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Cultivating Leaders Through Diversity and Service

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On August 21, West Point Graduates Captain Kristen Griest and Captain Shaye Haver became the first female soldiers to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School. This is a significant milestone for the military and for women everywhere.

As the Army’s premier leadership course, Ranger School is one of the military’s most challenging and exhausting training programs, designed to create elite combat leaders. Out of the 381 men and 19 women who enrolled in April, only 94 men and two women completed the training.

I am so inspired by Kristen and Shaye. As a graduate of the first class of women from the United States Military Academy in 1980, I have also spent most of my life in “non-traditional” female roles. I served in the U.S. Army for six years, and when I got out, I became a special agent with the FBI. I got my first job in security in 1992 at A&P and my introduction to healthcare in 2005 as Chief Security Officer for Medco. In 2010, I was contacted about the Information Security Officer job at Johnson & Johnson. I came in to interview and decided it was the perfect fit.

Last week, I had the opportunity to go down to Georgia to attend the Ranger School graduation with 70 of my fellow West Point women, who traveled from all over the world to show their support. I was invigorated by Kristen and Shaye’s humility and selflessness. Out of all the things they could have done after graduation, they chose to spend the afternoon with us – to take pictures, swap stories and be there with us as one sisterhood.

Our Chairman and CEO, Alex Gorsky, also comes from a military background, and we both believe that strong leadership is as much about the leader as it is about service and cultivating the team you are surrounded by. I can personally attest that Alex walks the talk when it comes to his leadership philosophy.

I met Alex just a few months after joining the company, when he was head of Johnson & Johnson’s Medical Devices & Diagnostics business. We immediately recognized each other and realized we had been on the orienteering team together at West Point. We planned a dinner in January – my husband and I, and Alex and his wife – and it ended up being the day Alex was named CEO of the company. That morning, his assistant called. I answered, expecting a cancellation, but to my surprise she wanted to verify that I was still available.

That’s the kind of person and leader Alex is – he honors his commitments and he truly values his people. He also recognizes that leadership and diversity go hand in hand. “As a company, we recognize that diversity – of skills, background and thought – cultivate strong leadership,” Alex said in a recent blog post to our employees.

As a woman in a male-dominated field, people ask me all the time how I do it. My response is simple: I’ve never let the stereotypes define me. I take the high road and have always persevered. Johnson & Johnson has the best support network and facilitation for its people. Being a “diversity” type or a member of an affinity group has nothing to do with it – it’s all based on skills and expertise. J&J is bar none the best company to work for. As the largest healthcare company in the world, Johnson & Johnson allows you to be in service to others – it’s one of the things that makes us so special and makes me proud to be part of the J&J family.

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