Microsoft just named the most powerful woman in Big Pharma to its board. Here’s everything you need to know about Emma Walmsley.

Microsoft just named the most powerful woman in Big Pharma to its board. Here’s everything you need to know about Emma Walmsley.

Microsoft just announced the nomination of Emma Walmsley, the CEO of UK pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), to join its board of directors, as the tech giant continues to get more involved in healthcare.

"Emma is an accomplished business leader who led major advances in research and development at GSK and will bring her significant insights and global experience to Microsoft," said John W. Thompson, Microsoft independent board chair.

The move falls in line with Microsoft's growing interest in the healthcare space. Microsoft is particularly targeting sales of its cloud offerings in healthcare.

Microsoft is building healthcare alliances

The company has been building strategic alliances with companies like Walgreens, Walmart and Kroger by providing cloud services and data tools. In July 2019, Microsoft announced a partnership with Providence St. Joseph Health, a West Coast-based health system that operates 51 hospitals, Business Insider reported.

Read more: Microsoft is forging alliances with the likes of Walgreens and a massive hospital system in its own backyard to win a bigger piece of an $11 billion market

According to Business Insider Intelligence, healthcare companies are projected to spend $11.4 billion on cloud computing in 2019 and Microsoft has a small share of the market.

Walmsley became CEO of GSK in April 2017 and is also a member of the company's board.

Walmsley was the first woman to head a major pharma company

At the time, she was the first woman to head a major pharmaceutical company. She stated that she wanted to be defined by her work and the innovations being made by the company, and not her gender. She said she recognized the importance as a leader in the space to ensure better representation for diverse individuals in the workplace.

"You cannot be a modern employer in an industry that should be future facing and modernizing arguably much more aggressively than it is without being very demanding on this topic," Walmsley said in 2018

As CEO of GSK, she has changed the company structure and vision. She replaced 100 of her top 125 managers since 2017 and almost a third of the experimental drugs in GSK's pipeline are gone, Bloomberg News reported.

Walmsley has also overseen plans for GSK to combine its consumer-health business with similar offerings from Pfizer and spin out the combined firm. That would let GSK focus more on cutting-edge treatments, instead of on consumer staples like Tums and Excedrin.

From L'Oreal to GSK

GSK's US stock has posted a total return of 12.8% during her tenure as CEO, lagging the S&P 500 index, which returned 34%. The company has a market value of $104 billion.

Read more: A top executive at GSK reveals why it's prepared to ditch the brands that helped turn it into a $95 billion powerhouse

Prior to her role as CEO, she was the CEO of GSK Consumer Healthcare, which was a joint venture between Novartis and GSK. She joined GSK in 2010 and became a member of the company's executive team in 2011.

Before GSK, Walmsley worked at L'Oreal for 17 years in a variety of marketing and management roles in Paris, London and New York. She has a degree in Classics and Modern Languages from Oxford University, according to her profile on GSK's website.