“The Healthcare Businesswomen’s (HBA) Advancement. Commitment. Engagement. (ACE) Awards recognize companies committed to ensuring that gender diversity and leadership opportunities for women are part of their organizational DNA.”

The HBA’s 2021 ACE Awards opened saluting ACE winner honorees over the last decade and a half, recognizing those companies who have driven impact and results, from Johnson and Johnson to Bayer.

The November 11th ACE Awards celebrated Merck’s Women’s Network and Otsuka’s Network of Otsuka’s Women (NOW) for their exceptional initiatives that are driving impactful progress for women in the workforce. These programs are advancing gender equality as a business imperative. During this half hour session, we heard from executives and key leaders involved in these programs who spoke to the power of progress each initiation is driving for women in the workplace.

How the ACE Awards are Selected

An independent panel of healthcare industry leaders select honorees for their excellence in advancing female talent across their organizations and for their continued work in removing systemic barriers that prevent progress to parity. The distinguishable factor among the companies chosen is the way they are accomplished and by their sustained results. Judges assess each program against the criteria of business performance, stewardship, sustainability, and measurable results.

Susan O’Connor, CEO of HBA, admits that this year, the judges had a tough job in discerning excellence when choosing the winners, but they embraced the challenge. Joining 23 other remarkable ACE Award winners, Merck and Otsuka are helping thousands of women advance the positions of influence and impact.

Below, let’s review how Merck and Otsuka are driving that change.

Merck’s Women’s Network

With a 26-year history, Merck’s Women’s Network “validates the organization’s long-term commitment to diversity and inclusion and demonstrates how integral these values are to creating a culture where women can develop to their full potential.” In areas that have been historically underrepresented, Merck is outpacing market availability by creating a workplace where woman can accelerate and reach their full potentials.

Dr. Ulrike Thull, Commercial Lead Immunology Mid Europe Region & Switzerland, Women’s Network Co-Lead, spoke to the incredible growth this network has endured. When it was first formed in 1995, the Women’s Network started with 200 members across 3 chapters. Now, with an impressive 10,000 women in over 70 chapters globally participating in this network, there are a variety of initiatives supporting the drive to greater equality, including a Gender Equality Council, Mentoring Programs, a Women’s Network European Personal Branding Program, and an Executive Speaker Series.

This program has certainly made an incredible impact over the last 2+ decades which is evident by the number of women in leadership roles across the company. Merck scores above the globally established threshold for gender parity in four distinct areas according to Bloomberg’s 2020 gender equality index. 50 percent of U.S. women in workforce are in leadership roles, 46 percent of U.S. women sit on board roles, and 31 percent of U.S. women are in senior management roles.

Although this is tremendous progress, there is always room for improvement in these numbers. By 2024, Merck’s Women’s Network has a global goal to increase women representation in senior management roles to 40 percent. By their track record, there is no doubt they will accomplish this feat.

Otsuka’s Network of Otsuka Women (NOW)

Led by Desiree Priestley, Senior Director, Patient Experience & Operations – CNS, and Theresa Britt, Executive Director, Marketing & Sales Operations, these two women introduced NOW and its impact is on its women in the workplace and the inspiration it seeks to spark among other companies.

“Otsuka has long understood that it needed a workforce that represented the diversity of the patients we serve not only from a cultural perspective, but also from the breadth of their experiences and challenges.” – Desiree Priestley

“Today, NOW is a foundational element supporting Otsuka’s corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative.” – Theresa Britt

In only 2 years since its emergence, NOW has delivered impressive influence and impact. NOW is Otsuka’s living and breathing commitment to making sure diversity, equity, and inclusion are key imperatives as part of its global business strategy. In special collaboration with HBA, “NOW has representation on the internal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council providing insight to expand the presence of other employee resource groups and the development of guiding playbook.”

Otsuka’s presentation took on a bit of a more personal touch to really drive home the importance of advancing women leaders and the progress for change. Viewers watched as the children of the mothers within the company shared their praise for the positive progress their mothers are driving for women in the industry. Desiree and Theresa shared where their inspiration came from and how Otsuka has allowed them to live up to their full potentials, both in and out of the office.

NOW has grown to over 500 members and represents about 25 percent of the Otsuka U.S. workforce.

Gender inequality is still an area of focus for companies and organizations around the world. HBA is proud to recognize Merck and Otsuka for being exemplary in their initiatives to closing the gender pay gap for women in the healthcare and life sciences.