Sanofi CEO in Canada combines science and diversity

Niven Al-Khoury, leader of the Sanofi Emerging Markets and Diabetes and Cardiovascular areas, visited Brazil at the end of November for a congress on the topic that received more than 300 specialists from all over Latin America. Named CEO of the Canadian unit of the pharmaceutical giant in 2015, the executive has career travels across several countries and has worked in several companies, including Johnson & Johnson.

A graduate in pharmacy from the University of Montreal in Canada, Niven says she has chosen the course for her passion for science and for how it can impact people's lives. Its main motivation, still today, is to seek solutions for those who need it most, an objective that combines with a constant concern with social and cultural diversity.

With more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing, government affairs, public relations and corporate communications strategies, the executive had her first solid experience in an emerging market when she moved to Egypt in 1996 when she married a Canadian who had business in the Arab country. The move sparked several skills at Niven, including the detection of possible innovations in the pharmaceutical industry. "Getting out of my comfort zone made me find my leadership potential, adapt myself to a new culture and, above all, give me a new direction to my profession and career. I worked as a pharmacist, but I discovered the industry and research, and with that I also discovered myself, I found myself, "he told an interview with Forbes Brazil.

During the so-called Egyptian Revolution - a series of street demonstrations, protests and acts of civil disobedience that took place in the country in 2011 - the mother of two became even more remarkable as she became general director of Sanofi, not only in Egypt, but also in Sudan, initiating the presence and influence of the pharmaceutical company in the Arab world.

Currently living in Paris, France, Niven recalls the difficulties faced in living in Arab countries while still growing in his career. "My family was pretty sure I was going to come back quickly, and that made me end up looking at the experience as a challenge." At the time of the change, the technology was not yet so advanced, which made things even more difficult. "I did not have GPS, I did not know where the hospitals were, or where my home was right. Communication was also very difficult - people noticed my accent and many of them could not communicate with me, "he says.

As a woman, the obstacles were even greater. In a highly sexist society, Niven, in the role of leader and director of a large local company, had a legacy to leave in the land of the pharaohs: the perception that gender does not matter in career. "There are no male or female leaders, there are leaders. A true leader, with credibility and respect, should be treated as a teacher, not as a man or a woman. People have to give you the value you have, and only then will they ignore which genre they belong to. "

Despite everything she has lived and believed, Niven does not identify herself as a feminist, but rather as a woman who believes in the inclusion and power of diversity. "It is very important to give empowerment, confidence, courage and support not only to women but to all people. I would believe anyone who invested in their dreams and had ambition regardless of sex. "

Gender balance is a personal goal for the current Sanofi President of Canada. According to her, there are several reasons why equality between men and women in the corporate world are important. One of them is the business case itself - some surveys prove that companies that have achieved this condition develop better and more quickly differences in thinking and understanding customer needs. "About 80% of decisions could be made by women. The woman is the mother, the daughter, the wife, a friend, a co-worker. If we are in a company, we can not ignore the opinion of women. If we want to talk about innovation, we have to talk about gender equality. "


The speech is followed by practical actions. "We need to support and support each other," he says. Invited frequently to talk about her career in lectures around the world, Niven considers women's "word-of-mouth" an important part of the process of societal change. The CEO advises other women to follow their dreams and encourages them to define and balance their personal and professional lives. "This balance is a treasure. Desires vary from person to person, but knowing how to reconcile things is what makes us happy and fulfilled. "Believing in herself, mastering situations and getting out of the comfort zone helped the executive to get where she arrived. "Sit in the front seat of the car, but do not forget one thing: you're the driver and you must know where to go. But she is not alone in the vehicle, let alone in the road. So go carefully. "

Regarding performance in their area, Niven says that all people, regardless of social class, race or gender, can be highly affected by both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. "The lack of diagnosis is still common , especially in less developed countries. And even when diagnosed, the disease is still not controlled as it should, "he says. Therefore, it affirms to have as a priority the search for innovations and solutions for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. According to the executive, education is an important ally in the treatment process. "The general awareness of the public means practically everything in these cases," she explains, which has been part of several information campaigns that looked not only patients but also caregivers. "The person with diabetes has to think of the disease more as a friend than as an enemy. I tend to give full attention to illness, as if she were a close friend. If you ignore her, she can become your number one enemy. It's better to control than to be controlled by her. "

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