Michelle Gadsden-Williams

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Executive Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Novartis Pharm. Corp., East Hanover, N.J. Age: 37

Michelle Gadsden-Williams, the first African-American executive director of Diversity and Inclusion at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., attributes much of her professional success to the unwavering support of her family, whom she refers to as her “nucleus.” Her tireless efforts to refine processes, policies and programs to cultivate an inclusive work environment, coupled with a passionate pursuit of excellence, have won her numerous honors and awards. In 2005, she was honored at the YWCA of Central New Jersey’s Tribute to Women in Industry Gala. She received Novartis’s Scientific Operations Business Excellence Award in 2004 and its Human Resources Excellence Award in 2003. Williams also received several awards in HR Business Excellence at Merck & Co. Inc., where she served as senior university relations/diversity consultant, future-talent program and diversity manager, and manager of diversity programs.

Williams has been especially inspired by the advice of her mentors, who, she says, “showed me what excellence looked like.”

She is fueled by the famous words of celebrity talk-show host Oprah Winfrey: “I am a woman in process. I’m just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict, every experience, and learn from it. Life is never dull!”

Williams earned a bachelor of arts in communications and a bachelor of science in marketing at Kean College, from which she graduated summa cum laude. Currently enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, she expects to receive a masters of science in organizational dynamics in December 2006. Her goal is to earn a doctorate in organizational behavior and eventually establish a diversity consulting practice of her own. An active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and a board member of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, Williams’ passion for excellence extends beyond her professional undertakings to service to her community. To others on their journey of success, she offers her own words of wisdom: “Never settle for mediocrity. Don’t be good at what you do. Be great at what you do.”