Female #FoodHeroes

Nancy Tout

Nancy is the Head of Research and Development for Syngenta in Canada, leading a team of scientists that help farmers grow better crops through new science and technology.

Why do you love your job?

I love my job because of the science and technology lens we put on our products and services. The people in agriculture are second to none and are all focused on safe, abundant and affordable food which touches the consumer directly.

We put a strong emphasis on innovation and safety as we look for new ways to ensure agriculture is sustainable for future generations. We’re always focused on the future factor: what’s on the horizon for the future farmer and ultimately the future consumer when it comes to food.

I love walking into a grocery store or dining out knowing that we played a key role in the abundance of food choices and experiences that many of us enjoy around the world. I also take pride in our industry giving back to ensure that technology is adopted in developing countries around the world.

How did you get here?

Women will traditionally call out all of the people who helped get them to where they are today and that’s certainly true for me as well. I have been blessed with strong mentors and sponsors, my own personal board of directors, both men and women who helped shape who I am today, who coached me through the challenging periods of my professional and personal life and who celebrated alongside me through the successes. This combined with an extremely strong work ethic and desire for continuous improvement ultimately set me up for success in a constantly changing industry.

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

When I think about the challenges and opportunities ahead for agriculture, the contributions that women can make are important ones, critical ones, as we look towards food security around the world. When we consider our industry has multiple touchpoints from the farm to our dinner plates, the potential for women’s contributions are enormous. Yet, women don’t naturally gravitate towards those opportunities relative to other careers. I take my role as a female food hero and ambassador for agriculture seriously in order to share the positive stories around a career in agriculture and food.

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

Agriculture needs to foster an inclusive environment to attract diverse talent that can ensure a sustainable and successful future for food and farming. We have an outdated view of the skillset and talent required to make agriculture and food successful. We also need to better connect – through shared values – to the future farmer and to consumer needs.

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

Balancing a demanding career as a scientist and leader with that of a mother was extremely challenging and was not always viewed with an empathetic lens during my career. Achieving the right balance was a constant struggle, due in part to my desire to achieve perfection each and every day in both of those roles. That balance was also difficult because the conversation in the workplace around the challenges women face has historically been silenced. We need to acknowledge the numerous and diverse challenges that women face and work together towards actionable outcomes. Women are speaking up about those challenges, but are we listening and more importantly, are we leading change?

 

Nancy 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.