Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Women scientists in Merck


Women scientists in Merck
Women have historically been underrepresented in process research and development — the area between drug discovery and manufacturing. However, the percentage of women on our company's small molecule process research and development (SM PR&D) team has nearly doubled in the last seven years and continues to rise.

“This progress is important because it reflects our mindset that diversity and inclusion fuel creativity and innovation.”
  • Jamie McCabe Dunn  Director, process chemistry
“Our group today looks dramatically different than it did when I first started 14 years ago because we’ve taken steps to build more diverse teams,” said McCabe Dunn.

Women chemists and engineers are vital to our success.

“While we’ve come a long way in the last decade, achieving greater gender equity must continue to be a priority for all leaders,” said Kevin Campos, vice president.

Women leaders taking more active roles in recruiting talent has been one successful approach. This enables greater relationship building among female candidates applying for jobs in science fields, as well as a vision for future growth opportunities at our company.

“We’re also expanding relationships with more academic institutions and casting a wider net to find excellent talent,” said McCabe Dunn. “As more women join the company and see the strong career paths open to them, we expect to see even greater diversity.”
Breaking the glass ceiling
When Marguerite Mohan joined Merck eighteen years ago, she was one of only a few female scientists on the team. Although her academic experience was similar, she recalls being asked if she thought this environment would limit her.

 “I had no concerns being in the gender minority…I knew I was here because of my ability.”
  • Marguerite Mohan 
    Executive director, chemical engineering, SM PR&D
“I loved being a chemical engineer and wanted to apply my skills where I’d make an impact on people’s lives. The interface of research and manufacturing was a great place to start,” said Mohan.

These teams deliver for patients by developing and scaling up processes to safely, innovatively, and robustly produce drug candidates for clinical trials and commercial use. They question the status quo and experiment with new ideas. This is also how they identify and develop talent.

 “We’re committed to making sure everyone’s voice is heard and respected. This has allowed women to frame what technical growth looks like from our point of view, bringing diversity of thought to the problem-solving and leadership table,” said Mohan while adding, “By challenging the status quo, we’re creating stronger, more innovative teams filled with unique scientific talent.”
Women scientists
Niki Patel and Cindy Hong both joined our company in the last six years, drawn in part by our reputation as a scientific leader dedicated to improving human health.

“I was very aware of the team’s novel and innovative science through publications in high-profile, peer-reviewed journals and presentations at conferences. This was a place where I wanted to do great science,” said Patel, associate principal scientist.

It was also a place where both Patel and Hong knew they’d fit in.

“As a female graduate student, I was definitely outnumbered. But, when I interviewed here, I saw such diversity on the teams – including at leadership levels.”
  • Cindy Hong 
    Associate principal scientist
“I knew this environment was right for me,” said Hong. “I’ve worked with great female and male leaders since joining the company and been exposed to many different areas of expertise. I see real opportunities for growth.”

Empowering women in science
Strong networks and outreach are critical not only for maintaining a pipeline of potential female scientist candidates, but also for retaining and promoting those who are already on the team. They may include collaborative communities, mentor programs, papers published, or grassroots efforts.

 “We’re empowered to take steps to support women in this field.”
  • Niki Patel 
    Associate principal scientist
“For example, I’ve helped organize forums to discuss topics on diversity and inclusion and participated in career panels geared toward supporting women and underrepresented groups in the field,” said Patel.

Sometimes, that support might simply be a quick note of recognition.

“I try to acknowledge micro-accomplishments in the moment — things that seem small but are important to that person,’” said Mohan. “It’s a simple, personal way to show someone they — and their work — matter.”

Many of our female scientists have received external recognition in addition to accolades from colleagues. In the last three years, 12 women in the department have received individual awards or have been recognized as key contributors in team awards. The ACS Division of Organic Chemistry Early Career Investigator, ACS WCC Rising Star, ACS Fellow, Heroes of Chemistry, the Edison Patent Award, the ACS Award for Computers in Chemistry and Pharma, and an HBA Rising Star are among the honors bestowed upon him.

 “We have a high success rate,” said McCabe Dunn. “Ninety-two percent of the women we’ve nominated or re-nominated for individual awards have won.”

Can women have a successful career in science? Absolutely. As Mohan says, “Know your core, be true to it and value what makes you a unique asset.”

If you would like to learn more about some of our women in science, click here.