In 1926, Emil posted one of these women, Dr Alice Keller – who held a doctorate in economics – to Japan. After a 35-day journey from Switzerland, she arrived in Tokyo, first handling product launches and correspondence with Basel.
By 1929, the extremely competent and talented Alice had become the first woman to be awarded the title of senior executive at Roche, a sensational development for the 1920s. Alice greatly enjoyed living in Tokyo, stating “I liked it in Japan from the beginning. The people were friendly, the country I found beautiful.” With World War II looming, however, she returned to Basel and stayed with Roche until her retirement 14 years later.
Although some employees found Emil C. Barell (CEO of Roche from 1920 until 1953) to be a difficult, commanding, even authoritarian leader, he had a talent for bringing unconventional but brilliant people into the company. He was also an early champion of women pursuing careers, and supported them in following paths usually reserved for men.