Women of Roche recognised for exemplary work as role models and leaders

Gender equality is supported at Roche through mentoring, sponsorship and development opportunities. A growing number of professional women’s networks across the company provide a platform to share experiences, and concrete goals are in place to increase the proportion of women in senior positions. Today, women represent 49% of the total workforce at Roche, and 43.6% of managers are women.


At Roche, strong and brilliant women encourage and support others in the workplace and in their communities. Recently, the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) recognised Jill German, Head of Pathology Lab Customer Segment and Aruna Ayer, Research Director for serving as transformational leaders and exemplary role models in their professions.


In recognition of their accomplishments, Jill was awarded the 2020 Luminary Award for her service as a role model and mentor as well as helping other women advance in their healthcare careers. Aruna was awarded an HBA 2020 Rising Stars award. We spoke with both women on their mentorship, leadership and more. 

Q: Who has been your greatest mentor (or mentors) during your career and how have they inspired you?


A: I've been fortunate to have had many mentors throughout my career - it would be difficult to name just one or two - and the greatest ones have all had similar qualities. They all have experience, skill or knowledge from which I can benefit, they're good listeners and they are willing to give me candid feedback.


Q: How do you mentor and inspire others, with the goal of helping to advance their careers? 


A: I believe that the most important ingredient to success is loving what you do. In support of that, I tend to listen, ask questions about what experiences or interactions really set their hearts on fire and then challenge them to think beyond what they think they can do. Mentors need to provoke your thinking and I try to do that. In addition, my experience allows me to bring ideas and concepts to people that they may not have known even exist. 


Q: What do you attribute to the growth in leadership roles for women in the healthcare field since you began your career? 


A: Women have been passionate about healthcare through the ages, so that's a great start. We have to be a little careful, however, as "healthcare" is a broad term and not all fields have seen the same level of advancement and women of colour remain severely underrepresented, so while we've seen growth, we've got a long way to go. At Roche, I would attribute the growth to two key attributes: One - intention. Severin (Schwan, CEO, Roche) and the Corporate Executive Committee have been intentional about the importance of women in leadership and have actually set goals. This creates intention throughout the organisation as we develop women early in their careers. Two - infrastructure. Roche has been a leader in providing necessary support, including robust healthcare benefits that support both parents, flexible working hours and shifts, childcare support and most importantly, equal pay for equal roles. 


Q: During your 20+ years in the healthcare industry, how has your transformational style of leadership led to important healthcare innovations?


A: The teams I have worked with throughout my career have been so talented and innovative - my role has been to ensure that the right people are on the team, great ideas can find light and barriers to realising success are removed and removed quickly. The best and most fun teams are diverse (across a multitude of parameters), create an inclusive environment that also encourages curiosity and debate and engage individual strengths to the benefit of the team. I feel blessed to have been a part of many important innovations throughout the years, and can confirm that it always takes a village.


Q: What advice do you have for colleagues who are working to advance and improve the healthcare field?


A: Focus on the areas that you love, actively seek opportunities to contribute beyond your current role (you'll learn something you didn't know), consider your solution from the customer perspective and always stay curious.

Q: Tell us about your role at Roche and any campus community involvement you take part in.

A: I am Director of Research, in the Research and Early Development (RED) sub-group of Roche Sequencing Solutions. I lead a team of scientists working on protein engineering and sample prep projects for the Roche Nanopore Sequencer. I also participate in Roche Women in Leadership (RWIL) activities and I am a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion in our community.

Q: Who has been an influential mentor in your life? How do you mentor others? 

A: I have had many influential mentors all along, but the one I really want to mention here is my high school biology teacher, M.C. Aruna. Yes, she has the same name as me. She was a stellar teacher and inspired me early on to think of DNA, protein, nature and evolution. More recently, I have come to embrace the concept of mentoring moments. Whether it’s a conversation with a highly ranked professional or my peers, friends or even my kids, I often find myself in mentoring moments where I learn or reflect, and those are precious.

Q: How do you contribute to the success of Roche Molecular Solutions and inspire your team to do the same?

A: The work I do in collaboration with my team and several cross-functional teams directly impacts the accuracy and throughput of the DNA sequencer that Roche is building. This performance will be key to enabling clinical sequencing and that is what inspires me and my team. 

Q: What is your vision for increasing the number of women leaders in science and healthcare?

A: Women have been held back for way too long now, primarily because of lack of opportunities and support from family and workplace. My vision to increase women leaders in science and healthcare would be to provide opportunities for women to develop their professional skills and provide a support system when it comes to childcare and work-life balance. In an ideal world, men don’t shy away from a dialogue about gender equality, they actively participate in making it happen. We need to continue to advocate for equal opportunities for ALL, that’s the basis for everything.

Visit the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association’s website to learn more about their work and the women they honor through their awards.