Historic Trailblazer: Mary McGuire, the first woman to earn the Johnson Medal for consumer products research and development
In the early 1950s, Mary McGuire was in college studying to become a doctor, when family needs prompted her to leave school and start working as a research technician in the Personal Products division of Johnson & Johnson, which was focused on women’s health.
Within her first few years on the job, McGuire created patents and had a team of lab technicians reporting to her. In 1973, she became the first woman in company history to earn the prestigious internal award, the Johnson Medal, for the commercial success of her contributions to the creation of Stayfree®, the first belt-less sanitary pad that revolutionized female personal hygiene around the world.
McGuire transferred from R&D to marketing in the early 1970s, then moved on to work on even more game-changing innovations in the company’s baby products business in the 1980s, including evaluating whether Johnson & Johnson should re-enter the disposable diaper business, which it had pioneered in 1904. After 37 years at Johnson & Johnson, she retired as Vice President of Marketing.
Throughout her career, McGuire remained committed to helping other women at the company succeed, serving as a mentor and as a key member of then-CEO General Robert Wood Johnson’s Women’s Committee, a group dedicated to integrating women more fully into the workplace and incorporating their point of view in business growth and development.
“McGuire was a trailblazer in so many ways,” Gurowitz says. “Her career path from scientist to VP helped pave the way for other promising female employees, as did her role in overseeing the development of those who reported to her, several of whom became leaders at Johnson & Johnson.”
Never stop believing that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Science is not easy, and there will be failures along the way—but don’t forget to learn from them.
Trailblazer of Today: Simarna Kaur, Ph.D., Research Manager, Fellow, and Platform Leader, Translational Science, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health
In her role at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, Simarna Kaur, Ph.D., leads the team that works on the Ageless Platform, which involves research into the way that skin ages; Biodelivery, which focuses on delivering active ingredients effectively; and Skin-Tech, which encompasses the company’s digital tools for skin health. In a nutshell, Kaur is tasked with bringing “new science, technologies and innovation to the company’s consumer skin health product pipeline,” she says.
For example, she has worked on multiple technologies featured in company products, including the signature soothing CottonTouch™ ingredient used in the Johnson’s® CottonTouch™ baby bath line, as well as the Blackberry Complex—which nourishes the skin and helps reduce visible signs of aging—found in Aveeno’s Absolutely Ageless line.
Focusing her research on the body’s largest organ wasn’t always part of her career plan. In high school and college, Kaur wanted to pursue medicine and become a physician. But after doing an undergraduate research project on cell biology, she realized that she had a passion for science—and decided to pursue a Ph.D., instead.
The fact that she never thought of a Ph.D. as off-limits reflects her belief that, as she explains, “every scientist, regardless of their gender, brings unique strengths, insights, vision and problem-solving capabilities, based on their experiences.”
According to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are expected to see a spike in the next decade. But a gender gap—fueled by implicit stereotypes—persist. Kaur, however, is undaunted.
“Motivated scientists should be recognized and celebrated,” she says. “Following in the footsteps of women in STEM who paved the way for me to become a female scientist, I hope to lead by example, showing that dedication, hard work and passion do get recognized.”
Her advice to young women interested in becoming a research scientist? “Never stop believing that you can achieve anything you set your mind to,” she says. “Science is not easy, and there will be failures along the way—but don’t forget to learn from them.”