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Much of 25% gender pay gap in health 'remains unexplained'

Speaking at the Women in Pharmacy Forum at the 2018 International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress, Women in Global Health’s Ann Keeling said women are not victims of gender inequality, but should be seen as “change agents”.

Catherine Duggan, chief executive of the International Pharmaceutical Federation

Source: Courtesy of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Catherine Duggan, chief executive of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), chaired the Women in Pharmacy Forum at the FIP 2018 Congress in Glasgow

Men are paid considerably more than women in healthcare, with much of the difference remaining “unexplained”, shows a recent global review of gender equity.

Speaking at the Women in Pharmacy Forum at the 2018 International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Congress in Glasgow, Ann Keeling, senior fellow for Women in Global Health, an organisation committed to achieving gender equality in global health leadership, stated that “business as usual will not be enough” when it comes to achieving gender parity in healthcare.

“Men lead global health, but women deliver it,” she said, adding that 70% of the health and social care workforce is female. Keeling detailed that women contribute a staggering US$3tn (5% of global GDP) to global healthcare but only 4% of Fortune 500 healthcare chief executives are female.

She said the gender pay gap in health is 26% for high-income countries, 29% for upper middle-income countries, with no data for low-income countries.

Keeling added that — according to a major review of global literature in 2018 published by the Gender Equity Hub— contributing factors include occupational segregation and women clustered into low-status or low-paying jobs with high rates of informality; poor regulation and protection around work hours; and occupational safety and health problems.

The review listed a number of recommendations to address gender inequality, including the introduction of targets and quotas in achieving gender parity in leadership.

Also speaking at the Women in Pharmacy Forum, Jim Campbell, director for health workforce at the World Health Organization, said that “a vast majority of pharmacists work in the private sector” where some employee rights such as maternity leave are not always protected, enabling a widening gender pay gap.

Keeling added that there was also a need to change the narrative around the issue of gender inequality. “Women are often described as victims in global health, but actually women are change agents,” explained Keeling. “We need to talk differently about this.”

The forum was also attended by Claire Anderson, chair of the FIP host committee and member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, who stated that the issue of gender pay needs to be addressed in pharmacy.

She said it was a well-known problem where a lot of the higher chief pharmacist positions are filled by men, yet 70% of the workforce are women, adding: “We need to advise and support people. We need to empower women pharmacists so that they will ask for a pay rise.”


The 2018 FIP congress in Glasgow, Scotland, brings together pharmacy practitioners and pharmaceutical scientists from around the world to consider ways of extending the role of pharmacists so that they play a full part in ensuring patients, and health systems, achieve full benefit from the medicines people take.

The theme of the 78th FIP World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is ‘Pharmacy: Transforming outcomes!’.

This is the first time that the FIP World Congress has been held in the UK for nearly 40 years. The last time was in 1979, making this a truly unique learning opportunity for pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists in Great Britain.

UK healthcare company RB is Gold Sponsor of this year’s congress.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205410

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