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5 Ways a Career in STEM Has Made Me a Better Person

When she was working at a ski resort in Vermont, Sandi Peterson, Group Worldwide Chair of Johnson & Johnson, couldn't have divined that she'd one day be helping improve the health of over 1 billion people every day. For International Women's Day, she shares a few things she's learned along the way.
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oday is International Women's Day, when we celebrate the contributions of incredible women and also recognize that we have a long way to go in achieving gender equality. This is particularly evident in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—where women continue to be underrepresented. Women need strong advocates and encouragement to pursue education and careers in STEM—and we need the contributions of women if we are going to solve the world’s toughest challenges.

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Sandi Peterson, Group Worldwide Chair, Johnson & Johnson

When I reflect on my own career, the road has been challenging but rewarding, and has shaped me both professionally and personally in five important ways:

It showed me the value of mentorship ...

From my very first job at a ski resort in a small Vermont town, and throughout my professional career, I’ve had mentors and sponsors who’ve given me invaluable advice, helped guide me on my path and who've advocated for me at critical points in my career.

But what’s equally rewarding is being a mentor. I learn so much from the next generation of STEM leaders and love to learn about my mentees’ experiences growing up with tech at the center of everything.

It helped me cultivate a learning mindset ...

Early on in my career, I wanted to be the smartest person in the room, just as I had been at school. Guess what? I alienated some people in the process because knowing the answer to a problem isn’t enough.

Smart leaders don’t need to have all the answers—they need to know when to contribute and when to listen. And to succeed in today’s rapidly changing world, you need to be curious—ask a lot of questions and listen.

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Women make up half of the population, and 80% of a family’s healthcare decisions are made by women—so it only makes sense that they should make up at least half of the idea/business decision base.

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It inspired me to be an advocate for diversity ...

Women make up half of the population, and 80% of a family’s healthcare decisions are made by women—so it only makes sense that they should make up at least half of the idea/business decision base.

We believe at Johnson & Johnson that accelerating the development of women leaders through programs like WiSTEM2D (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing and Design) is critical to improving global health and well-being. We want to increase the participation of women who are practicing medicine, delivering care and developing the technology and products that are used to keep people healthy.

It taught me the value of a STEM education—in any career ...

When I was younger, I never imagined that I’d spend 30 years of my professional career in business. So be broad in your thinking of what you can do with a degree in STEM. Your problem-solving mind is hugely valuable—to you and to others.

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Peterson with Jennifer Taubert, Company Group Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, The Americas, (far right) and mentees who participated in the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership at Johnson & Johnson

At Johnson & Johnson, we have brilliant researchers, mathematicians, technologists, engineers and statisticians working in supply chain, marketing, R&D and finance who are all contributing to solving unmet healthcare needs for patients and consumers around the globe.

It enables me to make an impact on society ...

STEM fuels innovations that make a meaningful difference in the lives of people everywhere. I get to improve the health and well-being of over 1 billion people every day—that's pretty cool and a long way from a small ski resort in Vermont!

My career has made an incredible impact on me, and I’m committed to paying it forward and advocating for women in STEM at all levels, from kindergarten through their professional years. We need the diversity of thought and perspective to help us drive the type of innovation that improves the lives of people around the world.

Read more about Johnson & Johnson's history of empowering women both inside and outside the company in our virtual archives.
Women employees in front of the Laurel Club building in 1929. From our archives.

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