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Girl Power: Raising Strong Daughters

October 11 is the United Nations International Day of the Girl, a day set aside to recognize girls’ human rights and to highlight the gender inequalities that still exist worldwide between boys and girls. J&J mom Kiera reflects on how she is trying to instill a sense of girl power in her young daughter.
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Recently, there has been a wave of girl power campaigns and movements with similar themes of encouraging girls to embrace themselves, to be comfortable in their own skin, and to appreciate those things that may make them different.

I could not be happier with these movements and their empowerment of girls and women to pursue their interests and dreams, even if those interests and dreams may fall outside the traditional societal norms. For example, having always focused my studies and work in the sciences, I am well aware of the underrepresentation of women in this area and the need to encourage girls to pursue their interests in the sciences, even though doing so may be outside the norm. Personally, these movements have caused me to consider what I am doing to support the dreams of girls and the goals of women, so that together we can continue to move forward and one day break that elusive glass ceiling.

More importantly, these movements have caused me to consider how I can impart what I have learned through life experiences to my 5 year old daughter, Anna Jane. She is at an age where everything excites her, she sees life for all that it is, and embraces everything and anything. She will just as easily toss a football with her brother as she will play princesses. She does not categorize things as “girl things” or “boy things”; she just knows what she likes and is unaware of any societal views that discourage her from pursuing those interests. Watching her, I also wonder how I can help nurture this outlook and prevent it from becoming overridden by society’s pressures and traditional views of girls and women.'

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Over the years, she and I have read books about girls standing up for themselves and being all they can be. Afterwards, we will talk about how the heroine in the book used her intelligence and inner strength to save the day and should be appreciated for the person that she is and these important traits.

While I have realized that the books and conversations are helpful, the example that I provide to her can have the greatest impact. Like so many working moms, I wonder whether I am striking the right balance between my family and career, and whether these choices are setting a good example for my children. I will likely never know if I am striking that right balance, however, I recently experienced a moment where I felt that I may be on the right track.

While eavesdropping on my daughter playing with her grandma and her dolls, I noticed that my daughter had each of her dolls set in a different position – whether napping, in the highchair, or playing with something. She then said to her grandma, “Okay, everyone is taken care of. Please feed the baby when she wakes up. I am going to work!” That is when it hit me — the example that we set as women makes the biggest impact on our daughters, nieces, sisters and friends. The example that we set is showing the next generation of girls and women that they can do more, accomplish more, and be more. That they can be who they want to be and achieve all of their dreams.

The other day I said to my daughter, “Anna Jane, I want to see you run like a girl!” Not being aware of the negative connotation that society has associated with this phrase, she put her head down, pumped her arms and took off as fast as her little legs could take her. That’s girl power to me. This mom could not have been more proud. I only hope she continues to run like a girl – and that one day, she will shatter that glass ceiling.

You can show your support for girls on this International Day of the Girl just by sharing a photo. For every photo shared to Girl Up through the Donate A Photo app, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 to help give girls in Guatemala school supplies.*

You can learn more at www.donateaphoto.com

*Johnson & Johnson has curated a list of trusted causes, and you can donate a photo to one cause, once a day. Each cause will appear in the app until it reaches its goal, or the donation period ends. If the goal isn’t reached, the cause will still get a minimum donation.

Kiera Mathey is a Senior Patent Counsel in the Legal Department, supporting the pharmaceutical sector. She lives in Summit, New Jersey with her husband, daughter, Anna Jane, and son, Brendan.

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