JPM18: GSK's Walmsley weighs in on Pfizer, gender diversity
- "There are changes we need to make to our company to achieve [our objectives] and [position] us for stronger growth post-2020, especially in pharma, our most profitiable business," GlaxoSmithKline plc’s CEO Emma Walmsley told a standing-room-only crowd at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference's Grand Ballroom on Tuesday.
- The changes she spoke of include "more discipline" in capital allocation, focusing more on key assets, and focusing the manufacturing footprint. "To do this, we need to have fewer priorities," she added.
- Since her appointment in April 2017, Walmsley has made several key appointments to her executive team and notes that about 40% of the direct reports to the executive team have changed due to promotions of internal talent, as well as recruiting external talent.
Walmsley emphasized that the pharma business in particular – more than consumer and vaccines – is the priority right now. But she didn’t rule out the prospect that GSK could acquire the consumer health unit that Pfizer Inc. is trying to offload.
"We will have a look at this business, but we don’t need it. . . It is cash generative and EPS-appealing," she said, playing down her own background in consumer health. "But I don't want anyone leaving this room thinking this is our priority."
As the first woman to helm a big pharma, Walmsley also spoke forcefully about diversity when asked to address the issues of gender in the industry.
The J.P. Morgan conference is known for a mostly male attendance, further highlighting the lack of women in both boardrooms and the upper levels of management at most pharma and biotech companies.
That's become more apparent in the age of #metoo and the movement spawned by high-profile men accused of sexual harassment across industries.
"I rather welcome the transparency that is being brought to [the issue of gender diversity] and I rather welcome it," the GSK chief said.
"I want to represent diversity. It is clearly true in this industry when you look at the gender agenda, but it’s not the only type of diversity that needs to be better represented. I’m just as fast and focused on the diversity in terms of LGBT agenda, race, personality," said Walmsley.
"You cannot be a modern employer in an industry that should be future-facing and modernizing much more aggressively than it is without being very demanding on this topic. Part of that trust agenda, that priority of trust, is being a modern employer, where whoever you are, whatever shape or size you come in, whatever you look like, whatever you stand for you can bring the very best version of yourself to work without fear of bullying or reprisal or any kind of inappropriate behavior.
But it beyond just the defensive, we should be more proactive about sponsoring and supportive about all kinds of diversity to get to the most senior leadership positions," she added.
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