GSK’s Deirdre Connelly has been named the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association’s Woman of the Year for 2010. Connelly, who just passed the one-year mark as president of GSK’s North American pharmaceuticals unit, is the 21st woman to win the organization’s “WOTY” award, which comes on the heels of another honor: She was ranked #37 in Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women last September, jumping five notches from #42 in 2008.
Before making the move to GSK, Connelly was president of Eli Lilly’s US operations for almost four years, a position she ascended to after starting her career with Lilly as a sales rep 22 years prior. The San Juan native worked her way up through the ranks, serving in positions such as general manager of Lilly’s Puerto Rico operations and executive director of HR in the US.
Though she’s only been at GSK for a year, Connelly has already helped turn GSK into one of the most transparent companies in the industry, and her primary focus is on achieving GSK’s—and all of pharma’s—primary purpose. “We have a calling to find a cure for diseases,” she said. “We have a duty to the patients, to respect them and put our money where our mouth is.”
Diversity also plays a key role in Connelly’s strategy, and it’s a role she’s uniquely positioned to implement. Of Irish and Puerto Rican descent, she is also one of two women on GSK’s corporate executive team. “Women leaders like Ms. Connelly serve as role models for all women in the healthcare industry,” said HBA president Susan Torroella.
Upon hearing of the honor, Connelly retained the grounded attitude she’s come to be known for. “It’s an honor,” she said. “But it’s also a responsibility.”