‘Go for every opportunity’: women’s panel

Women's breakfast panel (L-R): Felicity Crimson, Karen Carter, Caroline Diamantis, Felicity Wilson, Rebecca Loder, Elise Apolloni, Catherine Bronger
Women's breakfast panel (L-R): Felicity Crimston, Karen Carter, Caroline Diamantis, Felicity Wilson, Rebecca Loder, Elise Apolloni, Catherine Bronger

Advocacy, not tokenism, is needed to push capable women through to leadership roles, say industry leaders

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s NSW Branch held a women in pharmacy breakfast event in Lavender Bay to coincide with International Women’s Day on Thursday 8 March.

Keynote speaker Felicity Nelson MP, Member for North Shore, addressed attendees on being a female politician in the public eye.

“Women can’t seem to get it right. We’re judged for what we wear or don’t wear, our age, whether we have children and how many we have,” she said.

“Women also remain unrepresented in our Parliament. I find it hard to understand why more than 70% of people in my chamber are men. I don’t think that anyone can make the credible argument that men are four times as meritorious as women.

“I know the Guild is committed to ensuring women are represented in leadership. We have come a long way but that doesn’t mean we should talk about where we need to go.

“Our opportunities are too often constrained by our gender. Despite this, women are tenacious, we are fighters and we will survive.

“I always say: life is a competition, you can either get in the game to win, or you can sit on the sidelines and let the boys win.”

A panel discussion surrounding women’s role in pharmacy was also held.

Pictured left to right, the panel included:

  • Chair – Caroline Diamantis, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (NSW Branch) Vice President
  • Felicity Crimston, Director, Pitcher Partners
  • Rebecca Loder, Sydney University Pharmacy Association President
  • Catherine Bronger, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (NSW Branch) Committee Member and National Councillor
  • Elise Apollini, Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year
  • Karen Carter, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (NSW Branch) Committee Member

Advocacy is key to get women into leadership, said panel member Catherine Bronger.

“I think as women we’re quite good at mentoring other women into roles, but what we’re not good at is advocating other women – actually seeing women who have a lot of potential and telling them to go for that role,” she told attendees.

“For me personally there were people in this room who said to me, ‘Cat, I know you’ve got a young family but you can do this and you should do this.’ And once I was in, that was fine, I knew that I could do it and keep going forward.

“The Guild did a big push recently last election in terms of diversity and I think that’s wonderful, but 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.’

“Then we’ll see many more women in these leadership roles, which we’re not seeing at the moment.”

And Ms Bronger’s tip for breaking into ownership?

“Go for every opportunity like a middle-aged white male. Just go for it,” said Ms Bronger.

“Because once you’re in ownership you’re going to do a great job. And find someone who is really going to work with you as well – whether that’s another pharmacist, another business owner, an accountant, a solicitor, build your network up.”

Panel chair Caroline Diamantis said women need men to get involved in the push too.

“Women look for equality, so we need men to be part of that journey. This breakfast should have men here, who are happy to be celebrating women’s role,” said Ms Diamantis.

“My mentor was a male, and this was 30 years ago. I don’t see why men can’t mentor women, so looking at equality we want men and women to mentor men and women. And I think that comes around to having a really strong support and a genuine passion for your industry regardless of whether it’s a man or woman coming through the ranks.”

ACT pharmacist Elise Apolloni pointed out that it’s everyone’s responsibility to advocate for the profession.

“I feel that if I’m not excited about going to work then how can I expect my patients to be excited when they come into the pharmacy, how can I expect my community to think that pharmacy is somewhere where healthcare happens.

“Pharmacy is really good at keeping secrets about how awesome we are. We don’t tell people how much pharmacists do behind the counter or in whatever role we’re doing.

NSW Guild President David Heffernan
NSW Guild President David Heffernan

“In terms of how I personally have advocated, I join everything I can. I choose to say ‘yes’ every time.”

NSW Guild President David Heffernan said the Guild is committed to achieving gender equity in its leadership.

“At the Guild, we are now more diverse than we ever have been, although it’s obvious we still have a long way to go,” he said.

“When it was all men on the committee, I’m not afraid to say – it was stale. The change in the dynamic now is so different.

“It’s safe to say the future of pharmacy is in good hands with all this positivity.”

The event was sponsored by Pitcher Partners. International Women’s Day is a worldwide event to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.

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