Emma Walmsley
Walmsley in 2020
Emma Natasha Walmsley

June 1969 (age 55)
Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire (now Cumbria), England
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
TitleCEO, GlaxoSmithKline
TermApril 2017–
PredecessorSir Andrew Witty
Board member ofDiageo
SpouseDavid Owen
ParentVice-Admiral Sir Robert Walmsley

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

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 V.) Walmsley (née Melvill).[5] She boarded at St Swithun's School, Winchester,[4] and has an MA in Classics and Modern Languages from Oxford University, where she was at Christ Church college.[6][7][8]


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.[9] At the time of her move to GSK in 2010, Advertising Age quoted company insiders surprised at her departure from L'Oreal, where she had been tipped for a senior global management role.[10]

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.[11] 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.[10] 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.[12]

She took over as CEO of the company in April 2017,[12][13] making her the first woman to run a major pharmaceutical company.[14] 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.[12]

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.[15]

Walmsley has made changes, including "the transformation of the leadership team within R&D."[16]

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.[17][18]

Walmsley was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to the pharmaceutical industry and business.[19]

In 2023, Walmsley collected $16 million in total pay, a 51% increase from her compensation in 2022; the second highest paid CEO of a European pharmaceutical company.[20]

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".[21]

Other roles

Walmsley is a member of the GlaxoSmithKline board.[22] She was a non-executive director of Diageo from January to September 2016.[23][24] In September 2019, Walmsley joined the Microsoft board as an independent director.[25][26]

Personal life

Outside work, Walmsley enjoys yoga.[10] She married David Owen in September 1995 in Greenwich, London, and they have four children.[27]


In 2023, Walmsley ranked 7th [28] in Fortune Magazine's list of "100 Most Powerful Women". In 2019, she ranked 2nd[29] in Fortune Magazine's list of the 'Most Powerful International Women' in business, having topped the list in 2018.[30] In 2017 she was placed second on the same list.[31]


  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". 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. ^ a b 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. Archived from the original on 16 March 2020. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Emma Walmsley makes history as Big Pharma's first female CEO – MedCity News". medcitynews.com. 31 March 2017. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  8. ^ Meddings, Sabah. "Emma Walmsley: I'm not a doctor, but I know the medicine Glaxo Smith Kline needs". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  9. ^ "Emma Walmsley". Lean In.
  10. ^ a b c "Emma Walmsley profile: from marketing at L'Oréal to GSK chief". The Guardian. 20 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Executive Profile: Emma Walmsley". Bloomberg. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  12. ^ a b c "GlaxoSmithKline names Emma Walmsley as chief executive". BBC News. 20 September 2016.
  13. ^ Roland, Denise (20 September 2016). "GlaxoSmithKline Names Emma Walmsley as Next Chief Executive". Wall Street Journal.
  14. ^ "Emma Walmsley". Forbes. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  15. ^ Neville, Sarah (6 August 2017). "GSK chief says her lack of 'baggage' in pharma is an advantage". Financial Times. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  16. ^ "Prescription for success: Emma Walmsley leads GSK transformation". Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  17. ^ "GlaxoSmithKline CEO reshuffles 40% of management team in bid to bring in new ideas". FiercePharma.
  18. ^ "Glaxo CEO Replaced 50 Top Managers in Shakeup to Spur Growth". Bloomberg.com. 9 January 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  19. ^ "No. 63135". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 2020. p. B9.
  20. ^ Staff, A. O. L. (1 March 2024). "GSK CEO Emma Walmsley's total pay rises 51% to nearly 13 million pounds in 2023". www.aol.com. Retrieved 7 March 2024.
  21. ^ Brown, John Murray; Ward, Andrew (20 September 2016). "Profile: Emma Walmsley, GSK's new chief executive". Financial Times. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Corporate Executive Team - Emma Walmsley". GlaxoSmithKline. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Emma Walmsley". Bloomberg.
  24. ^ "Emma Natasha WALMSLEY". UK Companies House. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  25. ^ Levy, Ari (19 September 2019). "Microsoft adds a fifth woman to its board: GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley". CNBC.
  26. ^ "Emma Walmsley". Microsoft.
  27. ^ "Emma Walmsley". Lean In.
  28. ^ "The 100 Most Powerful Women". Fortune. Retrieved 18 October 2023.
  29. ^ "Most Powerful Women International". Fortune.
  30. ^ "Most Powerful Women International". Fortune. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  31. ^ "Most Powerful Women International". Fortune.