A woman of influence


In the final of a series of interviews with the top five of our list of 10 Women of Influence in pharmacy, we speak to consultant pharmacist Debbie Rigby   

1. Do you think the full-time/pharmacy ownership expectation holds women back?

Success as a pharmacist should not only be defined by ownership of a pharmacy. Success needs to be judged through a different lens. Our core skill is our therapeutic knowledge and medication management, and too enough success is reflected as business ownership.

I think one of advantages of being a pharmacist is the ability to work part-time and have other roles including parenting. In many ways this is actually an enabler for leadership, as these roles take considerable time, thought and effort. 

2. How could women be better recognised and represented in pharmacy leadership?

The status quo is not good enough. Leadership should reflect an organisation’s composition. More than 60% of the profession are women. It is essential to reflect the reality of the pharmacy profession in policy and practice. The heart of the issue of gender equality is the need for a change in culture in those organisations. Part of creating a great culture is diversity. Gender diversity enhances group dynamics and improves overall decision making. Boards that look and sound like each other, deliver narrow thinking.

Leaders find ways to help others succeed. The capacity to influence is a key factor in leadership success. We need adaptive strategic leaders who can thrive in today’s uncertain and changing environment. We also need to acknowledge and celebrate thought leaders who may not want to be on organisational Boards or have previously served on them, as they can bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. Networking, mentoring, engagement and passion for our roles as a pharmacist’s should be nurtured formally and informally. 

3. Do you think it’s short-sighted to focus on gender issues rather than the work a pharmacist is contributing?

As has happened in many other industries and organisations, targets should be set to achieve gender equality on pharmacy Boards and committees. We cannot deny that women are underrepresented in the leadership of the profession. The glass ceilings and sticky doormats are holding back the profession. We can change it by acknowledging it first, and then taking action to drive that change. Gender representation targets help to remove invisible barriers and unconscious bias.  

4. Do we need affirmative action at the top? If so, why?

Yes. The inequalities faced by women are everyone’s problem. Visibility is key to women influencing and leading the pharmacy profession. There are many female role models in pharmacy who are willing to support and mentor others. Unless affirmative action at the top happens we will be having the same discussion in 5 years time.

5. Do you think women bring a different skill set to pharmacy and if so, how could that benefit the sector?

The pharmacy profession needs women leading the profession and having a strong voice in conversations at all levels. What we bring is ability to listen, to recognise needs and provide solutions. What women can offer needs to stand out as never before in the ever-changing world of healthcare and health policy.

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