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How can pharmacy develop more female leaders?

To mark International Women’s Day, Sima Jassal considers how we can improve diversity in pharmacy leadership

Community pharmacy continues to be an attractive career for women, with flexible working patterns, good pay and plenty of opportunity for progression, says the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) latest diversity data report.

The report shows that 62.5% of UK pharmacists and 85.8% of pharmacy technicians are women, but another report from The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) showed that women made up just 36% of pharmacy leadership roles. 

So, how can we improve things?




We can do more to promote the visibility of women and their achievements. There are many women in pharmacy who have and continue to make a difference, on the ground and right up to head office level. Let’s find and celebrate these role models to support the aspirations of future generations. I applaud the CCA for partnering with NHS England’s (NHSE) Inclusive Pharmacy Practice (IPP) Programme, which serves to improve diversity across senior leadership.

Read more: On digital changes: Let’s make Pharmacy First happen

To add to that, I think research and data collection are essential tools to champion the visibility of women in pharmacy. It helps us track progress and, crucially, to understand why there are fewer women in senior roles. We already have good data sources, for example, since 2022 the GPhC has routinely published diversity datasets for its registers as part of its EDI Strategy. More qualitative data (on experiences and attitudes) would help.




As I highlighted earlier, there seems to be a persistent lack of women in senior roles. I have seen more women entering the pharmacy technology sphere, which points to the matter slightly improving but I think more needs to be done. I believe the solution to this issue would be in providing leadership and mentoring programmes, flexible working and for networks to offer formal and informal support.

Read more: Helping community pharmacy prepare for a service-led future

I also can’t help but note that the profession is continually evolving, requiring pharmacists to train in a wider range of skills to deliver more clinical services. By 2026, pharmacy graduates will graduate as independent prescribers (IPs), so existing pharmacists will need to bring themselves up to this level on top of the day job.  Are these new requirements making the job less attractive per se?


My story


I’ve worked in pharmacy since I was 16. I had a Saturday job at the Olton Pharmacy in Solihull (which is still thriving today). I was attracted to pharmacy as I was interested in medications and the way they interact with the body, I enjoyed chemistry and I wanted a profession that helped others. The opportunity to work flexibly also appealed to me.

My first boss was an impressive female pharmacy owner who I certainly looked up to as a teenager. She and her son, who later took over the business, encouraged me to pursue a career in pharmacy and to get involved in matters outside of dispensing such as clinical safety and governance. Looking back, it’s interesting to see how important those very early words of support can be.

Read more: Podcast: What female pharmacists of the past can teach the industry today

I had an early interest in healthcare technology as I could see the advantages it could bring to patient care and efficiency; over time it became my main interest. Almost 10 years ago, I decided to work for a Patient Medication Record (PMR) systems provider while continuing to locum when I could. I started as an informatics manager and was encouraged to expand my role into clinical safety, strategy and clinical design.  I am now leading clinical input into that system, which is one of the most widely used in the profession.


Being heard


I have always had the opportunity to speak up and be heard. However, I know from conversations with others that this isn’t always the case, with some women attending meetings reporting they have a ‘quieter’ voice, with ideas not championed or taken forward.

As a member of my company’s equality, diversity and inclusion group, I am playing my part in delivering the change needed. The equality, diversity and inclusion group is an employee-led group which influences policy and process decisions. Changes have included the introduction of extended maternity and paternity leave and using a gender de-coder in recruitment adverts to remove weighted language.

Looking into the future, I’d like to see many more women in leadership roles which allow them to influence policy and contribute to research and innovation. 

It’s wonderful to see the achievements of leaders like president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), Professor Claire Anderson, world-leading researcher in biophysical pharmaceutics, professor Jayne Lawrence MBE, and female superintendent pharmacists like Claire Nevinson at Boots UK.  We need more of these women across the profession – and fast.


Sima Jassal is a clinical director at EMIS Health

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