An interview with Susanne Kohout, Country President & Managing Director Novartis Hellas.
What has led you to the career you practice today and what has kept you there?
I believe that the things we love have a way of finding us. That is exactly what happened with me. I was always passionate about people and providing them with what they needed to live better. That naturally led me to the health industry, working alongside other like-minded people with the same passion and the same values. Today, I cannot imagine working in a different field. Our strong sense of purpose to help people live longer and better through reimagining medicine is what motivates and excites me, every day.
Which is the professional accomplishment you feel mostly proud of?
Definitely, my work at Novartis Hellas. I joined the company in 2017 at a special and challenging time. Moreover, at the same time, our business model was going through a substantial transformation, globally. I chose to see this double challenge as an opportunity to set a new foundation for the way we do business. Three years later, and while, also, successfully delivering on our patients, our employees and our business during the pandemic, I am proud to say that Novartis Hellas is in the right path for cultural excellence, ethics, sustainability and impact recognition. Our recent Fortune Most Admired Companies award as 2020 No1 Pharma company in the country, reflects just that.
Why is it that in Greece, we are so behind in matters of women representation – both in business and in politics as well as elsewhere? Do you think that leadership, decision-making and taking up responsibility is in contrast with the “female nature” or role, and why is that?
On the contrary, women thrive equally as their male counterparts on leadership when they are given equal opportunities. In fact, underlining the company’s continuous commitment to diversity and inclusion, at Novartis Hellas the percentage of women working in high-responsibility roles is 59%. Generally, though, the problem is that women are not having full access to equal opportunities for a number of reasons. Social constructions and cultural stereotypes are keeping women behind. The most common example relates to the dilemma between motherhood and professional development. When women feel they need to choose between being a mother or advancing professionally, that means inequality exists. This is a deep-rooted problem that, in each country, should be dealt with at various levels, in parallel: by state regulators, by employers’ practices and by a new society mindset. All together we can break stereotypes. At Novartis, we celebrate life and recognize moments that matter. From January 2021, all our people around the world can benefit from a minimum period of 14 weeks paid parental leave following the birth, or adoption of a child, effective from their first day of employment. By offering the same parental leave to all parents, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, we seek to promote greater equity for birthing and non-birthing parents and give everyone the flexibility and opportunity to make the choices appropriate for their families.
How would you like to be remembered by your colleagues and partners?
The highest compliment I’ve heard is people bragging that they’ve worked with you. That is the way I think of the people I most admire and look up to. It would be an honor for my work to be thought of or remembered this way and I would feel very proud if I contributed in any way to the personal or professional development of my colleagues.