The current vice-president of the National Association of Women Pharmacists argues that although women represent around two thirds of the UK’s pharmacy workforce, they are not well represented in leadership roles…
By Daniela Rusalim
The disproportionate effect of the coronavirus pandemic on women has been highlighted in a number of reports issued by national and international organisations. The recent United Nations policy brief emphasises that “from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of Covid-19 are exacerbated for women simply by virtue of their sex” and the UN Secretary General warns that the limited gains made in the past decades towards gender equality are at risk of being rolled back.
In the UK, more than 50 years have passed since the Equal Pay Act has come into force in 1970, yet little progress has been made towards gender equality, with the gender pay gap stuck at 16-17 per cent and extremely difficult to close.
There are growing concerns that in the context of the existing pandemic, gender-based inequalities are going to increase in the coming years, wiping off the modest gains made over the last few decades. Everyone will be affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic, but women will be affected harder.
Women make up the majority of global health workforce and continue to be a major presence at the frontline of the pandemic response, risking their lives and those of their families.
Across different sectors, women pharmacists, who represent around two thirds of the total number of pharmacists in the UK, have demonstrated how crucial their presence has been in the last few months to ensure high quality care.
Although women make up the majority of healthcare workers, they are not well represented in leadership positions. The gender disparity in leadership remains a big problem in the healthcare sector, with pharmacy included, and follows the general trend of men taking up most leadership roles.
The existing gender leadership imbalance has the potential to inadvertently deepen the inequality due to women’s lack of representation in response planning and decision making.
Businesses have a responsibility to ensure that their response to the pandemic is taking the unequal impact on women into consideration.
Companies employing pharmacists should focus their attention to creating the right working environments to enable women pharmacists to undertake jobs that allows them to find a good life-work balance. This requires an awareness and acceptance from employers that in many cases women have caring responsibilities.
In order to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on women pharmacists’ pay, employment, work conditions and work-life balance, the National Association of Women Pharmacists is urging businesses to:
- create the right conditions and incentives for women to work while respecting their caring responsibilities
- increase the offer of family friendly policies like flexible working and shared parental leave
- invest in women’s leadership education
- increase the uptake of women in top leadership positions
- include women more in response planning and decision making
There are already some encouraging signs that the unintended consequences of the global pandemic are stimulating employers to shift their attention towards adopting gender inclusive policies like flexible working and family friendly policies.
In order to avoid losing ground in the fight against the widening of the gender pay gaps, employers are encouraging women to take on leadership positions.
The NAWP is relentlessly supporting women to be part of these initiatives and urges women pharmacists to get in touch if they are encountering any difficulties in their workplace.
Daniela Rusalim is vice-president of the National Association of Women Pharmacists, now part of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA).