Amandeep Doll says pharmacy organisations must bring equality, diversity and inclusion into leadership positions at the highest levels to truly embrace policies and operations from diverse perspectives…

Inclusion and diversity (I&D) and having a sense of belonging affects us all, not just professionally but also personally. We all know that feeling when we really belong; we are relaxed, feel like we can truly be ourselves and more likely to be open about how we are feeling and raise any concerns.

Within a professional setting, by ensuring pharmacy is a place for everyone, we will create a profession that delivers better health outcomes for service users, as individuals will be more comfortable reporting mistakes and starting important conversations and being more creative, ultimately nourishing and sustaining a safe working culture. We need to make sure that everybody within the profession feels like they belong, and they have a role in helping us deliver what we need to do as the profession.

When we talk about I&D we are not just referring to the nine protected characteristics that we are described by the Equality Act 2010, but also our socio-economic background, cultural experiences and diversity of work and life experience. All these different factors make us who we are and determine how we view the world and how we respond to situations.

In this role I get some people telling me that pharmacy is a diverse profession and we don’t have problems with I&D. We are a melting pot of cultures and at a grassroots level we work with a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and genders.

(Photo: iStock)

We are profession made up of 60 per cent women and 43 per cent from a minority ethnic background. However, they are only two elements of diversity. In the profession-wide survey the RPS conducted the results flagged disability as the area needing the most support and improvement, followed closely by age and race. Disability was also perceived to be the biggest barrier to working in pharmacy. Other barriers were age, pregnancy and maternity status.

Senior leadership teams across different pharmacy organisations are not diverse. There may be some black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation but again within that term there is so much diversity and having an Asian man within a senior leadership team does not make it diverse. Additionally, having a room full of only Asian men doesn’t count as diversity either! This is something I have also experienced first-hand, sometimes being the only woman in the room and even the only woman of colour in a meeting.

Embracing diversity

We need to get better at embracing the diversity within the profession and the people we work with and celebrating our differences in a way we haven’t done before. There has been an unfairness amongst the profession which reflects what is experienced across broader society. This discrimination is not new and has been around forever and has come into sharp focus over the last six months.

We have seen this reflected in leadership teams across pharmacy organisations, there are also wider implications with this with the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on BAME communities and the widening awarding gap in Black students registration assessment pass rates and an over-representation of BAME individuals in GPhC fitness to practice cases.

A sense of belonging unites us to create a truly inclusive workplace, it also supports collective progression and continuing success without leaving any individual or group behind, and in which everyone feels they can truly be themselves and thrive.

For that to happen organisations must bring equality, diversity and inclusion into leadership positions at the highest levels of the organisation in order to truly embrace policies and operations from diverse perspectives. It is the responsibility of those in leadership and of the dominant social culture to create these conditions.

I am sure you can relate to this in your own experiences. By doing this you’re valuing the diversity of your team members and the unique skills they bring; it prevents ‘group’ think where everyone is the same so you just agree with each other but someone having a different point of view can improve a project and outcome and improve patient safety.

In order to create a culture of belonging we need to champion inclusive and authentic leadership; our profession is diverse, as is the population it serves, each level needs to represent this therefore leadership in pharmacy needs to be more inclusive and diverse. We need to ensure the voices and views of the profession are reflected at all levels and we must challenge barriers to entry, registration and career progression.

In order to make this happen we need to challenge barriers to inclusion and diversity, by challenging the profession to address systemic and institutional racism and barriers faced by BAME colleagues. Raise more awareness of how disability both a visible and non-visible disability, age and parental and caring status can lead to individuals facing potent barriers to inclusion. Enable women to work in an environment where they can choose family friendly working arrangements. The only way to produce lasting change is to remove these barriers.

Getting involved

We’ve heard loud and clear there are too many barriers standing in the way of fantastic talent that can drive the profession forward and improve patient care. We need to make sure our leadership is reflective of the profession. The impact of not seeing yourself in current leaders has a real impact on your sense of self, as well as your future aspirations.

In progressing I&D we will need to tackle hard and difficult issues, which is why collaboration and agreement is so important. We are working with partners and stakeholders to ensure the profession is set up to enable to people to aspire to and demonstrate leadership in the roles they play. Increasing their visibility is part of our plan across the protected characteristics.

We’ve set up a group called Action in Belonging, Culture and Diversity (ABCD) to help inform and deliver the strategy. As networks already exist around particular protected characteristics, we decided to bring people together to use their personal and professional experiences from different sectors and backgrounds to inform and define what we do.

If you are passionate about I&D, join us and help deliver our strategy for the profession.

Amandeep Doll is RPS Inclusion and Diversity co-ordinator.

This opinion piece also featured in the print edition of Pharmacy Business/November 2020.

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