of age, he still volunteers and devotes his spare time to helping others. His gardens are used to support the local food banks. I grew up poor but we always had enough to share with someone in need.
I also learned to give back by participating in 4-H programs while I was growing up. I collected clothing and home supplies for my 4-H friends in PA after a major flood. I have served on different charity boards to help my community – in the Chicago Jr. League, I developed the program called “Done In A Day,” which allowed working women to volunteer on the weekends. (Very important to me since I traveled extensively!) We managed to paint the inside of many of the “project homes” and women’s shelters in downtown Chicago. We often had police escorts but that just added to the excitement and the challenge to help underserved residents.
At the end of a painting weekend, we then cooked a meal with our “customers” to celebrate our success together. It was very inspiring to me as well as to our “customers” to sit and break bread with our new friends as they admired their freshly painted apartments. The mayor’s office was always appreciative of the free labor in exchange for the paint and supplies. It taught all of us how fortunate we are and to be grateful for each day.
4word: Why do you think it’s important to give back?
Sheila: We all have something inside us to share with others. If we keep everything to ourselves, how will this planet grow and evolve to its full potential? Many people assisted me on my journey. I want to help the ones coming behind me (we all need to train our younger team members) and those that are ahead of me (use my peers to be my mentors – I still have so much to learn and to accomplish). I want to help people find their “right” position in life and at work. If I can help people to see their potential, why not help them succeed?
I interviewed a man with over 25 years of experience as a microbiologist. He is now blind and no one will give him a chance in the food industry. Due to his experience and qualifications, I suggested we could find a technical quality support role that he can do from his home via telephone. He was very surprised, since he had only called to ask me how to network for a job with an ingredient company. Why shouldn’t I help him? He has knowledge that few people possess; we just needed to find a creative way for his voice to be heard. He is already set up with a computer system that speaks to him and has great listening skills. I will give him a chance when the rest of the food industry is ignoring him – I see potential for him and for my company.
4word: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start “giving back?”
Sheila: Look into your heart and see your own potential – what you have to share. To give back, you really need to give from your heart and not focus on what you will get in return. Too many people focus only on “what’s in it for me.” I hate that type of thinking.
Giving back just comes naturally to me – I grew up poor but didn’t realize the situation. I was raised to give back when possible. It doesn’t mean give away everything, but to be kind and respectful of others. Be honest and transparent with yourself and with your co-workers and partners. People will naturally want to help you succeed when you show that you’re trying and you care. I always remember the kindness that has been shown to me and I will return that favor when I can.
As a business owner, I need to focus on the bottom line. But I learned years ago that the bottom line will go up when the employees feel they are being treated fairly and with respect. When you state the facts of the business, they listen and will help the company grow and succeed. I want my employees to feel that they are part of the solution not the problem. They will be rewarded for their time and their efforts. I am building a culture that is inclusive and will contribute to the community. A win-win for all of us.
4word: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Sheila: At the beginning of my career, I was everyone’s sister, daughter, or granddaughter. They all wanted to help me (the first woman at each company) succeed but sometimes, the tactics were actually a form of intimidation, to teach me to comply and agree with the person in charge. I learned to speak just the facts in order to win and succeed; I did not play their games and I won. I won because I had earned the respect of my customers, my employers, and my peers. We all need to learn to respect each other, keep our hands to ourselves and realize that we all want the same things – to be treated with respect and courtesy. It does not matter if you are rich or poor, the CEO or the janitor – we all put our pants on the same way: one leg at a time.
We should all learn to listen to those around us and follow our hearts – the world is an amazing place full of sights, sounds, and smells. We can learn so much if we take the time to observe and listen. I like to believe that everyone is trying to do their best, even when they stumble and fall. Men need to learn to respect women and women need to respect men. We all need to work together.
Remember to be thoughtful, patient, and kind. Learn from your past and keep moving forward.
Take a deep breath and dive in. The journey will be amazing!
How have you been able to give back this year? Are you still waiting for your chance? Take inspiration from Sheila and start living each day with a goal of making an impact in someone’s life, big or small!
Sheila has over 30 years of experience in the Flavor and Food Service Industries. She is known for New Business Development and leading the R&D teams of her past employers to create cutting edge Flavor and Seasoning Solutions as well as new Finished Frozen Foods concepts. Sheila’s passion is developing, manufacturing and selling new concepts to the marketplace. She loves to watch a concept go from the bench through production and out to the customer via the restaurant trade or the retail marketplace. Sheila is an original member of the Chicago Section of the RCA (Research Chef’s Association), a member of the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF), Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and the American Association of Candy Technologists (AACT). She has served on the following Charity Boards: C.H.A. M. P. Community Project, Chicago Fire Children’s Charity (Chicago Fire Soccer Team), JPA (Juvenile Protective Association), Jr. League of Chicago, and volunteers with RMHC – local section and various houses across the USA.
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