Barbara Levi Mager, general counsel, Sandoz

Barbara Levi Mager is general counsel and global head of legal at Sandoz, an $11 billion global leader in generic and biosimilar pharmaceuticals, based in Munich. She describes the legal team’s approach to diversity and how all views are heard at the table.

The benefits that diversity and inclusion bring to the organisation in terms of strategic thinking… it’s a completely different world. When I talk about diversity, I mean not only gender and geography, but also background, education, upbringing, and the way we think.

Championing diversity

At Sandoz, we think about diversity and inclusion strategically and when we hire we keep diversity in mind as part of our objectives. We have a nominated D&I champion in each of the functions. Within the legal function, which encompasses general legal, compliance and IP, our current champion is the compliance officer for the biopharma business unit, but that role is allocated as a rotation. We normally give that person two or three years to develop a programme and to see it implemented, but we also want to give the opportunity to other members of the team. The D&I champion sits on the company-wide D&I committee, and brings back to the legal function the key company priorities. As a legal team, we think about how we can tailor those to our realities, because each function is different and may have different issues. At the beginning of every year we think about the overall D&I priorities and how we can deliver them in our roles, and we embed them in the way we work. Every year, we think about whether we need to keep the same priorities, whether we need to add any, and whether we need to change any. It is a continuous evolution, and it’s really tailored.

Visibility through development

The company overall is focusing on gender, in particular at a very senior level where there is more male representation than female. It’s quite interesting in legal, however, because we have exactly the opposite situation. Of course, we need to keep gender in mind to make sure there isn’t a sudden change, but we have other areas we think we can do better in. We’ve realised that we have less talent in Asia and Africa, particularly in more senior roles, so we are trying to develop the people that we have in Asia and in Africa through short-term secondments, rotations, or with special projects where they can have more visibility at headquarters and with our senior management. We have also noticed that it was not easy to provide visibility to people working in the legal departments of the countries versus associates who work at the headquarters. We’re really trying to build in much more flexibility, and that goes in line with empowerment.

We have formal mentoring programmes within the legal function, and also as a company, as part of an individual’s development plan. A lawyer could be mentored by someone within the legal function, or sometimes by someone outside. We also have a lot of informal mentoring within the legal function. Sometimes I see people who have a lot of potential but are not at the right level yet, so I put them with someone more experienced. People might say, ‘For the next six months, let’s meet once in a while over coffee, and talk about the challenges of the role.’ We do it when we move people into leadership roles for the first time, because that changes their role completely: people who are used to doing the work themselves suddenly have a team, and need to learn how to delegate and how to empower that team. Informal mentorship by someone who has been in a senior leadership role for a long time can help them by discussing the challenges of the role and how to overcome them.

We offer mentoring for women who are about to go on maternity leave. That is often an area where there is a lot of anxiety – people think, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to lose my job’, and ‘When I come back everything will be different’ – and so we provide the opportunity to talk about and overcome those issues. We also offer mentoring when someone comes back from maternity leave, to help them get up to speed.

The opportunity to speak

It is important to ensure that everyone feels included, because diversity without the inclusion piece would not bring the same value in terms of talent retention. We often do MBTI tests [Myers–Briggs Type Indicator personality tests], and we have seen that a more diverse team in terms of ways of thinking − for example, extrovert and introvert − adds huge and measurable value. In team meetings, you often see the more extrovert people talk and express their opinions, while the introverts sometimes need more time. So we give more time to those who need it and, for certain topics, we may have a second meeting just to make sure everyone is on board with the decision and to give others the opportunity to speak. Sometimes in meetings we bring up the MBTI chart on the screen and it’s very interesting because people start thinking, ‘Ok, so that’s why you are thinking that way; let me offer another way of thinking.’

We are an international company and have people in many geographic locations, but when you have a meeting and some people are in a room and others are on the phone, everyone forgets the people on the phone. So another simple method of inclusion is making sure to actively engage those who are on the phone. Also, considering the different locations, it is important to set the meetings at times that are friendly to associates in the Americas, in Asia and in Europe. In order to do so, we alternate the participants (ie to include only certain locations) and we avoid meetings on a Friday when participation from countries where Friday is the weekend is necessary.

Measure by results

I think that there are two ways to measure the impact of a diversity and inclusion strategy. One is the formal approach and the KPIs that the company sets. But the other thing I always say is that if we are considered successful by the business colleagues it means that we have the right team in place, and the right team can only be a diverse team. The Sandoz legal function is very strong in innovation and creativity, and this comes from the diversity of the team and the different ideas that have been brought to the table. It’s very difficult to measure inclusion, but the best way to measure it is by looking at retention. If people enjoy working in a place, you have created a diverse and inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels empowered and respected.