Company: Johnson & Johnson
Title: Head of Actelion
As head of Actelion, the biotech Johnson & Johnson bought up earlier this year, Jane Griffiths is focused on helping the Swiss company’s employees transition smoothly and understand the benefits of working at a larger organization. But she also has women in mind—and believes it's important to help others advance at her own company and beyond.
Integrating a big workforce like Actelion's is the first challenge. “A big part of my job is bringing them with me,” she said. “Of course it’s about the business, but it’s more about the people. You want the key people that are pivotal to the organization’s success to stay and not go because this wasn’t what they joined.”
To do that, she’s worked to build trust and show them that “I’ve got them at heart.”
“I’m not some spy for J&J—I’m actually there because I want us to be successful as a new organization,” she said.
Trust isn't all she wants to build. She’s also working to make Actelion a better place for women to work, whether that means expanding office buildings to have more space for kids, or making sure women know that it’s okay to work from home or keep flexible hours if they need to.
“These are all things that help women to stick at it even when it is quite challenging,” she said, adding that she wants to do “anything we can to help women stay in the workplace” and make juggling childcare easier to manage.
Why? The way she sees it, at Actelion, “the diversity at senior levels is nowhere near good enough.” And as someone coming from a drugmaker that has women in three of its four leadership group chair positions, she would know.
“I think that’s great, and the business is doing very well, so you can conclude what you want about association between women,” she said of J&J with a laugh.
Griffiths has a long history of helping advance women in the biopharma industry, from sponsoring and mentoring women, to sitting on the advisory board of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, to pushing for creation of a female-specific development program back when she worked in the Europe, Middle East and Africa division of J&J’s pharma arm, Janssen.
And in the workplace, she’s “constantly striving to make sure that female diversity is represented”—a job she says isn’t easy.
“When you’re looking at it through the eyes of someone who’s thinking about it a lot, you’re constantly saying, ‘there’s not enough women on that team or on that panel.’”
Still, it’s an attitude that’s necessary in an industry where GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley is the only woman leading a Big Pharma company. “We can’t rely on just one female CEO,” Griffiths said, adding that “women bring a different dimension to business.”
Since her own career began, “there are more women in senior positions, without doubt,” Griffiths said. But “are there enough in the most senior positions? The answer to that is obviously ‘no.’”