Belen Garijo has been named as the new CEO of Merck. She is the first woman to lead a DAX 30-listed company solo as Germany considers quotas for better boardroom equality. Garijo, who was born in Spain and is 60 years old, says she does not intend to be a one-off.
Garijo has been with the company for several years, having previously served as the group’s deputy CEO. She has been praised for overhauling the research and development department and increasing sales and profits. Prior to this, she worked for Sanofi as head of their European operations.
Garijo’s top priority in her new position will be to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. She has announced that the company will increase the delivery of materials used to make vaccines in the coming months.
She replaces Stefan Oschmann, who spent five years as CEO of the Darmstadt group. The family-owned group has never had a female CEO in its 350-year history.
Garijo makes history as the first female solo leader of a company listed on the German blue-chip DAX 30 index. She is a mother of two and a passionate supporter of Real Madrid.
Female representation in German businesses remains low, despite a woman being the country’s chancellor for almost 16 years. The gender pay gap in Germany is one of the largest in Europe, with women earning about 21% less than men on average. However, in 2015, legislation was introduced in Germany requiring women to make up one-third of boards of directors, and there are plans to introduce similar rules for executive boards.