Are women losing out on pharmacy’s top jobs?


The majority of pharmacy’s workforce are women, so why do men continue to secure the top jobs?

I’m writing this on a train returning home from London, feeling both overwhelmed by and optimistic about the task ahead. I’ve been at a meeting with like-minded women, hosted at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), reflecting on the number of us carrying out senior roles in the profession.

Pharmacy has a poor record of women in leading positions. Our profession is predominantly female and the last official data from the General Pharmaceutical Council, in 2013, indicated 61% of pharmacists were female, with an even greater proportion in the pharmacy workforce, but we are not seeing this play out at senior level.

In short, those in leadership positions shaping the direction of pharmacy do not reflect those they lead, or represent.

Aside from senior leaders within pharmacy, the lack of appropriate diversity within our leadership bodies has been a concern of mine and others for some time. None of the pharmacy organisations has more than 50% female representation at senior level, with many considerably lower.

At the top of the leading community pharmacy organisations, there is just one female Chief Executive; due to leave this year. Meanwhile, the National Pharmacy Association Board (NPA) is, and has been for many years, exclusively made up of men. On a more positive note, the RPS English Board, of which I was a member (2014-17), is made up of 50% women.

The evidence is unequivocal; boards and executive teams made up of a diverse mix of men and women are more effective. Women bring a distinct set of skills, and with the health service under enormous pressure, a different approach is essential. Pharmacy needs to deliver within contracting budgets; having great leaders and clear decision-making is essential.

The good news is that women across the globe are gaining a louder voice. I believe 2018 is the year for the pharmacy profession to address the lack of diversity at senior level. The situation is holding pharmacy back. We need to collectively own the matter and do something about it.

Just do it

Getting to grips with this situation is complex with many causative factors at individual, organisation and systemic level. The first step is to gather data which shines a light on the issue, and also having enough women – and men – who want to encourage a new era.

Making meaningful change requires commitment, passion, collaboration and great engagement capabilities – qualities women have in spades.

I want to see a strong leadership within pharmacy to help steer the profession through challenging times of change. It is not about making the numbers balance, it’s about getting the right people in senior roles, so they can shape the future.

If you want to be part of this movement in pharmacy then please get in contact – 2018 is our year for making change happen.