News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Merck marks International Women’s Day with commitment to gender equality and APEC research prize

Health Industry Hub | March 5, 2021 |
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Pharma News: Merck, a leading science and technology company, is marking International Women’s Day (8 March) with a range of initiatives including the launch of a 2021 research prize aiming to help women in APEC countries fully participate in paid work.

Submissions for the US$20,000 ‘Healthy Women, Healthy Economies’ 2021 research prize are now open to all researchers (including non-academic) whose work identifies areas for gender-specific interventions appropriate for their economy or organisations. This year, organisers expect entries will illuminate the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economic status and wellbeing of women in their countries.

“It is well understood that women’s ability to fully and comfortably take part in paid employment through good health, education, child support and training, is inextricably linked to better economic and social outcomes for everyone,” said Leah Goodman, Merck Healthcare Managing Director and General Manager for Merck Australia and New Zealand.

International Women's Day 2021 - Health Industry Hub
Interview links will be provided 8th March.

“Sadly, many hard-won gains for women have been lost as a direct result of the pandemic, as we heard this week at a ‘Healthy Women, Healthy Economies’ Policy Forum. At least one APEC country reports employment numbers for women have regressed ten years, which is why it’s vital to consciously build a COVID-19 recovery effort that takes into consideration the specific ways in which women were impacted,” said Ms Goodman.

“Women need to be active in planning the recovery of fundamentals like secure employment to enable their potential as leaders to be realised,” she added.

Immediate effects of the pandemic on women included reduced or lost employment, increased hours spent on unpaid caring and domestic work compared to male partners, and healthcare temporarily put on hold.

“Many longer term impacts are emerging, such as job loss interrupting careers and reducing earnings for many women, with knock-on effects for their families now and in future, or delayed access to IVF treatments, with consequences for starting a family,” said Ms Goodman. “I am proud that Merck can join with APEC to give policy makers and employers a clearer understanding of these gaps and specific tangible needs for women in different circumstances.”

The COVID-19 crisis demonstrated that economies remain vulnerable to gender inequalities, with women much more likely than men to lose or have reduced work last year.

“Some countries including Australia and New Zealand were able to put in place immediate measures such as childcare subsidies or wage-based stimuli, but we need to be thinking now about recovery, at a company, industry, government and community level, with equality in mind, and recognising the diverse range of situations, because the old norms simply no longer apply,” Ms Goodman said.

Merck has supported the Healthy Women Healthy Economies program as lead private sector partner since 2014. The initiative strives to unleash the economic power of women by bringing governments, employers and other interested stakeholders together to help improve women’s health, so women – and by extension their families – can join, thrive, rise in their communities and live better lives.

Applications are now open to residents in all 21 APEC countries and close 31 May 2021. The winner will be able to share their research during this year’s Women and the Economy Forum, to be hosted virtually by New Zealand in September.

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