Despite pharmacy being a female dominated profession since 2001, a new study has found a clear lack of women in senior positions.

In 2015 there was a reported pay-gap between male and female branch manager pharmacists in the UK of £4418 (Collins 2016). In light of 2018 being The Year Of The Woman, Maria Naylor, Sarah Pontefract and Hannah Batchelor from the University of Birmingham School of Pharmacy wanted to see if women were starting to fare better in the profession, and sought to identify the gender balance across a range of pharmacy disciplines to determine how well women are represented in senior roles.

To do this, they reviewed publically available sources to work out the proportion of senior roles that were held by females within the pharmacy landscape. GPhC data from August 2017 showed 55,209 registered pharmacists, an increase of 19.2% since 2011 (46,310 pharmacists). Of this, 33,898 (61%) members identified as female and 21,311 (39%) as male.

However, their report – Gender-balance in pharmacy: a review of the current landscape – found this balance did not carry through to senior levels across different sectors of the profession.

Hospital pharmacy shows the proportion of females to males which best reflects the GPhC register, but all data shows that females are under-represented in the most senior roles. When all data are collated, 36% of females and 64% of males are in the most senior roles of pharmacy, which does not reflect the proportion of females to males on the GPhC register.

There are many factors that affect attainment of senior roles within a profession. The most commonly reported barriers to career progression for women in medicine are: part-time working patterns, lack of role models or mentors, female stereotyping and lack of confidence (Ozbilgin et al 2011).

Co-author of the report Dr Hannah Batchelor says: “The tipping point in gender balance in pharmacy occurred 17 years ago so it may take time for women to reach those senior positions. In addition, a career break may lengthen the time it takes to reach such seniority, but the importance of diversity in the workplace should facilitate all staff being able to balance their career with their family life regardless of gender.

“The first step in addressing gender balance is awareness of the current balance of gender at all levels within an organisation to ensure that measures are taken to support a diverse workforce. The most important aspect of diversity is the element of choice; we need to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to flourish and achieve their full potential. The landscape will change, but further work is required to expand this data set and to explore the reasons behind the gender gap in senior roles within pharmacy.”

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