GSK Names Julie Brown as First Female CFO

30.09.2022 - From next year, GSK’s top management will be led by a double female team, a pioneering move for the global pharmaceutical industry. The UK drugs giant this week announced the appointment of Julie Brown, the first woman to be its chief financial officer.

Brown, who will serve beside Emma Walmsley, the first woman to hold the job of chief executive at GSK and the first to run a major drugmaker, will succeed Iain Mackay, who will leave the company on May 1, 2023.

“Julie is a highly respected CFO with a tremendous understanding of the biopharma sector,” Walmsley said. “We also share a strong passion for people development, diversity, inclusion and sustainability.”

The drugmaker’s future finance chief is currently chief operating and financial officer at the Burberry Group, the British fashion brand. Prior to that, she did a three-year stint as CFO of British medical technology firm Smith+Nephew after working 25 years at AstraZeneca. Brown currently serves as a non-executive director of Swiss pharma Roche, where she will step down upon joining GSK.

Mackay is credited with successfully overseeing the spinoff of GSK's consumer health business, Haleon, completed in July this year. The manager also won praise for overseeing several key acquisitions aimed at boosting the drugmaker’s pipeline and keeping activist shareholders at bay.  

Prior to Mackay’s departure, Brown will join GSK in April 2023 and work with him to transition responsibilities, taking responsibility as CFO and as an executive director, the company said.

GSK said the new CFO — both Brown and Mackay are 60 years old — will receive a shareholder-approved annual base salary of £915,335, in line with that of her predecessor, and will have the potential to earn an annual bonus of the same amount as well as a long-term incentive award of £1.83 million.

Pharma industry journals note that drugmakers with women in the top two slots are still rare, but they are increasingly making inroads into boardrooms.

Following its 2021 buyout of rare disease specialist Alexion, AstraZeneca named that company’s chief financial officer, Aradhana Sarin, to the corresponding position on its own team. Eli Lilly has a woman, Anat Ashkenazi, as CFO. The CEO of Germany’s Merck, Belén Garijo, is also female.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist