Dame Emma Walmsley Lecture

25 November 2023

For our third Medley Lecture of Michaelmas term, we were delighted to be joined by Dame Emma Walmsley. Emma is the CEO and Board Director of GSK, a global biopharma company that unites science, technology and talent to get ahead of disease together.

Prior to joining GSK in 2010, Emma spent 17 years at L’Oréal, in general management and global roles in Paris, London, New York and Shanghai. The first woman to run a major pharmaceutical company, Emma was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire for service to the pharmaceutical industry and business in 2020. She ranked top in Fortune Magazine’s ‘Most Powerful International Women’ 2018, 2020 & 2021 and number 14 in Forbes’ ‘Global Power Women’ in 2022.

Izzy from the Upper Sixth (Year 13) kindly shared her review of the evening with us. 

On Thursday 23 November I had the great pleasure of meeting and introducing Dame Emma Walmsley for our third Medley Lecture of the academic year.

Before the lecture took place, myself, other members of the Sixth Form and Mrs McKendrick (Headmistress) were treated to an outstanding dinner by the Catering staff. During this dinner, we got to hear all about Dame Emma Walmsley’s path into her current position of CEO of Glaxo Smith Klein as well as her opinions on many current hot topics such as Artificial Intelligence. As someone who would like to pursue a career in medicine, it was fascinating to hear Dame Emma’s opinion on such pressing and important matters.

There were three brilliant parts to the evening: Dame Emma delivering a powerful and insightful speech, the Q&A portion of the evening, and audience questions.

Dame Emma’s speech

Dame Emma’s speech was truly brilliant, she spoke enthusiastically about the necessity for personal attributes, no matter what area of work someone is in, as well as what her week is like as a CEO.

Dame Emma spoke about all the key points in her career progression from her first job in a consultancy firm, to L’Oréal, then to GSK. She truly grasped the audience with her optimism and hope for the next generation, especially all the young women getting ready to enter the workforce in the audience. She was passionate about future endeavours including large strides in vaccination technology (which I found particularly interesting) as well as pursuing a greater level of equality throughout the whole of GSK.


One of my personal favourite parts of Dame Emma’s speech was her playful reminiscence of her younger self from when she was in school. This included sharing extracts from her diary. She compared her upcoming New Year’s where she will be writing for The Today Show, with her 17-year-old self who started a diary entry with “I’m a mess”. It was truly inspirational to see how successful she has become despite stating she was a mess at 17 – and also quite a relief!

The Q&A

The Q&A portion of the evening was also excellent.

Dame Emma was questioned on how a new drug is chosen to be developed, what its like to be a woman working in such a high position in STEM, and whether or not prescriptions should be free. There was also an interest from the audience in how Dame Emma maintains a work-life balance and what she does to relax. All of Dame Emma’s answers were so insightful and intriguing.

Overall, I must express my huge thanks to Dame Emma Walmsely for giving everyone such a brilliant evening. I know everybody learnt so much.

I must also thank Mrs McKendrick for presenting me with this incredible opportunity. It was an amazing experience and one that I am sure I will never forget.

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