If you want your organisation to succeed you need to make the best use of all the resources, not just half of them, says Claire Ward...
In pharmacy more than half of those on the General Pharmaceutical Council register are women yet the positions of leadership and influence across all parts of the sector scarcely reflect that. The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) continues to engage in the discussions on recognising the problem and seeks the solution to how to make the best use of all skills in the pharmacy sector.
It has become a regular feature of the Pharmacy Show and Clinical Pharmacy Congress for the PDA to initiate discussions on how to support and encourage more women to take positions of leadership in the sector. As the largest membership organisation in the pharmacy sector, women make up the majority of our membership and like many other organisations, we face the same challenges in getting more women leaders and representatives.
But it is not just about filling chief executive, chair, president or board member positions. In order for these to be filled, we have to recruit into the pipeline that supplies them but a handful of women in some key positions does not mean we have solved the problem.
The recent debate at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress provided a mixture of hope and frustration. Listening to the three female speakers, you would have been forgiven for thinking the problem had been solved. The speakers were Reena Barai, an independent contractor and NPA board member, Greta Torbergsen, the secretary general of the Norwegian Pharmaceutical Association and Regan McCahill, president of the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA).
They are strong, determined, confident, articulate and persuasive women. Their place on the panel reminded us that we have good women involved in the sector but the concern comes when we look down the ladder to find others ready to step up.
The Norwegian and wider Scandinavian experience is the direct opposite of our own. It’s the men that are in short supply across the representative positions. This is likely to be a reflection of the nature and culture of those societies, where women are encouraged and actively supported to go back into the workplace after having children.
State childcare is the norm and women in larger numbers will return to taking up additional roles because they have the time, resource and support to do so.
A further reminder of the challenges came from both Reena and Regan as they referenced the challenges of juggling childcare responsibilities with the day job of running a pharmacy or studying for a pharmacy degree whilst trying to carve out additional time to take on representative roles.
It’s tough. But they also recognised that in today’s society where both parents want to share responsibilities, there needs to be a recognition that organisations need to communicate differently with their members. Greta explained that in all her association’s meetings, held with pharmacist members across the country in different workplaces, they would hold two meetings, one in the daytime and one in the evening, to ensure that part-timers and those with family responsibilities had a greater opportunity to attend.
More needs to be done to support forums where women can encourage each other. The PDA has recognised that its large membership gives it a greater responsibility and position to pick up the mantle. Watch this space.
As the PDA grows, it can use the traditional role of a union to provide support, education and training for members, both female and male, to take on new responsibilities.
Regan and Reena are fantastic role-models. They need their male colleagues to recognise that getting more women involved at all levels of the representative organisations and in leadership positions within the pharmacy workplace is a benefit for all and should not be seen as a threat.
Claire Ward is director of public affairs at the Pharmacists’ Defence Association.