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Women in the U.S. make 80 percent of the healthcare decisions for their families — and their influence doesn’t stop there. They’re also helping to reshape healthcare on a much greater scale — as leaders at some of the biggest companies in America.

A full 107 years after hiring its first female scientist, a chemist named Edith von K., Johnson & Johnson has remained at the forefront of healthcare by continuing to elevate talented women to its top tiers. Today, women fill 44 percent of management positions in the company’s US workforce.

“I’ve always tried to motivate women not to be scared [of this field],” said Hanneke Schuitemaker, Vice President, Global Head of Viral Vaccine Discovery and Translational Medicine, Janssen Pharmaceuticals. “It is hard work, but it’s also very rewarding. When you are a scientist, you work on the edge of the unknown — but that is such a driver.”

Schuitemaker, who has been working on a vaccine that could help prevent the transmission of HIV, freely admits the life of a discoverer holds many highs and lows. Years and years of promising work can often be dashed by disappointment. But so it goes for Schuitemaker’s team at Janssen, which is tasked with creating innovative vaccines that can help address unmet medical needs worldwide.

It’s certainly been that way with the group’s work on Ebola. “We have a program for an Ebola vaccine in place and we’re thrilled that we managed to do so much in so little time,” says Schuitemaker, referring to the company’s speedy formation of clinical trials in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world in the midst of the outbreak in early 2015. “Fortunately for the world, the epidemic got under control,” she says. “But for vaccine development, that’s not necessarily the best thing because we have to prove the vaccine has effects.”

Infectious diseases aren’t only the health crises that women at the company are focused on troubleshooting. At Ethicon, part of Johnson & Johnson’s medical devices sector, a team of engineers and scientists work diligently to bring “engineering, materials science, chemistry and biology capabilities — all of it — together to solve big problems in surgery,” says Beth McCombs, Vice President, Research & Development at Ethicon.

McCombs and her team have brought many cutting-edge ideas to the operating room including minimally-invasive surgical staples, devices that control bleeding and advanced sutures, among others. Recently, Ethicon started a robotics collaboration with Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), and acquired an ablation company, Neuwave Medical, that, she explains, essentially allows doctors to “kill cancer thermally.”

Her team’s work is inspired not just by the ever-stretching boundaries of technology, but also by the people who benefit from these inventions. In McCombs’ case, that includes her parents — her father was an engineer, and her mother was a nurse.

McCombs recounts a story of sitting next to a stranger in a crowded café who “shared with me, very openly, how she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer.” The woman went on to explain that her needle biopsy was preferable to the first, more invasive biopsy she’d had.

“I was working with minimally-invasive breast cancer devices at the time,” McCombs recalls. “This was a rare opportunity to connect with a patient who was impacted by my design work.” Today, she feels privileged to serve the “millions of people who are touched by the innovations” her team has developed.

Read the full Johnson & Johnson article here.