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Riham Naim | Head of Legal GULF Countries at Novartis

Legal Leader and Community Builder – Riham Naim: Reshaping the Pharma Legal Niche

The most influential women leaders in legal services, like Riham Naim, are making a positive impact in several keyways. They champion diversity and inclusion by working to break down barriers and create a more equitable legal profession. Riham recognizes the potential of innovative technology to improve legal services and make them more accessible. Women like Riham inspire the next generation of female lawyers by achieving success in traditionally male-dominated roles.

Presently the Head of Legal GULF Countries at Novartis, Riham is an accomplished lawyer with a distinguished career. She co-founded the Egypt In-House Counsel Group, a community of legal professionals in Egypt. A group that gathers more than 500 in-house counsels in EG for sharing learning, vacancies, better use of time, job opportunities, and improving efficiency and resources of the in-house lawyers in EG.

Journeying to the Top

Riham has extensive experience working in legal leadership positions. She currently leads the legal team for the GULF region. Previously, she served as the Country Head of Legal for Novartis Egypt, overseeing all legal matters for the company’s various divisions.

Before joining Novartis, Riham held legal positions at the Arab International Bank (AIB) and Credit Lyonnais Bank (CLB) & GULF Bank in Kuwait. Her background also includes experience as a French interpreter and a law trainee.

Riham is a highly qualified lawyer. She is also the country representative for the American Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and a member of the Egyptian Bar Association.

In her own words, Riham is an Egyptian born in France. She holds a “Maitrise” de Droit Des Affaires from the University of Paris-I Pantheon Sorbonne and a Bachelor of Arts in Egyptian Law from Cairo University.

Succeeding Early

When asked what challenges she had to overcome to reach where she is today, Riham says that the challenges were her mindset, understanding and recognizing her biases, and turning those challenges into opportunities. “When I started my first role in the Pharmaceutical industry, I was the first female to take over the legal role, the youngest among the leadership team. Instead of positioning it as a challenge, I saw it as an opportunity.”

Riham was determined to leave a strong legacy from day one, build trust within the team, and pave the way for whoever will take over her role when she leaves. Smiling, she says, “Currently, I am enjoying my new role with the GULF markets, having an opportunity to work with more diverse teams and learn from everyone around me: I strongly believe that teachers are here everywhere!”

Sharing their vision and mission in Novartis, Riham says, “Our vision and mission are to become the most valued and trusted medicines company in the world. And I am really proud and privileged to be part of the team in Novartis, and we genuinely practice in our day-to-day work!”

Riham is a big fan of diversity and inclusion. She says it’s a key strategic goal to understand different perspectives and personalities and encourage all working styles to be heard and engaged!

Combining D&I to Foster Innovation

Innovation is key in a rapidly changing market. In Riham’s view, diversity and inclusion are key contributors to innovation, along with creating a culture where everyone can speak their minds! Riham says that diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences bring unique insights and ideas to the table. Diversity fosters creativity, problem-solving, and innovation by challenging conventional thinking and the status quo.

Diversity also comes as an outcome of creating an inclusive environment where all voices are heard and valued. Encouraging active listening, empathy and respect for different opinions. It comes with building a culture of trust and psychological safety, too. “As I mentioned earlier, the Pharma industry is very dynamic, and innovation is needed to sustain business and growth, not only from a Research and Development font but for everyone working in this industry to be able to unlock opportunities and expand access to patients to the right medicines,” she states.

The Maximum Impact

Further enlightening on the impact that she has made with her work through her expertise in the market, Riham says, “For people who know me, I genuinely do things from my heart, and I am keen to make an impact. I think the fact of shading light the role of in-house counsels in Egypt to understand their contribution to key business success, either by contributing to Returns on Investment (ROI) via assessing the right deals to be implemented correctly or assessing possible risks along with other key functions to avoid material or reputational risk. It is worth mentioning that only when we started building our in-house community in Egypt did in-house counsels start to be smoothly enrolled in the Egyptian Bar Association! I am proud.”

An Emergent Caliber

As a women leader, Riham faced challenges regularly. Like many, she played different roles throughout her career: as a daughter, a sister, a wife, or a mother; each stage needs certain flexibility that might change from time to time. The challenge of frequent travels or attending meetings during weekends or in the afternoon might be a challenge for a female who has to leave her family for a long time. “I always had the right support from family and friends to help me manage different challenges.” Choosing the right employer that values impact and the presence of the right calibers within the organization. The culture is about understanding challenges, and designing solutions/flexibilities to assist the right talents to deliver is really important, too.

A Joyful Wisdom

In her advice to women venturing into the industry, Riham says, “Always be ready to:

  • Deal with complexity. The Pharma industry is under high scrutiny in most MENA markets. 
  • Get yourself familiar with essential medical terms.
  • Understand your company portfolio and key indications for key strategic products.
  • Challenge status quo: Pharma is a very dynamic industry. One solution can not fit all😉.”

Enjoy your feminine side, design each area in your career according to your needs, and never ever give up!”

Finally, when asked where she envisions herself to be in the long run and what are her future goals for her company, Riham says, “Continue leaving a strong legacy, educate and upskill self and teams, stop low added value work are my current goals. The future goal is to promote females’ role in the legal field within the Middle East.”

Team Insights Success wishes Riham Naim all the best in achieving all her dreams and goals.