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Equality and discrimination

Women underrepresented in senior pharmacy and NHS roles

Despite the majority of roles in pharmacy and the NHS being filled by women, data from 2017 show that most people working in senior positions in these areas are male.

An analysis of the representation of women across the hospital and community health services workforce, published to mark International Women’s Day, has shown that more than half of ‘very senior managers’ in the NHS are male, despite more than 75% of staff employed by the health service being women.

The figures, collated by NHS Digital, show that 53% of very senior managers in England were male, as measured in November 2017, compared to 47% who were female.

The proportion of women working for the NHS in England was 77% at the same date.

The data also showed that men occupied 56% of chief executive roles.

Academics from the University of Birmingham School of Pharmacy have analysed publicly available data to calculate the proportion of senior roles that are held by women in pharmacy in the UK.

They found that 36% of women and 64% of men occupy the most senior roles in pharmacy.

The General Pharmaceutical Council register from August 2017 showed that of 55,209 registered pharmacists, 61% identified as female, and 39% as male.

The researchers also found that women were best represented in senior roles in hospital pharmacy, and the lowest proportion of females in senior positions was in academia. Of the 31 heads of pharmacy schools in the UK, only 16% are female.

Hannah Batchelor, director of research at the Birmingham School of Pharmacy

Source: Courtesy of Hannah Batchelor

Hannah Batchelor, director of research at the Birmingham School of Pharmacy and co-author of the report, said “it may take time for women to reach senior positions”, but “the importance of diversity in the workplace” should facilitate this

Hannah Batchelor, director of research at the Birmingham School of Pharmacy and co-author of the report, said: “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 Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has produced a lesson plan on women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for International Women’s Day, to encourage girls and young women to consider a career in the these disciplines.

The plan includes challenges for classes ranging from key stage three to five, and uses examples of famous female scientists throughout history to inspire the next generation.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204515

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