Women Worth Watching 2015

Christi Shaw

This Novartis President Is an Ardent Advocate for Inclusivity


web Novartis_ShawAs US country head, president of Novartis Corporation, and president of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Christi Shaw leads the US General Medicines business and Novartis Corporations Operations. She is responsible for cross-divisional coordination across three Novartis Group companies and the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. The organization has embraced her patient-centric approach and commitment to exceptional business results.

During her more than 25 years in the health care industry, Christi has worked across more than 10 disease areas and dedicated her career to empowering individuals through employee engagement, leadership development, and diversity of thought. After rising through the ranks at Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson, Christi joined Novartis in 2010 as head of North America Oncology, and led the unit to unprecedented growth, while overcoming patent losses. She also championed the groundbreaking “SIGNATURE” program, which revolutionized clinical trials by bringing the protocol to any cancer patient with certain genetic mutations—no matter the diagnosis—and significantly speeding up drug-to-patient time. In recognition of her accomplishments, Christi was awarded the 2012 Novartis “Chairman’s Award for Business Excellence,” and was appointed to her current role in 2014.

“…be open to unconsidered possibilities.”

“I have known since high school that my present career was what I wanted to do, when I understood how science and innovation could help solve serious problems, like disease,” said Christi. “I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to pursue my passion.”

Recognizing that diversity and inclusion are critical to innovation, Christi reviews a diverse slate of candidates for all open positions. As a result, about 60 percent of her direct reports are women. She also advocates for inclusivity, and is always open to having her views shaped by other perspectives.

Christi’s passion for serving patients and developing talent extends beyond Novartis. She is on the board of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Healthcare Leadership Council and the Young Women’s Leadership Network.


Education: BA, Iowa State University; MBA, University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh

First Job: Being from Iowa, my first job ever was detassling corn when I was 13 years old.

What I’m Reading: Two articles: How to Build Your Own Human Workplace” and “16 Ways to Create Your Own Happiness at Work”


The most important quality a woman leader should have is…

…clarity — of purpose, vision, strengths-focus and boundaries

 The career advice I’d give my former self:

Be open to unconsidered possibilities. The Dalai Lama once said that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.

Words I live by:

Long live life! There is nothing more extraordinary than a normal life.

The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…

…not letting others or my environment define who I am and what I value.

When I really need to focus on a project, I…

…gather individuals with diverse perspectives, areas of expertise and experiences to help generate insights to get to the best solutions.

My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…

…pursuing and taking on roles for which I had almost no preparation or experience. I felt inspired and energized by considering possibilities – and striving to achieve the impossible.

Being a woman in my profession has been…

…fulfilling. I have been able to leverage my feminine energy – and natural caretaking ability – to help millions of people and their families who are touched by illness and look to our medicines for help.

I’ve learned that failure is…

… humbling and disappointing at first – but also an opportunity to learn. There’s a saying I like: never let success get to your head; never let failure get to your heart.

I maintain a healthy personal life by…

…keeping those I love as the top priorities in my life.

I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…

…I was in high school and understood how science and innovation could help solve serious problems, like disease. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to pursue my passion.