Closing the gap: Gender equality in pharmacy leadership

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Diversity in pharmacy leadership is getting better, says Guild National Councillor, but “you don’t want a board that just has quotas”

In late 2016, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia stated that it was “determined” to represent the diversity of its membership.

“The number of women entering the pharmacist profession continues to grow, with two-thirds of current graduates being female,” said National President George Tambassis at the time.

“However women are under-represented as pharmacy owners – at just over 30% – and in Guild leadership roles.”

Mr Tambassis encouraged women to apply for these roles.

“We want and need more female members involved in the leadership of the Guild. So we are actively inviting female pharmacy owners to run for office, and we’re saying to them: we support you, we encourage you, and we need you to come on board.”

The Guild has come good on its call to action for diversity, says Catherine Bronger, National Guild Councillor and NSW Branch Committee Member.

“It has to be getting better,” she told AJP in a recent interview.

“If you look at the diversity that’s come on board with the national council, we’re seeing four new [female] national councillors rather than two national councillors. Where I come from in NSW, coming with no females on the NSW board to six females on the NSW board, I think is excellent.

“And one thing that I have to say is the Guild did really have a call to action for diversity.

“I think myself indeed coming onto the Guild was really having that support and advocacy from a lot of the men that sat on that board – both national and state – saying, you know Catherine, have a go, and not only to me but a lot of women. And so I think Helen [O’Byrne], who was from Tasmania, and all of those national councillors really saw that call to action and came in.

“But I don’t think it stops there, I think really where we need to go is make sure that it’s not just a one call for action to get these women on the board, but what we have to do is reach down back into the branches and back into the membership base, and start to find a lot of these women who are doing great things in our industry and show really good leadership qualities.”

Lucy Walker, branch committee member from the Queensland branch, agrees with Ms Bronger, stating on an APP panel that the Guild had been “really good” about its diversity callout and that its committees are now more diverse in terms of gender as well as other parameters.

“We’re in there, now we’ve got to gain those skills, develop as people and get the knowledge… pass the baton through.”

Ms Bronger says women who display a talent for leadership need to be recognised and encouraged to step up.

“We need to make sure that we’re tapping them on the shoulder or encouraging them to take up opportunities where they can come into more leadership roles into the Guild.

“Because you don’t want a board that just has quotas, you want a board that shows real talent, and have women that can really represent the industry well sitting in those leadership positions. They’re out there, we just need to encourage them to be involved.”

Diversity in the PSA

On behalf of its pharmacist members, PSA is also committed to championing gender diversity within its ranks.

Its top female members include Vice-President Michelle Lynch (who has been on the PSA national board since January 2014), national board member Teresa Di Franco (who served as WA branch committee as Branch President from 2014-2017) and ECP National Board Director Taren Gill.

The organisation also recently appointed former CEO of the Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association Belinda Wood to the role of General Manager, Policy and Advocacy.

“PSA has long championed diversity of its staff and elected officials and has been a leader within the pharmacy profession as a champion of diversity,” National President Shane Jackson tells AJP.

“PSA walks the walk from a diversity point of view, we have a female Vice-President, and 50% of our senior executive team are females.

“Our branch committees have strong gender and age diversity, after an active effort by the PSA to attract early career pharmacists to our branch committees.

“We know that diversity brings better decision making and a better outcome for the profession.”


Women and ownership

Ms Bronger believes there are “a lot” more women that are looking into ownership.

“Certainly there’s a younger generation coming into ownership that we’re seeing with our membership base,” she says.

“I think the most important thing – particularly for women and young people – is it’s one thing to get into ownership but it’s another thing getting into leadership. You really have to do a bit of work getting yourself into a position where you can run for those leadership positions, and I think that’s where we can help them a lot more.

“There’s still a lot more work to do,” she adds.

At a recent panel hosted by the NSW Guild, Ms Bronger said no-one wants token diversity.

“People want to make sure that the people coming through the ranks are substantial women, very capable women coming through. And that has to start at the ground level.

“That means that we have to get young women into ownership quickly, we need to advocate that. We need to say to them: ‘you can do this, you’re really good at it. Run a business, come in and be a partner with this business.”

She told women to “go for every opportunity like a middle-aged white male. Just go for it.

“Because once you’re in ownership you’re going to do a great job”

Watch the full AJP interview with Catherine Bronger here.

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  1. bernardlou1

    To put a quota on leadership saying we need 50:50 representation is discrimination against women.
    Not females but women. Big difference there. What are we really saying? That women can run whole boards?
    Again discrimination. The pharmacy Guild still has far to come. It’s at its infancy when it comes to gender diversity. Women have been running households for ever and they have been raising those women who sits on boards!! To the AJP a Call to wake up and stood talking about it but rather do something about it!

  2. pagophilus

    Equality does not mean 50:50 representation. What proportion of female applicants for leadership jobs? What proportion of females actually land leadership jobs? What proportion of female pharmacists actually want to own a pharmacy? People need to get over this notion that to make things equal we need to give females jobs just because they’re female.

    (Still waiting to see equality in speech pathology. Actually, still waiting to encounter a male speech pathologist.)

    • Jarrod McMaugh

      Leo looks at a calm beach thinking it’s safe to swim, not realising the rip tide underneath will drag him out to sea.

      Similarly, he looks at outcomes (people in roles, people applying for roles, for instance) not realising the factors that influence whether someone applies for those roles to begin with.

      • pagophilus

        I’ve never seen any barriers to success for women in pharmacy. We keep hearing about the exploits of female leaders in pharmacy in the various pharmacy publications. I keep seeing successful female pharmacy leaders at conferences and seminars, and locally at the coalface. Methinks this is a solution/project in search of a problem.

        (Or is it only a few organisations such as the Guild with the problem, where there may need to be a cultural change? SHPA doesn’t seem to have a problem. Various branches of the PSA don’t have one.)

        • Jarrod McMaugh

          Yes Leo, my comment already addressed the fact that you cannot see the factors that contribute to the issue.

          May I give you an analogy using a topic you are invested in?

          • pagophilus

            I see you’re itching to bully?

            So, what are the barriers to men achieving in speech pathology? Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps men and women want different things when it comes to work? But you’d never believe it unless it came from a woman, because us men, we’re so blinded by our straight white make privilege that we can’t think straight.

          • Jarrod McMaugh

            It’s a shame you see it that way. If you aren’t prepared to have your views challenged, then you’ll never have the opportunity for growth.

            I can’t comment on speech pathologists as I don’t know many. You are right about people wanting to do different things… 100% correct. That’s another issue in gender equality – looking at why different roles are valued differently based.on who “traditionally” does them…. But that’s a different topic.

            Here is you analogy.

            Let’s say you are doing some missionary work. It’s in a country where culturally people are strongly discouraged and looked down upon for being interested in religion. There’s no one physically or overtly preventing people attending, but the opinions of the community in general about religion is pervasive.

            If you have 30% of the population attend the missionary sessions, would you say that only 30% of people were interested, or that the cultural influence that people have grown up with all their lives and still continue with now are influencing their decision on whether to attend the missionary sessions?

          • pagophilus

            Using your example, what can you do about it? Nothing. You cannot change people’s culture. Only they themselves can change their outlook if they actually think about it. All you can do is stimulate them to think. And about the only thing you can do is try to get your message across in passive ways (eg advertise in various ways) and hope the message gets through to some.
            But to put it back on you, please name the specific issues which are preventing females achieving in pharmacy? I don’t think the males in pharmacy are not prepared to listen. Some (myself included) just don’t find the evidence convincing. What are the specific issues?

          • Jarrod McMaugh

            Well Leo, if there is nothing that can be done about it, then what is the point of missionary work in the first place?

            As for naming the specific issues….

            Well you see Leo, I’m a middle aged white male. Of all the people in this world who can talk specifically about the issues that affect a person’s intent to participate, I’m one of the least qualified. About the only way I could have more privilege is if I lived in the USA.

            One thing I can say categorically is that regardless of my qualification to speak on the topic, people who have the same level of privilege as myself questioning whether there really are barriers to participation (overt or not) directly adds to those barriers.

          • pagophilus

            These are exactly the sort of non-answers not helping the discussion.
            If there are barriers, what are they?
            If you can’t name them, perhaps it’s a waste of time talking about barriers to female participation.
            It seems like another case of virtue-signalling. In this case talking about various vague problems and vague solutions in order to make it look like we care and we’re doing something. Just like putting up Aboriginal art and using the occasional indigenous word isn’t going to improve Aboriginal health outcomes, talking about vague barriers to female pharmacist participation in leadership will not help anyone without naming the issues and addressing them, other than making white male pharmacists feel bad for simply existing.

          • Jarrod McMaugh

            Why would it make you feel bad Leo? If you haven’t contributed directly to the issue, should you feel bad?

            I can’t speak to specifics… I haven’t experienced it. How can I?

            Tell me though Leo, do you really have no insight in to the way our culture affects the perceptions, experiences, goals of people?

            Let me look at it another way….

            If there is a concept that people can identify, but can’t quantify, does it mean that this concept is a fallacy? Or does it mean that we need to put more effort into understanding the concept?

            Yet another way, looking at roles with an imbalance of representation – are white males just better at the roles where there is a high representation of them? To go with your alternative situation, are women just better at speech pathology, or is there something that prevents men from undertaking this role?

          • pagophilus

            You can’t speak to specifics. Therefore you have nothing to say. Period.
            It’s a bit like silent treatment – many people just don’t get hints, they need to be told. If you can’t verbalise a problem, you have no right to expect people to admit that there is one.
            I have lots of insight. Hence why I post here. I’m asking for your insight. What are the barriers? What are the problems?
            Most people out there just get on with their working lives. Yes, there are cultural problems in some places. We can articulate some e.g. Pornographic pictures stuck on walls in blokey workplaces. But here we’re talking about unspecified barriers when there don’t seem to be any, and nobody can articulate any. It seems some people are on a power trip – making themselves feel better by blaming others for problems even though they can’t quantify these.
            (I just think men aren’t interested in speech pathology, and I also think the majority of women aren’t interested in top-level leadership positions. Those that are of course should be treated equally and on their merits, with no affirmative action applied. Otherwise whenever a woman is replaced by a man eg in Liberal preselection recently it will be claimed that it’s sexist and discriminatory when it may just be based on merit or even random chance. And then males feel bad for simply existing because it’s obviously their fault but nobody can quantify how. Have you in your childhood ever been blamed for stuff you didn’t do to the point that in the end you just accept the blame even if you don’t understand how or why, and end up accepting the fact that you’re wrong. And you end up sinking into a hole and getting depressed because whatever happens it must have been your fault.)

          • Jarrod McMaugh

            I think you’ve characterised why you can’t see the nature of the issue Leo – you’re perspective is too simplistic (maybe one-dimensional is a better description).

            I don’t think a person has to be able to quantify a problem to know that one exists.

            We can see that there are gender disparities (in both directions) in many roles in our society – both in the number of people in roles, and the way those roles are remunerated. The same can be said for cultural and ethic representation, etc too.

            If we can observe an imbalance, and the people who seem to be under-represented in this imbalance are saying that there are barriers to them addressing this imbalance, isn’t this enough to say there is an issue we need to address? Even more, if the organisations who have an imbalance see this as an issue, isn’t this also a good enough reason to acknowledge and address it?

            You mention that you wonder if women are even interested in ownership of pharmacies (for instance). If this is the case, then identifying and removing barriers would not change the imbalance….

            …but leaving them in place “just in case no one is interested” makes little sense, especially since the liklihood that the current ‘balance’ is natural is pretty low;

            I think it’s worth addressing the issue of “feeling bad” for being a guy – I don’t understand why people think that this is the purpose of redressing the balance in our society. Individual people don’t need to vacate their jobs etc – they just need to be aware of how society has cultural processes that affect the way people do things. For instance with the speech pathology, perhaps there are few men doing the role because they aren’t interested in the work; maybe there are few men because it’s perceived as a female career and going in to this career somehow reflects on their masculinity?

            Anyway, it’s a bit of a moot point. I don’t think two guys back-and-forthing over the topic doesn’t change much…. but maintaining an adamant attitude that there is no problem definitely doesn’t help

          • Kate Tognarini

            For a female perspective perhaps you’d like to read a very informative and well balanced book called “The Wife Drought” by Annabel Crabb. It addresses both sides and maybe will shed some clarity. This is to both of you so that you gain a better understanding – no criticisms, as I actually found your discussion quite entertaining.

          • Wilson Tan

            I generally don’t weigh in onto these type of discussions because both sides are right concurrently.
            Affirmative actions such as 50% gender representation is simplistic and superficial. And people who have a difference of opinion gets bullied into silence.
            However to say that there is no gender inequality is also untrue. There is gender inequality, starting at home. We all have unconscious biases, even, no especially those who opined themselves as liberal and progressive.
            In my opinion, there is gender inequality in pharmacy. There is also inequality with minority races….is there an Asian/Middle Eastern president for the Guild, PSA, SHPA? What about members of the Pharmacy Board?
            How many Asians are pharmacists? Who’s on boards?
            Again this happens across all boards of ASX companies. These companies are bereft of “orientals” in top echelons.
            However I’m also reticent to have a simplistic quota. Progressive policies to encourage and support the full participation of the fairer sex and minorities must also be balanced with supporting candidates based on their merits at all times.

          • Amy Page

            I agree with and appreciate everything you’ve written Jarrod.

            The only point I would challenge you on is where you say “I don’t think two guys back-and-forthing over the topic doesn’t change much”. It very much matters. Until men stand up and talk out about the issue with other men (or whites call out whites etc etc), very little will change. Thank you for speaking up.

        • bernardlou1

          That exactly right Pagophilus. The guild indeed have a big big problem. As a matter of fact the Guild is a toothless tiger. It’s sad the state that it has come to but the reality is up to 12 months ago there were NO Women on the NSW guild!!! Sad but true. So wake up guys before it’s too late and stop putting women who have done nothing to the profession and supporting them but support True innovation and True leadership.

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