Women Rise to COVID-19's Challenges

In their own words, Abbott's female scientists and engineers recount responding to a global health threat.
Mar 8, 2021 3:35 PM ET
Blog

One moment can spark inspiration for a career that will change lives.

At least that's what we're hoping at Abbott, where we're committed to providing opportunities for women in science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – and ensuring girls can see these women in action, motivating the next generation of female scientists and engineers.

Why? Because statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce show that women hold fewer than a quarter of STEM jobs while making up 47% of the U.S. workforce.

At Abbott, our female scientists and engineers are on the frontlines – in our labs, offices and manufacturing facilities – as our teams develop critical testing technologies to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Below you'll hear from some of these women as they describe their personal experiences and observations during this historic time.

Klara Abravaya, Divisional Vice President, Research and Development, Molecular Diagnostics, Des Plaines, Illinois

"The main challenge was speed. As scientists, we are trained to do experiments one after another. With COVID-19 we didn’t have that luxury. We had to think through all the options, plan in parallel and then do everything at the same time. Nonetheless, our team worked nonstop 24/7 with no hesitation, knowing availability of reliable tests was critical for fighting this pandemic.”

Claudia Christner-Albrecht, Regulatory Affairs Manager, Abbott Rapid Diagnostics, Germany

"Everyone on our project worked hand-in-hand and around the clock to develop our tests. They were a global, multifunctional team of experts with in-depth knowledge who helped find solutions and overcome hurdles. If they could help, they helped. We’re proud that we’re able to help so many people around the world manage COVID-19."

Alyssa Dias, Manufacturing Process Engineer, Professional Development Program, Gurnee, Illinois

"Working on this project so early in my career has given me such a unique experience. From moving across the country mid-pandemic with two weeks' notice to recently becoming a supervisor, it’s been a challenging yet fulfilling time. Knowing the positive impact our work has on the world makes it all worth it. I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow at an accelerated pace and will carry these lessons with me for the rest of my career."

Angela Drysdale, Divisional Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Rapid Diagnostics, Scarborough, Maine

"I have two daughters. This is the first time they could connect something tangibly to what I do. We were working around the clock to get this test developed and once FDA authorization was received, Abbott and our test was being talked about on the radio and TV. I could show them the TV news and say, 'That's the test we were working on. It's helping the world with the virus.' They were proud and said, 'Now we understand why we haven't seen you for four weeks.'"

Danijela Lucic, Global Scientific Affairs Manager, Molecular Diagnostics, Des Plaines, Illinois

"SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus, however our approach to developing COVID-19 testing is based on decades of work in infectious diseases by our IDCORE team. These scientists are well-experienced in identifying different strains of viruses as well as developing diagnostic tests that could address different research questions. They most recently discovered a new subtype of HIV-1, so they were well equipped to step up."

Katharine Qiu, PhD, Divisional Vice President, Research and Development, Infectious Diseases, Rapid Diagnostics, San Diego, California

"As hundreds of millions of people seek quick access to COVID-19 tests, we as test developers have been put into one of the toughest tests of our careers. We have stretched limits, redefined what's possible, sought better solutions and raised expectations in our daily work. Our efforts have been exhausting at times yet rewarding as a whole. It is through these incredible challenges that we have found our new ability to innovate and to flourish. I am proud of my team, and proud of being a member of Abbott in an industry where we have made a real difference in the fight against COVID-19."

Want more inspiration? Meet our STEM Sisters. A group of incredible women who are making a difference through STEM fields at Abbott.

And looking ahead, we have plans to further expand opportunities for women in STEM. As part of our 2030 Sustainability Plan, we intend to expand opportunities in Abbott's STEM programs and internships for more than 100,000 young people.