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Gender inequality higher at senior level of pharmacy bodies and chains

International Women's Day.
The research is published today (March 8) – International Women's Day.

A representative of a female pharmacy group has called for more gender diversity at the top of the sector, after academic research found evidence of “inequality at senior levels”.

The research by the University of Birmingham’s school of pharmacy suggested there is a lower proportion of women in senior roles in the community pharmacy workforce – and on pharmacy leadership bodies – compared to the gender ratio of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) register.

GPhC data from August 2017 showed there are 55,209 registered pharmacists in the profession. Of these, 61% are female and 39% male.

But data from two “independent multiple pharmacy chains”, which provided a breakdown of the gender and career stages of more than 500 employee pharmacists, showed that while “there is a similar proportion of pre-registration and [non-manager] pharmacists in community pharmacy as there is on the GPhC register...the ratio of female to male pharmacists decreases as seniority increases”.

The researchers defined senior management levels at the two chains – which were not named in the study – as branch, area or divisional manager, superintendent, and pharmacy director.

“Whilst there is a lack of evidence to say there is a higher proportion of UK female pharmacists in community pharmacy, it was assumed that there would be approximately 61%, as per the GPhC register,” the researchers wrote in the study, published to coincide with International Women’s Day (March 8).

“In light of the data collected in this study, it would seem that women may be under-represented in more senior roles in community pharmacy in comparison to what was expected, based on the current demographic.”

In contrast, hospital pharmacy “shows the proportion of females to males, which best reflects the GPhC register”, even though women are still “under-represented in the most senior roles”, the researchers said.

The research also found a strong male bias on organisational panels and committees of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the GPhC, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and the National Pharmacy Association.

Senior roles “must reflect the entire sector” 

In January, Deborah Evans, pharmacist and managing director of training provider Pharmacy Complete, jointly founded the Women In Leadership working group, to address the lack of gender diversity at senior levels of the profession.

The working group is gathering comments through its Women In Pharmacy Facebook group, which saw more than 6,000 members join in its first nine days.

“We will use this platform to gather data on what is contributing to our current gender inequality at senior levels, what issues women face in the workplace and how we can support,” she said.

Ms Evans told C+D the decline in women in senior management roles in the sector was “disappointing”, as it shows “the people in senior roles making decisions don’t show the diversity that reflects the workforce”.

“There are significant challenges in pharmacy and in the NHS, and we need the best possible decision-making ability that reflects the entire sector.”

There is a need for further research on gender balance in community pharmacy, to see if the data is “representative of community pharmacy”, she added.

How can more women attain senior roles in community pharmacy?

Mary Louise Parkinson, Community pharmacist

Do you really have to ask why? Seriously?

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

I would contend that for more female pharmacists to move up the greasy pole of senior management would require that they take up playing golf, I kid you not! Many a promotion happens in medium to larger pharmacy groups before, during or after a round of golf. It's like an initiation before getting to join the management club.

Helen Pinney, Pharmacy technician

Thank you for perfectly illustrating the kind of thing we’re up against. 

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