Natural Products Insider is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

O&N Health taps two women to strengthen board representation

Article-O&N Health taps two women to strengthen board representation

Businesswoman board meeting.jpg
Organic & Natural Health Association CEO Karen Howard reflects on the qualities of two female board members, including its newly elected board president, Naomi Whittel, and she discusses the need for more pathways to achieve equality in representation on boards.

Having grown up during a time when women were making history by “being the first,” I find it odd that all these decades later, we still have moments that change history in real time.

This is interesting and equally delightful because with each decade, the stakes get higher for the health and wellness of the planet and its people.

So it is apropos that this March—during National Women's History Month—the Organic & Natural Health Association (O&N Health) board of directors announced Naomi Whittel’s ascension from her board seat to president of the board and that Sandra Baek Lee, CEO of NJ Labs, will join as our newest board member.

It is not merely their gender that requires applauding. The talented women on our board, and women across our industry at large, bring tremendous value to the future of the dietary supplement supply chain.

At O&N Health, our operating tenets are rooted in the need for traceability, transparency, continual quality improvement and consumer access to quality supplements. “This is exactly where I care to focus my time and attention,” Whittle shared in our March 1 personnel announcement.

O&N Health’s mission is to unite consumers and corporations and transform business practices in alignment with regenerative systems to support the health of people and the planet. With this mission, we continue to unite and develop shared solutions that honor our resources and future.

Big contributions from Whittle and Lee

And herein lies one of Whittle’s greatest gifts: a belief, understanding and expressed commitment to financial health that can be operationalized through programs, people and investments. What we know and understand at O&N Health is that while profit is a central and core value for a business, profitability generated from investment in our future can—and is—changing our world for the better.  

O&N Health will celebrate nine years of making a meaningful impact in the industry this summer. We pride ourselves on the fact that our mission and vision are deeply embedded in every issue we pursue, including synthetic biology and its adverse environmental impact; the importance of new ESG (environmental, social and governance) standards that can ensure accountability and transparency of the supply chain; and providing consumer access to quality products, including those sold on Amazon.

We can effectively manage such a diverse and progressive workload because of the composition of our board of directors and their talents. We have broad-based expertise in organic, regenerative and biodynamic issues, and as well as proficiency regarding consumer concerns and interests.

Now with the addition of Lee, we have the technical expertise required to critically assess what is needed to ensure the standards we aspire to create are measurable and effective.

As a scientist, and one of the few female CEOs in the analytical testing industry, Lee is sharing her gift, an inexhaustible passion for chemistry and how it influences multiple aspects of consumers’ lives. Having her on our board aligns us with her company, NJ Labs. The company is a nationally recognized provider and advocate for quality in chemistry and microbiology testing that serves the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, dietary supplement, cosmetic and cannabis/CBD industries.

Need for more women leaders

I am routinely asked the question, why do we need women on boards?

According to a 2022 report from the Women Business Collaborative and 50-50 Women on Boards, the percentage of women holding board seats on the Russell 3000 index is only 27%. Eighty-six percent of board-director seats at private companies are held by men, and 56% of early-stage private companies had no women directors.

However, the study highlighted some good news. Boards represented by a woman as chair had 42% more women directors, compared to 24% of boards led by a male chair. It’s evident that many of our women presidents, chairs and board members are in those seats because they created their own businesses.

But we need more pathways to achieve equality in representation on boards, and another organization to which I belong is working hard to accomplish this goal.

Heather Granato of Informa is the president and a founding member of Women in Nutraceuticals (WIN). I am a fellow board member with Granato at WIN, where our agenda includes creating a mentoring program that, among other things, will pair mentors and mentees for the expressed purpose of increasing the number of women serving on boards.

Women in the headlines

Of course, this is not a new issue or conversation. There are very successful female entrepreneurs in our industry, and I for one surround myself with as many of them as possible, as often as possible. I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with many successful women and documenting their stories. In fact, O&N Health is run by three women who own their own businesses, including myself, Amy Summers of Pitch Publicity and Rebecca Takemoto of Syncopate.

So why are women worthy of a headline now? At this point in my career, I look back only to remind myself of what I owe to the future women in our industry. I am not alone.

A sense of urgency is driving action faster and harder than perhaps any other time since the beginning of the women’s rights movement. There is no question we are not asking, no project we won’t initiate, and no wall is too tall to scale or demolish.

When I look at my own daughter’s future career, I’m confident that our next generation of women leaders will shift the balance of power, which has everything to do with the decisions our current leaders are making about the future of women today.

Karen Howard, CEO and executive director of the Organic & Natural Health Association, has spent more than 30 years working with Congress, state legislatures and health care organizations to develop innovative health care policy and programs. She has held a variety of executive positions, including serving as professional staff for a congressional committee, and has policy expertise in the diverse areas of integrative and complementary medicine, managed care, health care technology and mental health.





Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.