The Cumbria born chief executive of drug giant GSK will rub shoulders with business magnate Bill Gates in a new big-hitting role with digital behemoth Microsoft Corp.

Emma Walmsley, who was born and grew up in Barrow, has been appointed a non-executive director of the global company – best known for its computer software, consumer electronics and personal computers.

The move will see Ms Walmsley sit around the top table with Microsoft co-founder and technology advisor, Mr Gates, who has become a household name for his business and philanthropic exploits.

The Microsoft board is charged with steering the sprawling empire and is required to be “accountable to shareholders, customers, employees, business partners, and to be thoughtful about the impact of our own business practices, policies, and investments in communities”.

Ms Walmsley is one of 11 independent directors, with other business heavyweights including the president of hospitality group Marriott International Inc, Arne Sorenson, vice chairman of drinks giant PepsiCo, Hugh Johnston, and Teri List-Stoll, executive vice president and chief financial officer, of household fashion brand, Gap Inc.

She is among the five women who sit on the wider 13-strong board, with Mr Gates and Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, listed as non-independent directors.

Mr Gates has been steadily moving away from day-to-day business at Microsoft, stepping down as chairman in 2014, to concentrate on his global health and education work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ms Walmsley’s appointment to the company – which is headquartered in Redmond, Washington State – was rubber stamped on Wednesday after clearance was given by the Financial Conduct Authority.

It represents yet another significant step on her impressive career ladder.

Ms Walmsley took on the top job at GSK, which has a factory near her hometown in Ulverston, in March 2017.

The move, which put her at the steering wheel of the wider £8 billionn empire, made her one of, if not the, most powerful women in the FTSE 100.

Ms Walmsley joined GSK in 2010 from French beauty company L'Oreal, where she spent 17 years in general management and marketing roles in Paris, London, New York and Shanghai.

Initially joining as president of GSK’s Consumer Healthcare Europe division, she also served as president and then chief executive of its Consumer Healthcare business before taking the helm of the company.

Not long into her tenure GSK officially confirmed it was scrapping plans for a new £350m biopharmaceutical facility in Ulverston following months of rumours over its future.

The company also announced it was looking for a buyer to take on the existing facility, where cephalosporins antibiotics and other medical ingredients are manufactured.

In another blow, just three months later, GSK announced it would be cutting 200 of the 360 jobs at the site after taking the decision to stop manufacturing ingredients of sterile injections

in-Cumbria understands GSK is now resigned to keeping the Ulverston site having failed to secure a buyer, which the company and other partner organisations in the area working on a series of projects, including a business investment fund, to mitigate the impact of the redundancies on the local economy.