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At GSK, women now hold both the CFO and CEO roles

Good morning,

GSK PLC will join the ranks of only a few major companies where both the CEO and CFO are women.

The U.K.-based pharmaceutical giant announced on Monday that Julie Brown, COO, and CFO at Burberry Group PLC, a British luxury fashion house, will become the next CFO at GSK and executive director of the board. Brown, the company’s first female finance chief, will succeed current CFO Iain Mackay, who will retire from his position in May 2023. Brown will join GSK in April 2023, will work with Mackay on the transition, and begin on May 1.

Prior to joining Burberry in 2017, Brown worked at AstraZeneca for 25 years, and one of her roles included interim CFO and VP of Group Finance. She was also previously CFO at Smith & Nephew, a medical equipment manufacturer.

GSK CFO Julie Brown Courtesy of GSK
GSK CFO Julie Brown Courtesy of GSK

In May, GlaxoSmithKline was officially renamed GSK. It spun off its consumer healthcare business in July to form Haleon PLC, an independent listed company. Haleon's market value was 30.5 billion pounds ($36.4 billion), Reuters reported in July. For the quarter ending June 30, GSK reported sales of 6.9 billion pounds (currently about $7.5 billon), up approximately 13% from the same time last year.

GSK CEO Emma Walmsley said in a statement that Brown is “a highly experienced CFO with a tremendous understanding of the biopharma sector ... We also share a strong passion for people development, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability. I am looking forward to working together to deliver progress for patients, shareholders, and our people.”

Women in CEO and CFO roles

Walmsley, who earned the top spot on Fortune’s 2021 and 2020 Most Powerful Women International list, has been with GSK for more than 12 years. She became CEO at GSK in April 2017, and the first woman to lead a big pharma company.

Walmsley is among the women who currently lead 24 of the companies that appear on the Fortune Global 500 list, which ranks the largest companies by revenue worldwide. Walmsley and Brown will join the few companies on the list that have a female CEO and CFO.

Others on the list include Aviva Group CEO Amanda Blanc and Group CFO Charlotte Jones; Pertamina CEO Nicke Widyawati and Director of Finance Emma Sri Martini; and Accenture CEO Julie Sweet and CFO KC McClure.

When taking a look at the Fortune 500 list, which ranks America’s largest companies, the total number of women who are CEOs is now 44, up from 41 in 2021. Out of the 44, the following companies that have a female CEO and CFO include:

- Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass and CFO Jill Timm

- Insight Enterprises CEO Joyce Mullen and CFO Glynis Bryan

- Jackson Financial CEO Laura Prieskorn and CFO Marcia Wadsten

- Williams-Sonoma CEO Laura Alber and CFO Julie Whalen

- Bath & Body Works Executive Chair and Interim CEO Sarah Nash and CFO Wendy Arlin

A large company that has a female CEO and CFO simultaneously is “an exceptionally rare occurrence,” Daniel J. Sandberg, managing director of new product development and research at S&P Global Market Intelligence, told me. “Among publicly traded firms, in particular, with the universe I studied, which was the Russell 3000, I would say there are only a handful of companies where that's the case.”

Sandberg’s ongoing research includes a comprehensive report, “When Women Lead, Firms Win,” published in 2019. It found that companies with female CEOs or CFOs tend to have cultures of diversity and inclusion. I asked Sandberg if that remains the case. “The data continue to show a connection between equity metrics, transparency and a culture of diversity and inclusion,” he says.

“We also put out another paper at the beginning of this year, where we looked at firms that have responded to the corporate sustainability assessment survey,” Sandberg says. The survey is sent to companies by the S&P Global Sustainable1 division and companies have the option of whether or not they’d like to respond, he says. "For the firms that have responded to the survey, we see a lower incidence of those discrimination and compensation related lawsuits and we also saw that those firms have a participation rate for women among executive positions," Sandberg says.

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com