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The feminisation of pharmacy

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The Clyde Arc in Glasgow, in pink.Today the White Paper on Scottish independence was launched in Glasgow. As I was tweeting on the event, a discussion emerged about the lack of female journalists present at the Glasgow Science Centre, where the document was launched. It led me to tweet about the rise of women in our working world and pharmacy certainly isn’t immune to that.

And it is the profession of pharmacy which I shall choose to focus on in today’s blog post. The figures that explain the demographics of pharmacists across Great Britain is fascinating to read.

From my own experience, as a male, I have always felt in the minority. I would even estimate, roughly, that as many as two-thirds of my academical peers at university were female. And there is no doubt that pharmacy is dominated by women.

According to the Centre for Pharmacy Workforce Studies’ General Pharmaceutical Council Register Analysis 2011 paper, the gap between the proportion of women and men registered as pharmacists in Great Britain has widened. In 2004, there was almost a 50:50 ratio between women and men, with females out in front at 52.9%. Fast forward to 2011 and that ratio is almost at 60:40 in favour of females with just only 40.6% of pharmacists being male.

As far as Scotland is concerned, the analysis showed that a substantial majority of pharmacists were female at 70%. That may lead one to ask whether pharmacy is doing enough to appeal to men or whether it’s just a profession where it happens to be that women tend to overwhelmingly favour pharmacy, whilst at the same time men tend to look at other professions or areas of work to secure their futures in.

Nobody can doubt for a second that the modern world of work is beginning to be dominated by women and that the major swing in gender balance over the last few decades has dramatically changed the world today, in comparison to the past - this is something that is well worth celebrating, because for too long women have been kept at bay when it comes to succeeding in the workplace.

In general, regardless of gender, meritocracy should prevail and that’s what counts in the end. There is no doubt that questions will have to be raised as to why the proportion of men as pharmacists is declining continuously, if this pattern does continue. 

But there is one thing that continues to trouble and ignite my wrath. Time and time again, I see too few women in positions of leadership, on boards of companies and organisations and at the forefront of the pharmacy profession. Now, I don’t think this issue is necessarily a pharmacy only issue, because it has been highlighted in other areas of life and work as well.

But why should women continue to be in the minority when it comes to the top jobs in pharmacy? Surely there are many brilliant female pharmacists who are more than capable of taking the initative and who can take the lead. I’ve been to far too many events and meetings where men have dominated for nearly the whole of the proceedings. This feels excessively disproprtionate, especially when you consider the fact that most pharmacists in Great Britain are female.

I think part of the solution to combating this is to encourage women and positively endorse them to make it to the top. They should never feel that once they have qualified then the continuous elevation of their career ends at qualification.

However, this should never be achieved through adopting quotas - this has been an idea discussed in general debate with regards to achieving gender equality. Quotas do nobody any good or benefit and are, frankly, a patronising and negative way to restore some sort of gender balance. Enlightenment, encouragement and uncomprimising support of women is the key and meritocracy must prevail when it comes to encouraging women to make it to the top in pharmacy.

The feminisation of pharmacy is a fascinating insight into the overall make up of the pharmacist workforce across this island of Britain. However, many more issues remain to be discussed with positive solutions the key to making forward progress for the overall benefit of pharmacy.

For more details on the analysis of the pharmacist workforce from the Centre for Pharmacy Workforce Studies, please take a look at the following link:

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