Meet Julia Wiebe!
Managing Director of red otc development GmbH – a Finzelberg company, and Founding Director of WIN and Board Member
At Women In Nutraceuticals, we are incredibly honored to be working with some of the most extraordinary and respected leaders in the nutraceuticals industry, including Julia Wiebe, PhD. Please join us as we discover what inspires Julia and ignites her passion for business and science.
Julia studied biology and agriculture engineering in Berlin. She holds a doctorate in molecular biology from the Technische Universität Munich, and an MBA from the International University Germany.
After her postdoctoral research, and a few years in clinical research with a focus on diabetes and epigenetics, she decided to join the nutraceutical industry. She was Chief Science Officer and Board Member responsible for research, development, and innovation at the Spanish ingredient supplier Nektium Pharma.
In January 2022, she joined red otc development GmbH, a Finzelberg company and member of the nature network, as Managing Director. Red otc specializes in the development of innovative final product solutions for the OTC and supplement sector.
Women In Nutraceuticals Takes a Deeper Dive with Julia Wiebe
Q: When did you discover your interest in science?
Initially, I had a strong desire to pursue a career in design and even took steps to prepare for admission into a design school. However, I found myself consistently gravitating towards scientific subjects, particularly genetics, during project assignments. This fascination ultimately led me to study biology and agriculture engineering. I continued my academic journey by obtaining a PhD in molecular biology and subsequently worked in diabetes research for several years.
Q: Why did you transition from science to management and what are the challenges for female scientists on their way into leadership positions/the C-suite?
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have crossed paths with individuals who consistently challenged and supported me throughout my career. These mentors played a significant role in shaping my thinking. But like many women, I have also encountered situations where I questioned whether certain remarks or actions would have been directed at a man, too. Or were these comments someone would only direct to a woman?
As a scientist, I often felt like a satellite within the company, somewhat detached from the business side of things. There seemed to be an unspoken belief that scientists should solely focus on their scientific pursuits. Unfortunately, often both scientists and the rest of the company seemed to agree on this notion. However, I believe this is a mistake.
Scientists should have a comprehensive understanding of the market and actively seek input from it to develop products that the company can successfully sell. Especially in the nutraceutical industry, with 80% of female consumers, women should be involved in the development of products for women, and do science focused on women as the main consumer group.
Even in my role as Chief Science Officer, I felt limited in my ability to contribute to decisions regarding the company’s future direction. This led me to pursue an MBA, dedicating my evenings to studying when my children finally slept, in order to transition into a management role. Although I could have taken this step earlier, I lacked the knowledge and awareness of all the options I actually had.
This is precisely what we aim to accomplish with the Science Committee: assist female scientists who aspire to reach the C-suite or pursue management positions by providing them with the necessary preparation and skills at an early stage. WIN’s Mentorship Program “Launching Leaders” is one of the tools we use.
Q. How did you become a founding director of WIN?
At the first European Vitafoods after COVID, in autumn 2021, we had a fantastic on-stage discussion about the impact of COVID on women in the industry hosted by Heather Granato, with Traci Kantowski, Kenn Israel, David Foreman and Britta Bush to name a few. It was eye-opening for me as during preparation I delved into recent data and discovered the alarming effects of the pandemic on women, particularly in the field of science.
Many female scientists were forced to prioritize their family responsibilities over their work in the lab, resulting in a significant setback in their careers compared to their male counterparts. This will increase the existing gender gap in the scientific community, bringing us back to the 1980’s.
The importance of addressing this issue became evident during our discussion in Geneva. We all agreed that we needed to continue the conversation. Simultaneously, thought leaders of the nutraceutical industry in the US were engaged in similar discussions, and at the end of 2021 the pieces started falling into place.
In January 2022, Heather Granato organized the first virtual meeting, a team formed, and WIN took off at an incredible pace. It was an exhilarating year, working with these passionate and brilliant women and men, witnessing the formation of WIN.
Q: What is it like working with WIN
I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to contribute to WIN on a strategic level. Working with this brilliant group of people towards our common aim, to unlock the potential of women and reach gender parity in the C-suite and on company boards, is very rewarding and brings me immense satisfaction and joy.
As stated by the Platform of Women Leaders, gathered at UN General Assembly in New York, “Gender Equality is not an option, it is an imperative”. The nutraceutical industry will WIN in various ways thanks to gender equality, and the industry’s overwhelming response indicates that it’s time to turn this into a reality.
As the board liaison for the Science Committee I am responsible for the implementation of this committee and it is really gratifying to see how positively people responded when we approached them, with almost everyone agreeing to contribute their valuable free time to the committee. The Science Committee’s goal is to support female scientists in their career advancement into C-suite and leadership positions.
Thanks to the dedicated volunteers, just one year after WIN’s official launch, our Science Committee is operational and preparing to launch its first webinar series, focused on the challenges and hurdles female scientists are facing.
Julia Wiebe, PhD, MBA
red otc development GmbH
Founding Director of WIN and Board Member