Emma Walmsley

Emma Natasha Walmsley, HonFRSC (born June 1969)[1] is the chief executive officer (CEO) of GlaxoSmithKline. She succeeded Sir Andrew Witty, who retired in March 2017.[2] Before working for GSK she worked for L'Oréal for 17 years and was a non-executive director of Diageo until September 2016.[3] She grew up Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria

Emma Walmsley
Walmsley speaking to Paul Nurse at The Francis Crick Institute
Emma Natasha Walmsley

June 1969 (age 50)
Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire (now Cumbria), England
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
TitleCEO GlaxoSmithKline
TermApril 2017-
PredecessorSir Andrew Witty
Board member ofDiageo
Spouse(s)David Owen
Parent(s)Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Walmsley
Christina V Melvill

Early life

Walmsley was born in June 1969 in Barrow-in-Furness in Lancashire (now Cumbria), the daughter of Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Walmsley[4] and Lady Christina Walmsley (born Christina V Melvill).[5] She boarded at St Swithun's School, Winchester,[4] and has a master's degree in Classics and Modern Languages from Oxford University.[6][7]


Walmsley worked at L’Oréal for 17 years where she held a variety of general management and marketing roles in Paris, London and New York. From 2007 she was based in Shanghai as General Manager, Consumer Products for L’Oreal China, where she ran the company's Chinese consumer products business, overseeing global brands including L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline and Garnier, as well as Mininurse, a Chinese skincare brand.[8] At the time of her move to GSK in 2010, Advertising Age quoted company insiders surprised at her departure from L’Oreal, where she was tipped for a senior global management role.[9]

She joined GlaxoSmithKline in May 2010 as President of Consumer Healthcare Europe, rising in October 2011 to head its global consumer healthcare division as President of Consumer Healthcare Worldwide and a member of the executive team.[10] In March 2015 she became the Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Healthcare. Walmsley was particularly involved in leading the company's sales drive in emerging markets.[9] Under her leadership the consumer products division, one of the world's largest consumer health groups with brands including Panadol, Voltaren and Horlicks, made up nearly a quarter of GlaxoSmithKline's revenues.[11]

She took over as CEO of the company in April 2017,[11][12] making her the first woman to run a major pharmaceutical company.[13] At the time, analysts commented that Walmsley's appointment could be seen as a signal that GSK would keep its consumer operation as a core part of its business.[11]

In August 2017, Walmsley stated that her priority was for GlaxoSmithKline to become more adept at developing and commercialising new drugs. She announced a narrowed set of priorities for drug development, setting a target of allocating 80% of pharma R&D capital to a maximum of four disease areas. However, industry analysts noted that GlaxoSmithKline's decisions to hold its dividend would restrict the amount of cash available for R&D and acquiring intellectual property from other companies.[14]

In January 2018, it was reported that Walmsley had replaced 50 of GlaxoSmithKline's top managers across the company's businesses, and created a number of new roles, including hiring Karenann Terrell from Walmart as chief digital and technology officer.[15]

Leadership style

A Financial Times profile of Walmsley in September 2016 reported that colleagues describe her as a “strong and dynamic” leader who mixes a personable style with a “steely” focus. “She sets clear objectives and there's lots of KPIs [key performance indicators] to measure delivery,” said one. She pays close attention to talent development but “can be ruthless with underperformers”.[16]

Other roles

Walmsley is also a member of the GlaxoSmithKline board.[17] She was a non-executive director of Diageo between January and September 2016. [18][19]

Personal life

Outside work, Walmsley enjoys yoga.[9] She married her husband David Owen in September 1995 in Greenwich, London, and they have four children.[20]


In 2019 Walmsley ranked 2nd[21] in Fortune Magazine's list of the ‘Most Powerful International Women’ in business, having topped the list in 2018.[22] In 2017 she placed second on the same list.[23]


  1. "DIAGEO PLC - Officers (free information from Companies House)".
  2. Kollewe, Julia; Farrell, Sean (20 September 2016). "GSK makes Emma Walmsley most powerful woman in FTSE 100" via The Guardian.
  3. "Who are the six female bosses in the FTSE 100?". The Telegraph. 17 July 2017. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  4. Coles, Mark (25 September 2016). Profile:Emma Walmsley (radio). BBC Radio 4.
  5. "Birth registration entry for Emma Natasha Walmsley (mother's maiden name Melvill: registration district Barrow in Furness". Transcription of births registration index for England and Wales. ONS. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  6. "Emma Walmsley". GSK.
  7. "Emma Walmsley makes history as Big Pharma's first female CEO - MedCity News". medcitynews.com. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  8. "Emma Walmsley, President, GSK Consumer Healthcare".
  9. "Emma Walmsley profile: from marketing at L'Oréal to GSK chief". The Guardian. 20 September 2016.
  10. "Executive Profile: Emma Walmsley". Bloomberg. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  11. "GlaxoSmithKline names Emma Walmsley as chief executive". 20 September 2016 via www.bbc.co.uk.
  12. Roland, Denise (20 September 2016). "GlaxoSmithKline Names Emma Walmsley as Next Chief Executive" via Wall Street Journal.
  13. "Emma Walmsley". Forbes. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  14. "GSK chief says her lack of 'baggage' in pharma is an advantag". Financial Times. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  15. https://www.fiercepharma.com/corporate/glaxosmithkline-ceo-reshuffles-40-management-team-bid-to-bring-new-ideas
  16. "Profile: Emma Walmsley, GSK's new chief executive". Financial Times. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  17. "Corporate Executive Team > Emma Walmsley". GlaxoSmithKline. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  18. "Emma Walmsley". Bloomberg.
  19. "Emma Natasha WALMSLEY". UK Companies House. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  20. "Emma Walmsley". Lean In.
  21. https://fortune.com/most-powerful-women-international/2019/
  22. http://fortune.com/most-powerful-women-international/emma-walmsley-1/
  23. http://fortune.com/most-powerful-women-international/2017/
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