New GSK CEO Emma Walmsley now sixth woman CEO in FTSE 100

20 Sep 2016

New GSK CEO, Emma Walmsley. Image: GSK

In being named GSK’s new CEO, Emma Walmsley becomes the sixth woman to lead a company in the FTSE 100 as well as one of the most powerful women in the pharmaceutical industry.

Having joined GSK from L’Oréal in 2010, Emma Walmsley will step in and lead a company that boasts a market value close to €100bn.

The company announced the news confirming Walmsley will replace current GSK CEO Andrew Witty when he retires in March 2017, and she will join the board of directors in January of that year.

Future Human

Six years at GSK

Walmsley has held a number of marketing and general management roles with both GSK and L’Oréal, joining her current employer in 2010 to work with its consumer health products.

Since 2015, Walmsley has been the CEO of GSK Consumer Healthcare, a joint venture between GSK and Novartis that has been valued at around €7bn, making it one of the largest consumer health groups in the world.

Among some of the household brands that Walmsley would have been responsible for include Panadol, Sensodyne and Horlicks.

The decision to appoint her to one of the highest positions global business, let alone the pharma industry, comes following the company’s chairperson, Philip Hampton, chairing a review on how to encourage more women into boardroom positions.

Six out of 100

Speaking earlier this year, Hampton said: “I will focus on improving representation in the executive layer of companies, as well as maintaining the momentum on boards. This means looking at the talent pipeline for female executives and emerging non-executive directors to ensure we create opportunities and the right conditions for women to succeed.”

Now, following Walmsley’s appointment, he said: “Emma is an outstanding leader with highly valuable experience of building and running major global businesses and a strong track record of delivering growth and driving performance in healthcare.”

Walmsley’s appointment also makes GSK the sixth company on the British FTSE 100 list to be led by a woman, joining EasyJet, Kingfisher, Imperial Brands, Royal Mail and Whitbread.

Speaking of her new role, Walmsley said: “I am delighted and honoured to be appointed GSK’s next CEO. GSK is a company that leads both in science and in the way it does business.”

Speaking from an investor standpoint with The Guardian, Ketan Patel, a fund manager at EdenTree Investment Management, described it as a major step forward in a sector that “has scored surprisingly poorly on diversity at the CEO level”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic