Julie Brown

Chief Financial Officer, GSK

“Your belief in yourself will make the most difference to your journey from finding success to having real impact.”

In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?

Strategic vision, integrity and investment in developing people

What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take toward empowering women and gender equality? (e.g. affirmative action)?

Support education for women and girls globally — both academic and skills training.
At so many stages of their lives, women can ‘drop out’ of education or the workforce due to external societal factors and corporate culture. Continued education and training breeds empowerment, independence and confidence — allyship breeds support.

What was the defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today?

When I was 18 my father died the day I got my exam results. From then on I was driven to work in healthcare. Medicines exist today that would have saved his life and changed the course of our family – I am so proud to be a part of that positive impact on patients.

What is your mantra? What phrase or parable best describes your approach right now?

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” (Maya Angelou)

Women are often placed in binaries. Strong and emotionless or weak and sensitive. How do you subvert these limitations and connect to all sides of womanhood?

Julia Gillard said “women walk the tightrope of power and empathy.” I believe this to be true — ‘strong’ characteristics in a woman can be judged to be negative, yet the same will be judged to be positive in a man.

The 2003 “Heidi/Howard” study at Columbia Business School tested perceptions of women and men in the workforce. Heidi Roizen was a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist — half a class of students were given her true name, to the other half, her name was changed to Howard. While both Heidi and Howard were rated as competent and worthy of respect, Howard came across as a more appealing colleague, but Heidi was seen as selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for”. The study is widely cited as demonstrating the difference between the correlation of likeability and success for men, but negatively correlated for women.

I feel I connect all sides of womanhood by being a wife, a mother and a businesswoman and I do not separate who I am. I’m the same person in all spheres: true to my characteristics of drive, but at the same time, kindness and empathy. Overall, being authentic is important and it is the foundation on which to build.

If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?

Possibly an astronaut, I would love to be able to see Earth from a different perspective, and while it is attainable, only a very small number of humans will ever get to see our home this way.

Or, I would revel being inside the mind of a disruptive visionary at pivotal moments. Such as Steve Jobs when he was first developing the iPhone – having total conviction in your dreams, and the bravery to make them happen.

What advice would you give to any aspiring Power Women?

You are an exceptional individual. Know your worth. Stay true to who you are and make the most of your truly unique contribution. Your belief in yourself will make the most difference to your journey from finding success to having real impact.

What steps do you take to obtain a healthy work/life balance?

Being conscious to check in with myself often and be honest about which areas of my life I am neglecting and how this is impacting me. When I am busy, this is often my physical fitness – it is so important to realize that maintaining your physical fitness is a critical factor in supporting a healthy mind.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Emmeline Pankhurst who organized the UK suffragette movement and helped women win the right to vote. While there is much debate about her militant tactics – and those of the Suffragette movement more widely – the core goal of her unrelenting activism to highlight women’s fight for equal rights is a value I also hold very strongly.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

A person’s mind stretched never returns to its original dimensions. Feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable. You learn when you’re uncomfortable and stretching outside your comfort zone.

What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

What do you most value in your friends?

Honesty, fun, care and thoughtfulness

Which trait do you most deplore in yourself? In others?

It is important to remember to always try to be kind, we never know what someone else may have experienced.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Approaching our interactions, work and relationships with positive intent is fundamental, everything else is an added bonus!

“It is important to remember to always try to be kind, we never know what someone else may have experienced.”

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