A conversation with Belén Garijo and Felicia Marie Knaul
By Alexandra Bassil
Belén Garijo, left, and Felicia Marie Knaul share a laugh at the inaugural Women’s Leadership Forum.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 23, 2017)—During Women’s History Month, the University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas and the School of Business Administration’s Center for Health Sector Management and Policy and Women in Business Group presented real-world tips and advice at the institute’s inaugural Women’s Leadership Forum. The topics ranged from career success and work/life balance to other issues affecting women globally.
During his welcoming remarks to over 50 students, faculty, staff, and guests, School of Business Interim Dean Anuj Mehrotra highlighted the importance of the forum. UM President Julio Frenk said that women are at the heart of the University’s education and engagement efforts, and introduced Belén Garijo, CEO of healthcare and executive board member for Merck KGaA in Darmstadt, Germany. Frenk also mentioned Garijo’s leadership and her corporation’s support of “Healthy Women, Healthy Economies,” an initiative designed to promote good practices to enhance women’s economic participation by improving women’s health.
Institute Director Felicia Marie Knaul, also a professor at the Miller School of Medicine, started the Q&A session by asking Garijo to share advice after her long career as a physician-scientist in the chemical, pharmaceutical, and life sciences industry, and as CEO of Merck KGaA over the past six years. At Merck, Garijo is responsible for the health care business sector, comprising the biopharma, consumer health, allergopharma, and biosimilars businesses.
“From day one you are in charge of your career and must be willing to take the challenges and make them opportunities,” said Garijo. As an example, she said after earning her medical degree in Spain, a surplus of physicians made it difficult to begin a practice. With that realization, she decided to take an opportunity to start as a clinical researcher in the pharmaceutical industry. Garijo also advised the attendees not to let others influence their desire to achieve career success and to network as much as possible.
Knaul also brought up work/life balance, to which Garijo advised seeking employers that have flexible working models, telecommuting, and parental leave so having a family life is possible. In addition, they discussed Garijo’s commitment to increase gender diversity in management and emphasized that success is usually driven by a top-down approach.
Garijo also shared Merck’s role as the only private sector company to join the “Healthy Women, Healthy Economies” initiative. The socially responsible company chose the project to impact women’s lives in developing countries in an effort to address access to health care, gender-based violence, birth control and the safety of women.
Closing remarks and a recap were offered by the founder of the Women in Business Group, Ann M. Olazábal, vice dean of Undergraduate Business Education and professor of business law. In her remarks, Knaul mentioned that future Women’s Leadership Forum guests will include singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman Gloria Estefan, a UM alumna; Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo; and Kathleen Sebelius, former U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services.