Merck KGaA Diversifies with First Female CEO


German-based Merck KGaA is taking a giant stride in the right direction with their announcement that current CEO Stefan Oschmann will be completing his tenure as planned next spring and handing over the reins Belén Garijo. Garijo will take over as Chair of Executive Board and CEO effective May 2021.

Johannes Baillou, Chairman of the Board of Partners of E. Merck KG, Darmstadt, Germany, spoke highly of Garijo.

“She knows our company extremely well and has done excellent work in transforming our Healthcare business sector," Baillou said. "Belén Garijo and Stefan Oschmann have been collaborating closely and trustfully for many years. This will ensure a seamless transition and continuity in corporate management.” 

Garijo has been with Merck close to 10 years. She came in as COO of Biopharma (formerly Merck Serono) and most recently wore the titles of Vice Chairman of the Executive Board, Deputy CEO and Healthcare CEO.

“Leading Merck Group will be a huge honor and a big responsibility at the same time. I am very grateful for the trust of the Merck Family. I feel well prepared, most importantly, thanks to the close partnership with Stefan Oschmann. Over the next months, I will spend as much time as possible to dive deeper into Life Science and Performance Materials topics. Very much looking forward to it!” Garijo said about the announcement on LinkedIn.

As of 2017, only 1% of German company CEOs were women. This puts Garijo in a unique position for her the future. A successful tenure could help pave the way for more German companies to take note and actively seek to promote women into executive leadership roles.

Current CEO Oschmann is leaving the company as planned after ten years on the Executive Board, five of those as Chairman and CEO.

“I would like to thank Stefan Oschmann for an extremely successful tenure on the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. He has significantly shaped the company’s transformation into a globally leading science and technology company. Everyone who thinks of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, today, immediately thinks of science & tech – and this worldwide," Baillou said. "The company’s extremely strong portfolio, its excellent company valuation and its bright future prospects are closely connected with Stefan Oschmann. He has especially driven the company’s turn to digital innovations and business models forward. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, will substantially benefit from this in the long run."

Merck is also shaking things up in other areas of its executive board. Peter Guenter will take on board responsibility for the Healthcare business sector in Garijo’s stead. He’s currently CEO of a pharma company in Barcelona - Amirall SA.

Matthias Heinzel will also join the Executive Board to assume responsibility for the Life Science business sector next year. Heinzel is currently President of Nutrition and Biosciences at DuPont. He’s also a member of DuPont’s executive board.

Regarding his successor, Oschmann shared on LinkedIn, “Belén Garijo and I have worked together for nine years now, and every day has been a real pleasure. I am extremely happy that Belén will be my successor next spring.”

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