Suggested Learning

Pharmacy is frequently positioned as a good career choice for women wanting to combine a professional career with raising a family, but is it? asks Deborah Evans. 

One of the biggest issues raised by women on the Facebook Women in Pharmacy community is how to balance caring responsibilities with work. Balancing family with work affects both employees and female independent contractors – and whilst owners might have the autonomy over decision-making, the current financial pressures mean even less flexibility when it comes to taking time off to look after their children.

Pharmacy is frequently positioned as a good career choice for women wanting to combine a professional career with bringing up a family and yet, when you are the only pharmacist on duty, it can be extremely difficult when your young child is ill, or your childcare arrangements fail. The pressure to go to work and not let the business, patients and team down can be considerable.

Discrimination

Women have also experienced potential discrimination in the workplace and from colleagues, with examples given of being turned down for roles because they have children, being given lower grade roles post-maternity and not feeling that a request for part-time work had been properly considered.

Many women choose to work part-time whilst their children are young, or find themselves in a situation where this is their only option. This can lead to women feeling they are being forced to compromise, not doing either thing well, being passed-over for promotion and not having access to more senior leadership roles.

Having returned to work four times after maternity leave, I identify with others who have found coming back difficult. Confidence can be low after an extended leave period, things have moved on in your absence and it can be difficult to get back to the position you held before you left. Many organisations outside of pharmacy have put in place flexible working arrangements including job sharing and yet our group spoke of the difficulties in setting this up, certainly at management and senior levels. On a more positive note, there seems to be a willingness by women to work towards job sharing, taking on more responsibilities and doing what they can to facilitate this to happen.

Supportive solutions?

The impact of juggling multiple responsibilities in an unsupportive environment can take its toll on mental and physical ill-health, leading to low self-esteem, taking time off work and committed, outstanding women leaving the sector to find jobs which allow them to combine their role as a mother and professional. As one group member said, “I think community pharmacy can be a lonely place for a woman with small children”.

What can be done to support those wishing to bring up a family and choosing to progress in their career? The women in the group have proposed some solutions:

  • More role models who have successfully combined career progression with family life
  • Mentors and coaches available to help support development with life challenges
  • A partner/employer who provides support for out-of-role development
  • Flexible working arrangements including more job-share opportunities, holiday buy- back schemes, separating out non-patient facing activities that could be done from home, flexible hours.

 

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