Leading the Way: An interview with Mary Lavin, President of Sartorius North America, on Cultivating Woman Leaders.
To find out what it takes to be a women leader today, Mary Lavin, president of Sartorius North America, shares how she became one of the first women senior executives at Sartorius, who has inspired her, and offers advice for the next generation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
This article is posted on Sartorius Blog.
Mary, you’ve been with Sartorius for more than 30 years. Why did you decide to pursue a career in the STEM industry?
I joined Sartorius in 1988 because it was a growing company in the exciting and dynamic pharmaceutical industry with an international direction and perspective. At Sartorius, I get to be part of helping people to improve their lives and health through better drugs and therapies. It’s a great place to be.
Tell us more about your path to leadership at Sartorius.
I started in the Accounting department. At the time, Sartorius had decided to expand internationally, and I was able to use my financial skills to help the leaders to run the business. Step by step, I worked my way through the organization. I volunteered for a lot of new projects such as the first SAP implementations outside of Europe and supported the sales organizations with their updates, rollouts, and organization changes. As Sartorius expanded, I was able to expand my responsibilities.
Was there a moment of feeling you have arrived?
I understood that I had made it when I was invited to attend a global meeting in Oman, in the Middle East, and realized that all 35 participants were business leaders at Sartorius. For me, it was a milestone to be considered part of the global executive management team. It was in 2002, and it happened to be my son’s first birthday, so it was a mixed milestone. I felt honored to be there and though I wasn’t home with my son, I was able to celebrate with him when I returned. When you get the opportunity to be present at an important meeting, it’s crucial to be there. You find a way to do whatever works for your family. It is about whatever works for you. We’re all different and have different needs.
What do you believe is the biggest opportunity that the STEM industry offers to women?
I think that it´s the professional development. I’m an accountant who gradually grew into a leadership role as head of the North America region here. For me, I would have never thought I’d have this opportunity but because of the strong environment for growth and an eagerness to learn and to partner with different people I am here. I think there are many avenues for women to be successful just like men and for them to develop a career in a growing industry.
From your experience, how can employees grow into leadership roles at Sartorius?
As the company grows, we need people who are willing to be international leaders. For example, I was in Germany every other week for a period of three years and this really helped me to understand. It gave me a totally different perspective about the complexities of the company and leadership outside of our North America operations. If you want to move up the corporate ladder, I think you should be willing to go work someplace else.
For a young woman at Sartorius, you’d tell her…
… to be open, willing to travel, learn what you’re doing and learn about the company. In addition, I would say to always volunteer for new things. That’s how I learned a lot by getting put on special projects and connecting with people.
What women have inspired you?
There are great women in history that have inspired me. One of them is Eleanor Roosevelt, a pioneer and at the forefront of social issues as a woman with a voice during a time when there was none. There is also Michelle Obama. She focused her attention on social issues such as poverty and education.
And I’m also inspired by leaders at Sartorius. I admire those who are high performing, lead with integrity, compassion, are a strong communicator and listener, value team work and talent development.
At Sartorius, 38% of leaders below the board level are women. Learn more about women and diversity at Sartorius: