Kathy Wengel represents Johnson & Johnson at Japan External Trade Organization event

November 17, 20164 minute read

As Worldwide VP of Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain, Kathy Wengel, an AWESOME Advisor and recipient of the 2014 AWESOME Legendary Leadership (ALL) Award, spoke at a mid-September seminar in Manhattan sponsored by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).

At the event, Kathy showed how J&J plans to build on its already-strong presence in Japan and do it while getting more women into the workforce.

The people of Japan enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and Johnson & Johnson can take some credit for their enviable longevity.

“Our company has been selling products in this country for more than six decades,” says Kathy. “Today, we produce about 390,000 products that touch more than 1 billion people every day, including the 130 million patients and healthcare consumers in Japan. The country is the second largest healthcare market in the world – and the second largest for Johnson & Johnson.”

For all these reasons and more, J&J has a vested interest in this Asian nation – and vice versa. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and it’s the reason that Kathy was invited to speak at the JETRO seminar.

The event was led by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and included eight other influential leaders from industry, government and academia speaking about foreign direct investment opportunities in Japan. When Kathy took the stage, she made it very clear that J&J’s commitment to Japan is only going to grow.


Bringing J&J jobs to Japan

“Today, we employ about 5,000 people in Japan – in manufacturing, distribution, training, R&D, sales, marketing and administrative functions,” she said. “As Japan looks ahead to the challenges of caring for its people in the future, we look forward to continuing our partnership with the government, universities and other companies to help shape a system that keeps people well, helps them heal and delivers improved health outcomes at sustainable costs.”

As an example of these partnerships, Kathy pointed to the Tokyo Science Center – a very recent collaboration between J&J and JETRO that is designed to advance Japanese technology and provide training for physicians and care givers on safe and appropriate use of medical device technology.

She also highlighted the fact that J&J partnered with a Japanese logistics company to create Chronogate, one of J&J’s newest state-of-the-art distribution centers anywhere in the world. The pioneering site allows J&J to give more Japanese customers faster access to the company’s vision care products.

Growth and prosperity through gender diversity

The pioneering spirit of her talk moved from projects to people. As the sole woman speaker, Kathy took this opportunity to talk not just about how J&J is investing economically in Japan, but also about the ways the company is investing in programs to get more girls and women into traditionally male-dominated fields.

“Creating a truly healthy society requires unlocking the talent and creativity of the entire population, and we are enthusiastic supporters of Prime Minister Abe’s call to engage more women in the Japanese workforce to drive growth and prosperity,” she told the audience of 300 seminar guests who represented a range of manufacturing and service industries.

“A recent survey by Nikkei Woman, (a magazine aimed at working women in Japan), ranked Johnson & Johnson in the Top 10 of 534 Japanese companies for gender diversity,” she continued, “and we are committed to supporting women’s ability to shine inside our company, and in the communities in which we operate.”

The way forward is WiSTEM2D

One way this will happen, said Kathy, is through J&J’s new WiSTEM2D initiative, which stands for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing & Design.

“We have launched – and I actually lead – this global effort to increase the representation of women in the scientific and technological fields that are so critical to health care, innovation and economic growth,” she informed the JETRO crowd.

Under Kathy’s leadership, WiSTEM2D is growing – not just in the number of girls and women involved, but geographically beyond the U.S. to countries such as Japan.

“As part of our work, we have created partnerships with leading universities around the world to increase the number of women graduating in the WiSTEM2D fields,” she said. “The University of Tokyo was one of the first three universities outside the U.S. with whom we partnered.”

As the largest and most diversified – in terms of products – health care company in the world, Johnson & Johnson offers a vast range of opportunities for women and men to make an important difference in the world.

Involving the entire population in people-centered health care solutions

Kathy called human health and well being one of the fundamental imperatives for businesses, non-profits, universities and governments all over the world. She then called for investment and collaboration to power the technology and science innovation that will “create people centered solutions that prevent us from getting sick in the first place, bring us back to health more quickly, reduce costs and make medicines and treatments available to all.”

111616_kwpmEmbedded in her message was the importance and urgency of opening doors and creating a more welcoming environment so women can and will be a bigger part of the solution.

In conclusion, Kathy said, “We applaud Prime Minister Abe’s support for innovation, economic growth, gender diversity and a holistically healthy Japanese society. And we look forward to continuing to deepen our collaborations and partnerships in Japan to address our mutual challenges and to achieve our mutual goals.”