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Podcast – How I use my platform to stand up for female pharmacists

National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAWP) president Ayah Abbass shares her career journey to date in the latest episode of the A Coffee With... podcast series

Ms Abbass is an ardent believer that everything in life happens for a reason.

And sometimes, it seems, a career chooses you rather than the other way around.

This was very much the case for Ms Abbass. She now locums as well as splitting her time between roles in community pharmacy and a GP surgery and made waves when she was elected as NAWP’s 49th president last August.

But she admits that she initially chose to study pharmacy as a “back up option” to medicine or dentistry.

Read more: Podcast – How I overcame challenges to rise through the ranks at Rowlands

This was despite the advice of her mother, who believed a career in pharmacy would be a good choice for her daughter because its flexibility made it an ideal job for a woman.

Although pharmacy may not have been Ms Abbass’s first choice, she has never looked back since completing her MPharm from the University of Bradford in 2017 and is “so glad” that life panned out the way it did.

And she’s now happy to admit that her mother really did know best.

“We have this conversation now and I’m like, ‘You know what, Mum, it did work out and it did happen for a reason and I’m happy where I am,’” she tells the podcast.

Please note that this podcast was recorded remotely, which may at times affect sound quality.

Ms Abbass is a passionate advocate for female pharmacists in her role as the president of NAWP, which became part of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) in 2019.

She feels a sense of honour that the platform allows her to stand up for women’s rights and cites her fellow NAWP board members as sources of inspiration.

Just as her mother pointed out, Ms Abbass says the flexibility of pharmacy careers really can benefit women, who more typically take on a larger share of caring responsibilities.

But there’s still a long way to go before female pharmacists are treated equally to their male counterparts, she warns.

Read more: Podcast – My journey to become AIMp CEO and how I stand up for pharmacies

Juggling work with family commitments can be a real challenge, she says – even if women become locums so they can choose their own hours.

She has also experienced sexism from patients, who have previously assumed that male members of staff must be the responsible pharmacist instead of her.

“You do feel let down by the public and sometimes it does affect you,” she admits. “Why do I have to be a male figure for you to listen when we have the same qualification?”

But Ms Abbass hopes that she can “inspire” other female pharmacists in her capacity as NAWP president.

“I’m looking forward to creating that safe space for women,” she says.

“That’s what I look forward to, just empowering [them] and seeing women comfortable in their own skin.”

Listen to the podcast to find out:

  • more about Ms Abbass’s journey with NAWP

  • how she worked to increase her confidence at the start of her career

  • how female pharmacists can challenge inequalities

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