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Business & Regulation Business Practice

A Bitter Pill

GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley is one of more than 100 high-profile women in the UK to join the #MeToo Pay campaign. The campaign was launched in response to the case of Stacey Macken, a banker who took her employer, BNP Paribas, to court over claims of sex discrimination. Macken, whose annual salary was £120,000, discovered that she was paid £40,000 less than a male colleague in the same role (1).

According to a recent report, 78 percent of companies in the UK have pay gaps in favor of men and the #MeTooPay campaigners have called for “radical and rapid action” to help women in the UK get “the pay they deserve.'' 

Despite being at the helm of one of the UK’s largest pharma companies, Walmsley’s pay is significantly lower than most of her male peers (2). In 2018, Walmsley made $7.29 million – an increase from 2017, but a long way from the £11.36 million taken home by AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot (3).

In 2017, the UK government made it compulsory for employers with 250 or more employees to publish data about any gender-related discrepancies in pay. Here, we take a look at how salaries compare between men and women at six top pharma companies (AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer and Roche) (4).

Key Figures

  1. Women earned between 1.3 and 21.3 percent less than men (between 99p and 79p for every £1 earned by a man) –  except at Eli Lilly, where women earned £1.01 for every £1 earned by a man (0.9 percent).
  2. At most companies, women occupied more of the lowest-paying jobs and fewer of the highest-paying jobs. Novartis and Roche were exceptions, with the same or a greater number of women in the top pay quartile.
  3. Women received smaller bonuses than their male counterparts (up to 38 percent less). 

While the figures show a discrepancy in pay in favor of men, the industry is taking steps to close the gap, with companies like Pfizer implementing initiatives to get more women into high-level roles (5). 

Table 1. A comparison of gender-pay discrepancies for financial year 2018-2019

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  1. The Guardian, “#MeTooPay campaign launched to end gender pay discrimination”. Available at Last accessed: October 28, 2019
  2. BBC, “Gender pay: Fewer than half of UK firms narrow gap”. Available at: Last accessed: October 11, 2019.
  3. FiercePharma, “GSK CEO Emma Walmsley joins call for equal pay with #MeTooPay campaign”. Available at Last accessed: October 28,2019.
  4. GOV.UK, “Gender Pay Gap Service; Employer Comparison”. Available at: Last accessed: October 11, 2019.
  5. Pfizer, “Gender Pay Gap Report 2018”. Available at: Last accessed: October 11, 2019.
About the Author
Maryam Mahdi

Deputy Editor

After finishing my degree, I envisioned a career in science communications. However, life took an unexpected turn and I ended up teaching abroad. Though the experience was amazing and I learned a great deal from it, I jumped at the opportunity to work for Texere. I'm excited to see where this new journey takes me!

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