STEM Woman Leader of the Day- Susan Crockett (General Mills)
Submitted by Tommy Cornelis on August 1, 2012
Susan J. Crockett, Ph.D., is Vice President and Senior Technology Officer for Health and Nutrition at General Mills where she leads the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition. She is responsible for health and nutrition strategy, regulatory affairs, nutrition research and health professional communication. Crockett completed a doctorate in Epidemiology and is a registered dietitian and was Dean of the College for Human Development atSyracuseUniversityfrom 1990 to 1999. She chairs the Board of Directors of the International Food Information Council and is a member of the Food Forum at the National Academy of Sciences.
Of what one initiative you are most proud?
I am most proud of my leadership in General Mills that supports flexibility for the staff of scientists I lead, most of whom are female. The Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition (BIHN) was the first group in our company to adopt a future-of-work model we call Flexible User Shared Environment (FUSE). The model relies on trust-based management and allows people to work efficiently from anywhere. And, while it not only about working from home, when people decide to do that, or when they work anywhere removed from our primary office location, they have all of the technology tools needed to be efficient. When the BIHN converted to FUSE, evaluation showed that collaboration improved 58%, decision speed by 42%, flexibility by 54% and productivity by 55%. People also reported significantly greater satisfaction with work-life balance. After the BIHN piloted FUSE in 2006 and the evaluation was so positive, the whole company began gradually converting to the FUSE work approach.
In addition to FUSE, the Bell Institute honors all requests for part-time work and we’re the only function in the company to do so. I’m proud of my leadership in flexible work approaches because all of the scientists on my team are more productive as a result, our attrition rate is close to zero, and people aren’t motivated to drop out when they have small children. I believe that flexibility is one key to allowing women (and men) to succeed and climb the career ladder in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
What traits do senior leaders need to effectively support and advance STEM today?
Senior leaders must continually work to hone their own leadership skills so they can provide support and mentoring for more junior scientists in STEM disciplines. Good leaders develop people, organizations and themselves. They inspire and motivate others by providing positive feedback, setting aggressive goals and clear priorities. They add value with superior expertise, but humbly give credit to more junior scientists for their accomplishments. They connect to the outside world, form strong internal networks and encourage innovation and change. Above all, great leaders must engender trust at all levels and demonstrate unquestionable integrity. Being able to demonstrate all of these traits requires that senior leaders must devote time and energy to developing themselves. This is true because their leadership behavior and the role modeling they provide for others are essential to developing others.