She will be based at Johnson & Johnson's headquarters in New Brunswick.
"Sandi Peterson is an experienced global leader known for her strategic thinking and proven track record in growing businesses," Gorsky said in a statement.
Peterson has leadership experience in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and consumer goods, as well as health-information technology and strategy development, the company said.
McNeil's Fort Washington plant stopped making medicines in April 2010. Repairs are under way, but production will not resume until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a federal judge say so. J&J has pushed back its target for getting all of the recalled products back on store shelves until sometime next year.
Peterson, 52, is the first outsider appointed to J&J's executive committee, company spokeswoman Carol Goodrich said. The committee is expanding from four to six members, with the addition of worldwide pharmaceuticals head Paul Stoffels, who has an additional role of chief scientific officer.
Peterson has experience in sales, marketing, research and development, supply chain, and "creating global platforms," Goodrich said. "Additionally, she can leverage her IT and supply-chain background to address the critical current needs in our consumer business."
Peterson lives in Germany and was not available for interviews Thursday, the company said.
Since 2010, Peterson has run Bayer's crop business, which sells seeds and chemical and biological crop-protection products.
Before that, she was chief executive of Bayer Medical Care and president of Bayer Healthcare's Diabetes Care Division.
Before joining Bayer in 2005, Peterson spent five years at Medco Health Solutions Inc.
Earlier, she served as an executive at food maker Nabisco Inc. and at appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corp. She began her career as a consultant at McKinsey & Co.
In July, J&J reported lower overall sales and profit for the second quarter, in part because of continuing problems at McNeil. An industry source suggested J&J might be exploring the possibility of selling the McNeil unit or some of its key brands, such as Tylenol and Motrin.
McNeil employs 900 in Fort Washington.
Contact staff writer Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or email@example.com.