It’s an extraordinary time to be an enterprising woman.
Just ask Catherine Owen, Beth McCombs and Colleen Flesher. The three Johnson & Johnson employees were honored this month by the MAKERS@ program, which partners with organizations to recognize women leaders for their exceptional accomplishments, including their support and mentorship of fellow female professionals.
As awardees in the 2015-2016 MAKERS@ program, the trio attended the 2016 MAKERS Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., earlier this month, where they met such prominent female leaders as Sheryl Sandberg, Gloria Steinem, and Katie Couric.
Also in attendance were lesser-known but equally impactful groundbreakers like MAKER Regina Wilson, the first black woman to become a New York firefighter who made it her mission to recruit more females to the force.
“She encountered racism, sexism, and people saying she would fail,” says Owen, Vice President of Immunology Marketing for Janssen Biotech.
Owen herself has done a great deal to encourage professional camaraderie at Johnson & Johnson. In conjunction with the IT department, she helped develop “Janssen High 5,” a proprietary app that publicly recognizes employees and their accomplishments. “It’s the first time something like this had been [spearheaded] by a business leader, so it feels grassroots,” says Owen.
Beth McCombs, Vice President of Surgical Innovation at Ethicon, also takes mentorship to heart: She pioneered a program at Johnson & Johnson called Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR), which partners veteran entrepreneurs with internal teams to instill a strong entrepreneurial mindset and capitalize on Ethicon’s technologies and capabilities in new ways.
The conference really hit home for McCombs, who was humbled by the contrast of her personal journey with those of MAKERS who faced more adversity.
“When I was thinking of schools [to attend], MIT reached out to me directly, because they were trying to bring in more women,” says McCombs, whose father was an engineer who exposed her to the STEM field at a young age. “But what I was hearing at the convention is that my experience was not the experience of everyone.”
Colleen Flesher, DePuy Synthes Area Vice President Sales for the East, earned her place as a MAKERS awardee by tirelessly advocating for women in the field of orthopedic surgery.
“I try never to say no to mentoring,” says Flesher. “And I benefit just as much as [the mentees] do.”
As a founding member of the Johnson & Johnson Women’s Leadership Initiative in West Chester, PA, Flesher truly practices what she preaches.
To learn more about what it means to be a MAKER, visit