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Building a better future for—and with—strong women leaders

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As part of its commitment to championing women and diversity around the world, both inside and outside the company, Johnson & Johnson partners with organizations that have similar values. Fortune has built a robust leadership community among women, and Johnson & Johnson is proud to serve as the first-ever Fortune Most Powerful Women (MPW) Global Partner.

This year several Johnson & Johnson employees had the privilege of attending the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit, which took place in London on June 12 and 13 under the theme of “Building a Better Future.” The event brought together prominent global business leaders as well as representatives from government, media, philanthropy and the arts.

Johnson & Johnson leaders in attendance included Sonja Willems, Managing Director, Janssen for Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg; Silvia De Dominicis, Vice President, Ethicon, EMEA; Diane Levin, Vice President, IT, Consumer EMEA; Sylvia Fouhy, Vice President, Supply Chain, Consumer EMEA; and Demet Russ, Vice President, Finance, Janssen EMEA. They had an opportunity to interact and network with other attendees who, like themselves, are inspiring and igniting change to enable women to be catalysts for creating healthier people, healthier communities and a healthier world.

We asked each of them to share with us their personal experiences and takeaways from the event.

Silvia De Dominicis

Vice President, Ethicon, EMEA

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Renato Franceschin

“It is amazing to see how many women can prove to be extraordinary business leaders willing to experiment, take risks and be innovative in sectors that are typically considered male fields, from science to technology to financial services. I think the ‘file rouge’ (red thread) of all the presentations was the sense of entrepreneurship mixed with the humanity and willingness to give back to their communities, leaving aside any risk of egos, but fully expressing the female sensitivity.

One line stood out to me from Ylva Johansson, the Swedish Minister of Employment and Integration, regarding this philosophy: ‘If you have the power, you are obliged to use that power to pave the way for others.’ Talking about refugees and diversity as a source of competitive advantage for the future economy, coupled with an extraordinary sense of caring for others, where the common purpose of the society has been put ahead of any individualism and fear of diversity, was really impactful.

Furthermore, despite their successes, every woman still struggles with the unconscious bias that needs to be overcome in business today.”

Sylvia Fouhy

Vice President, Supply Chain, Consumer EMEA

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“I was hugely impressed by Samantha Cristoforetti, an astronaut with the European Space Agency, who was the first Italian woman to go to space (and the first person to make an espresso there!). She talked at the summit about what it takes to be a good astronaut. Rather than recruiting candidates with ‘go-go’ personalities, space programs now want people who can work well on teams. ‘It’s more valuable to be someone who can empower others to work at their best than to be an individual achiever,’ she said. This really resonated with me, as it speaks about the power of the team and not just one individual and how we as leaders need to really think about how we structure our teams for success.

This eclectic mix of high-powered females demonstrating not only superb business acumen but also deep humanity and compassion when solving complex problems was truly inspiring for me. As a female leader, it reminded me yet again how important it is to bring all aspects of myself to my role, and in doing so, the decisions that I make are better for me personally, my staff and the organization.”

Diane Levin

Vice President, IT, Consumer EMEA

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“There were so many role models at this event that many women would be inspired by, and sharing our learnings was important. One key takeaway I had was that it is very important to believe in yourself as a female entrepreneur. Talking with other women about their experiences in an open way, and realizing that we address the same challenges differently, gave me some new tips! I also really enjoyed listening to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO, Save the Children International, and the former Prime Minister of Denmark, who discussed the challenges facing women and children in conflict areas who are excluded from healthcare and education. She reminded us all of having hope during these times of difficult challenges in the world and that caring goes a long way.”

Demet Russ

Vice President, Finance, Janssen EMEA

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Steffen Höft

“I felt extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to learn and get further inspiration from some of the most influential people in business. I realized that at Johnson & Johnson we are already committed to promoting diversity–more than some other multinationals. Certainly, we can do more, but it made me proud that we have been acting on this. If we continue to work on this agenda, we will make our organization more innovative and a magnet for top talent. I also realized that leaders before us have paved the way for more diversity of thought and we need to take it further–this is our responsibility to the next generation of leaders.

One of the highlights from my day was listening to Ylva Johansson, the Swedish Minister of Employment and Integration, who shared a very humane perspective on helping society to embrace better the biggest migrant crisis that Europe is going through. Her words–‘I ask myself how a Syrian mother can let her boy go on a journey where she does not even know whether her boy would survive... But she still sends him on this journey since this is her only way of providing her son a better future’–sank into me. What a beautiful way of directing the focus to where it really matters–something we can learn from as we have our discussions about any social or business dilemma we face.”

Sonja Willems

Managing Director, Janssen for Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg

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“I was blown away by the presentation from Dame Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd’s of London. Based on her business insights from Lloyd’s, she set out to increase financial literacy for women in order for them to achieve or keep their independence and prospects in life. On top of that she is an authentic leader who is very much ‘who she is’ while at the same time keeping abreast of what is going on in society by her concept of ‘reverse mentoring.’ She is also very much aware of her function as a role model for women and girls and explicitly steps up to make a difference for other women. I was also happy to see that we at Johnson & Johnson are ahead of the pack in terms of innovation in regulated environments. The way we combine solid processes, to ensure maximal quality of our products and our development work, with our open innovation culture and structure seems to make us unique. Most are still talking about the basics and no one is looking at it strategically and systematically the way we are. It gave me a great feeling.”

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