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Making the world a better place for women

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When you think about what Johnson & Johnson does on a daily basis to improve the lives of women, things like making parenting easier (what would we do without No More Tears® shampoo?) or giving us glowing skin (thanks, Neutrogena®!) probably come to mind.

But the company’s impact when it comes to helping women actually goes far beyond its popular consumer products.

In fact, Johnson & Johnson recently launched several groundbreaking initiatives that have focused on everything from improving the health of women in impoverished countries to advancing gender equality in the workplace.

The company has put caring for women front and center for over 100 years, and these four programs illustrate just how much it cares for the women in our lives—from mothers to the next generation of trailblazers.

Unlocking women’s talent at every stage of life

Although women’s participation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) has been steadily increasing over the past two decades, it still leaves much to be desired.

According to the National Science Foundation, females today earn just 19% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and physics, and make up a mere 18% of computer science majors. And once in the workforce, women represent just 28% of science and engineering occupations.

In light of such statistics, Johnson & Johnson—which relies heavily on people with science, engineering and other technical skills—launched Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing & Design (WiSTEM2D), a program geared to help increase women’s representation in these fields.

A young girl with a model of a molecular structure and notebook smiles as she talks with a STEM teacher

“More than 80% of a family’s health care decisions are made by women, including moms, daughters, sisters and friends. Our goal with this program is to increase the number of women practicing medicine and developing the technology and products that keep people healthy,” says Sandi Peterson, Johnson & Johnson Group Worldwide Chairman. “Ensuring that women with science, technical and design talent enter the workplace—and succeed once they’re there—is critical to maintaining successful businesses and meeting the changing needs of an increasingly complex marketplace.”

Through a multifaceted approach, the program will support and inspire girls and women of all ages in their pursuit of STEM2D studies and careers.

The company will partner with prominent organizations to help spark interest in technology among girls in grades K–12 by supplementing their curriculum with creative problem-solving and play—and even engaging employees to serve as mentors.

Employees like Meri Stevens, Vice President, Strategy and Deployment, Supply Chain; Somi Kim, Senior Director, Global Strategic Design Office; and Michael Bzdak, Ph.D., Executive Director, Worldwide Corporate Contributions, working together to plan programs that could positively impact one million young girls by 2020.

In an effort to inspire college women to pursue careers in STEM2D, the company has entered into 10 partnerships around the world to help increase the number of female undergraduates declaring majors in these fields.

The company has partnered with the National Center for Women and Information Technology to help support nine leading academic centers—Caltech, Harvey Mudd, The University of Tokyo and MIT, among others—by providing mentorships, internships, training and a reward program for female students.

“The fact is that diversification of the STEM graduate pool and workforce is not proceeding at a pace we’re satisfied with,” says Kathy Wengel, Worldwide Vice President, Supply Chain. “Johnson & Johnson was founded on science and innovation, and we’re committed to being a partner and advocate for women. We are working with esteemed institutions to expand the idea base in STEM2D fields and fostering diversified perspectives across the world.”
It’s an ethos that also permeates the company’s own workforce: Over time, Johnson & Johnson hopes to see its female ranks in STEM2D roles grow by 50%.

Mentoring new mothers in the developing world

Scroll through your text history and you may spot messages from your spouse asking you to pick up takeout for dinner, a friend trying to schedule weekend plans, or your kid telling you that basketball practice was canceled. But what if we told you that texts also had the power to improve the lives of women in underserved countries?

Well, the innovative MomConnect program is doing just that.

The goal of the initiative, managed by the South African government and developed in conjunction with BabyCenter®, is to sign up every woman in the country to a national pregnancy registry using mobile technology. To date, over 600,000 users have subscribed.

Mothers who register receive two texts per week on how to care for themselves during their pregnancy, prepare for a safe childbirth, and tend to a newborn. The messages are timed to the due date or age of a child, and touch on a range of topics that cover the entire motherhood journey—from prenatal appointments to fetal development.

Mentoring New Mothers

“The messages are crafted to surprise and delight women, encouraging them to form an emotional connection with their child, and to motivate them to take positive action,” says Joanne Peter, Manager of Corporate Contributions, Digital Health and HIV. “We want to empower new mothers to feel confident and capable.”

MomConnect also enables women to better interact with their regional health care system via a virtual help desk that allows them to ask medical questions and file feedback about the care they’ve received at local health facilities.

For example, multiple women reported a shortage of iron tablets at several clinics. As a result, the Department of Health reached out to the clinic’s staff to review the correct procedure for ordering and procuring the supplements.

Next up? A new feature of MomConnect projected to launch in 2016 will focus on increasing the engagement of health care workers by alerting them to changes in national guidelines, offering training modules to improve their performance, and providing access to peer support groups.

“It makes me feel proud to know that the company is so committed to women’s and children’s health,” says Peter. “We are reaching some of the world’s most vulnerable women—right in the palm of their hand.”

As one new mother said, “I smile because the information is so relevant, and I look forward to the texts. I wish they came five times a week!”

Making childbirth safer by boosting midwife training

Giving birth can be daunting even if you’ve got such modern conveniences as jet tubs and heated blankets at your fingertips. But imagine laboring in a bare-bones clinic without electricity, plumbing or even a sheet to cover the bed.

This is the unfortunate reality for many new moms around the globe. In fact, 1,000 women worldwide die each day due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, which is why Johnson & Johnson has been striving for years to improve conditions for moms and newborns—including its latest Young Midwife Training program.

Midwife Training

The company has partnered with the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) to help young midwives from low- and middle-income countries participate in a two-year training leadership program, so they can learn skills critical to advancing quality midwifery services in their communities.

“In 2014 we launched a report revealing that one of the biggest issues midwives face is not knowing how to advocate for themselves and their patients,” says Joy Marini, Executive Director, Worldwide Corporate Contributions. “There are many wonderful professionals out there, but they don’t have the tools to do their job.”

Take Eva Nangalo, a midwife from Nakaseke, Uganda, who recently helped deliver a baby boy who wasn’t breathing. The doctor pronounced him dead and left the room, but Nangalo stepped in and successfully resuscitated the baby. The next day, she brought the doctor into the recovery room to show him that little Michael was not only alive but nursing happily.

“For two weeks the clinic where Nangalo worked didn’t have electricity or running water, but despite this, she was able to save lives,” says Marini. “This training program will help give midwives like her the skills to speak up for their needs.”

That could mean going to bat with the government for supplies, fair wages and more staff—or, as Nangalo did, harnessing the courage to stand up to the doctor and say, “I think that baby might still be alive.”

“It is our hope that by strengthening individual midwifery leadership,” says Marini, “we can strengthen the profession as a whole to provide safer pregnancies and births for all women and babies.”

RELATED: Meet Eve Nangalo and hear more of her story in this video.

Stamping out cervical cancer

Despite the fact that there’s been a vaccine available for young adolescents for the past decade, human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer, remains the most common sexually transmitted disease among women.

Between 10%–13% of women will develop the chronic infection in their lifetime, and at least 5% of the time it can develop into cancer. In the U.S. alone, there are about 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed each year.

So just why are so many people still developing this disease?

Stamping out Cervical Cancer

According to Johan Van Hoof, M.D., Janssen Global Therapeutic Area Head, Infectious Diseases and Vaccines, part of the problem is that a large population of older women who could not benefit from the vaccine remain at risk.

That’s where the latest collaboration between Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, and Bavarian Nordic, a Danish biotechnology company, comes in: The two companies are working to develop a therapeutic vaccine aimed at intercepting the HPV infection–related disease in women who’ve had an abnormal pap smear associated with HPV.

If approved, women diagnosed early with HPV could get the vaccine to treat infections and intercept progression to HPV-induced cancer.

Dr. Van Hoof points out that the vaccine could also help foster more peace of mind. Currently, women who’ve had abnormal pap smears have to get follow-up exams every six months to monitor the virus, and some may even have to undergo local surgery.

“It is a very stressful period for them; the biological and psychological ramifications of eliminating the risk of developing cancer are enormous,” says Dr. Van Hoof. “So we hope that by intercepting the HPV virus before it leads to cancer, we can provide a solution that will relieve their anxiety and help keep women healthier, happier and able to enjoy a better quality of life.”

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