Jane Griffiths: "Take every opportunity offered to you, even if it seems too challenging"
25 April 2015
Growing up I adored science. I think this probably stemmed from my mother, an industrial chemist (and this was when women with science degrees were even more of a rarity!)
In school I wanted to be a vet. But I fell into the typical thought process of ‘I can’t do physics’, and that pushed my veterinary degree dream out of the door. That’s not at all to say I don’t love what I do now, but I do urge those with a passion for something not to write it off just because they don’t want to go through physics A-level!
I did stick with science – plant sciences to be specific, and encouraged by my mother I did a PhD at the University of Wales. To be honest, after my studies I entered the pharmaceutical industry by serendipity – I wasn’t sure what to do and just needed a job! I was referred by a friend to a sales representative role at Janssen, the pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson.
I have never, though, regretted my decision. I started out as a junior in a rather male-dominated environment. I worked hard through a variety of positions and disciplines within the company, and gradually began to ascend the ladder. It’s important firstly to stay authentic to yourself, and secondly to not keep your head down, but rather take every opportunity offered to you, even if it seems too challenging! Thankfully, I have had a lot of support from my colleagues and my family throughout my career, and that is really important – to have the trust and backing of the people around you.
Remember that studying science doesn’t always lead to a laboratory with a white coat. Science degrees are hugely valued in business and elsewhere. And as for the pharmaceutical industry, it has enormous career potential, but until you’re in, it’s not obvious what opportunities there are. We do of course have research laboratories, but also people working in functions such as commercial and health economics, as well as the more vocational subjects like law and finance. And it has a noble purpose too – to save and extend people’s lives, and improve people’s quality of life.
I count myself to be very lucky. Since joining the pharmaceutical industry, I’ve done things that I could never have expected – travelled all around the world (these days, I’m out of the country more often than not!), met all kinds of people, and most importantly witnessed the new medicines we develop transform people’s lives. I love the culture – I’ve been here for the whole of my career, after all!
I spend a huge amount of my time looking at how we can develop people within our company as well as bring the best talent into our company. My primary objective is to secure strong diversity – gender, ethnicity, culture, nationality – as this brings a great dimension to teamwork within business. And finding new female recruits with STEM qualifications is essential to avoid a future diversity gap in the business. I’m really keen on getting more girls into STEM subjects, as traditionally society has depicted science as ‘not for girls’, and that has made many shy away.
It’s also worth noting that we (Johnson & Johnson) are one of the corporate sponsors of Your Life, a recently launched UK Government campaign to encourage more secondary school children in the UK to adopt the STEM subjects.
I’ve been in the industry for 32 years and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. As a kid I never imagined I would be doing what I’m doing now. I’ve been lucky to get to where I am today, but I want to encourage more young people, and girls in particular, to reach out and see where science can lead them.
Jane Griffiths: Company Group Chairman, Janssen, Europe, Middle East & Africa