Female #FoodHeroes

Gina Swart

Gina is the Head of Global Product Biology focusing on disease control for Syngenta. She leads a team working in close partnership with Syngenta’s regional teams to deliver an innovative portfolio of products and technologies to address the evolving needs of growers.

 

Gina in a rice field in Taiwan

Gina in a rice field in Taiwan

Why do you love your job?

I love my job because what I do has an impact on people’s lives and their quality of life. Through the power of science and technology we can improve farming efficiency and food security in an environmentally sustainable way. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is to spend time with growers, talking to them about their concerns and sharing their pride in the crops they produce.

It’s exciting and inspiring to be part of the enormous transformation in the way we produce food, and to play a role in shaping this transformation. I also enjoy the interaction with, and learning from, so many different people across a diverse range of countries and cultures.

How did you get here?

I have a PhD in Plant Pathology and spent several years doing post-doc research and training post-graduate students before joining Syngenta. I have had several roles here, mostly focused on fungicide development, before moving into my current role.

What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?

Women play a vital role in rural economies by ensuring food security and are often the primary decision makers in the family enterprise. However, these women face several constraints that impact their productivity, which include access to knowledge, technology and finance. Relatively small inputs such as fertilizers, improved varieties and access to financing can have a profound effect on the quality of life of these families.

We should highlight the importance of careers in science, technology and agriculture and show girls and young women that these are exciting and worthwhile careers, which are both rewarding from the scientific point of view, but also from the contributions they can make to the future of sustainable farming that benefit growers large and small. The value of role models and mentors for these aspiring young women cannot be emphasized enough, and from my perspective, is one of the most important opportunities to help them develop and grow in their career.

How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?

At Syngenta, we are working to be at the forefront of the current wave of technological innovation within our industry to better meet the needs of all growers. These technologies should meet societal demands for environmental sustainability, but also the production of safe, healthy food. Furthermore, we should proactively anticipate and address the challenge of shifting pathogens/pests due to climate change so that we can offer growers safe, cost-effective products and services in the future.

What’s one challenge you face as a woman in agriculture and what do you think needs to be done to overcome this?

My biggest challenge aside from often being the only woman in the room, was being taken seriously as a technical expert, often being mistaken for the secretary or tea lady! As times changed and I progressed in my career, this has changed although I am often still the only woman in the room. I am passionate about getting more young women to pursue careers in science, technology and specifically agriculture. This is the only way we will change the stereotypes of science and agriculture being boring and “uncool” so that we can harness the power of diversity to address the challenges we will face in the future.

 

Gina is just one of many inspirational women working in agriculture. Visit our Female #FoodHeroes page to hear from other women working to improve plant science and nutrition.