Can pharmacy leadership reach 50/50 gender balance by 2030?


Gender inequity in leadership is prevalent in the Australian pharmacy profession – although this has lessened over time, according to a study

Based on trends observed from 1998 to 2018, women should achieve an average of 50% representation across Australian pharmacy professional committees no sooner than 2029, according to research published in Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy.

The study, led by pharmacist Alicia Martin from the University of Canberra, included data for 368 separate professional committees, from seven organisations—the Pharmacy Board, PSA, SHPA, Pharmacy Guild, PDL, Australian Association of Consultant Pharmacy (AACP) and NAPSA—covering the years of 1998–2018.

Female representation on professional committees in pharmacy significantly trended up as time went on—the lowest average female representation was seen in 1998 (17%) and the highest representation was seen in 2018 (47%).

There was an average of 31% women in leadership positions during the first decade of the study period, which increased to 38% in the second decade.

Meanwhile the researchers found “a substantial sudden rise” to 47% female representation in 2018.

The number of women in the pharmacy workforce also rose over the past two decades—from comprising just less than half of the profession in 1999 to accounting for 62% of pharmacists in Australia in 2018.

From 1998 to 2000 women held no senior positions in any committee, the researchers found. The PSA, Pharmacy Board, Pharmacy Guild and PDL did not meet 50% female representation in any year between 1998 and 2018.

The Guild had zero women on their National Council from 1998 to 2003. In 2009-10 they reached about 30% female representation, and in 2018 were sitting on 25% representation.

The authors explain that in 2017, the Guild implemented an action plan to enhance gender equity across its committees.

“This appears to have been successful as an additional nine women were elected to branch committees and national council in 2018 compared to 2017, which may also contribute to the sudden rise in 2018,” explained Ms Martin along with co-authors Professor Mark Naunton and Adjunct Professor Greg Peterson.

Studies have shown significant benefits when diversity in leadership is increased…

PDL had no women on its board for a period of 11 years, from 1998 to 2008, according to the data. However its female representation has risen steadily since then, reaching nearly 40% in 2018. PDL told AJP that its board currently has 43% female representation and its senior leadership team has a 50/50 gender balance.

Meanwhile directors are elected by members, so they could see more than 50% female representation over the coming year, PDL suggests.

Both SHPA and NAPSA exceeded 50% female representation in several years across the time period.

AACP had 50% or greater female representation for two years, although this has lowered slightly in recent years. PSA reached about 40% female representation in 2012-13, and its state/territory branches averaged 50% female representation in 2018.

Overall, most organisations had steady or increased female representation over the time period.

Based on the data, the authors predict that women will achieve an average of 50% representation on professional committees in pharmacy by 2030.

“However, it is important to note that this prediction does not apply directly to individual organisations … it appears more likely that some organisations will exceed 50% representation while others will not meet the target,” they said.

“Studies have shown significant benefits when diversity in leadership is increased, including increased innovation, profitability and perceived value from stakeholders and consumers.”

See the full study here (login required)

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