‘Lean on each other, learn from each other, celebrate each other’

Pharmacy has come a long way, but is there more to go? We spoke with women across the profession for International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The IWD 2021 campaign theme is #ChooseToChallenge – to encourage people to challenge bias and inequality to help create an inclusive world.

Women comprise over 62% of all pharmacists in Australia. To mark IWD, AJP spoke with several women pharmacists about the profession, its impact on women and what they enjoy about their roles.

Sandra Minas
Clinical pharmacist at Alfred Health
NAPSA president 2017-18

Do you think pharmacy is a supportive place for women, or do you think more can be done to support women in pharmacy?

Women within the pharmacy profession have definitely come a long way, achieving so much and I feel that wouldn’t be possible without support. Women are more so now than ever encouraged to be leaders and to grow within the profession, especially speaking from personal experience.

However, I don’t believe every workplace or area of pharmacy, whether that be industry, healthcare organisations, hospital or community pharmacy provide the same support. This support or regard could be lacking from colleagues, leaders or even patients. I believe there is still more that can be done to empower women across all facets of pharmacy and set a true standard that allows both men and women the same opportunities without reluctance.

What do you like about being a pharmacist?

Being a pharmacist presents countless opportunities every day to not only make a difference in patient’s lives but also to learn and to educate. I love that I go to work every day knowing that I will learn something new and will continue to grow.

Working as a part of a multidisciplinary team, allows me to provide input in every aspect of a patient’s treatment. I love that being at the forefront of patient care means I can make recommendations to improve patient’s overall health and work together as a team towards achieving this common goal.

I love being able to build connections with patients and provide the right information to ensure they understand the importance of their medications.  At the end of the day, it is a satisfising feeling knowing I can create a positive impact.


Carlene McMaugh, AJP podcast host

Carlene McMaugh
Pharmacist and Global Lead for Gender Equity and Diversity, International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)

Do you think pharmacy is a supportive place for women, or do you think more can be done to support women in pharmacy?

There are still many opportunities for women in pharmacy. Whether it be support and learnings for women who have taken a break in their pharmacy career due to maternity leave or raising families to reintegrate into the pharmacy workforce and having to learn about e scripts, vaccinations and active ingredient prescribing, we need more access to short courses for people returning to work.

A topic that needs to be included in these courses is assertiveness support when working with challenging patients or colleagues, as bullying has been referenced by pharmacists as a concern.

Women have still been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and job losses or changes, as well as with harassment cases. There are still huge opportunities to support women in the workplace and we need to acknowledge these issues and always work towards better.


Elise Apolloni
Pharmacist and managing partner, Capital Chemist Wanniassa

Do you think pharmacy is a supportive place for women, or do you think more can be done to support women in pharmacy?

In my pharmacy world, whether it be at the community pharmacy coalface within Capital Chemist, or on boards and committees across the sector, I personally find pharmacy to be extremely supportive for women.

I have been able to find a happy balance between my career and my family because of the people around me who champion women like me learning to be the best version of themselves – whether it be as a pharmacist, a mum, a mentor or whatever you dream of!

Of course, there are women out there who would have not had the same experience and have not felt supported. To them, I say: reach out, network and see what is available, because there are plenty of wonderful people to work with – we just have to each find our professional pharmily!

What do you like about being a pharmacist?

I love being a pharmacist. No two days are the same, no two conversations are the same, and we see time and time again, through every single interaction we have, what a positive difference we can make in the lives of our patients and our communities more widely.

It is one of those special jobs, where we have the privilege of being a part of so many people’s lives- in the good times and the tough times. I feel grateful to have that connection with my community.


Caroline Diamantis
Pharmacist proprietor, Balmain Community Pharmacy and Blooms the Chemist Edgecliff
Former vice-president NSW Branch, Pharmacy Guild of Australia

Do you think pharmacy is a supportive place for women, or do you think more can be done to support women in pharmacy?

Being part of a profession when 62% are women fills me with pride and I am honoured to have served pharmacy in so many varied ways for over 30 years. I am filled with excitement when I imagine what can happen next! I personally believe the opportunities for our profession moving forward are astounding.

I’ve no doubt the best way to feel supported and to support each other is to build a strong network and make the effort to carry each other in times of challenge. Women are spectacular at doing just that – we are naturally nurturing, with a capacity to understand the often complex journey we travel, negotiating family and career.

For senior pharmacists – offer your time to mentor and advise the younger women coming through. Believe me – there is nothing more rewarding! I’ve always felt that their success is my success. (And, just for the record, I’ve taken immense joy in inspiring and mentoring male pharmacists too.)

For ECPs – align yourself with strong and supportive colleagues. Be there for each other. Lean on each other, learn from each other, celebrate each other.

As for leadership – strive for those roles! A profession where women are able to make strategic decisions from a position of leadership makes perfect sense as we determine that future for our Sisters – accommodating the specific needs of women.

I cannot imagine another more rewarding honourable profession than ours.

Here’s to International Women’s Day – with a huge thank you to every women who has inspired me, taught me or even just heard me. Forever thankful.


Jess Hsiao
Intern pharmacist, SA Pharmacy
NAPSA president 2018-19

Do you think pharmacy is a supportive place for women, or do you think more can be done to support women in pharmacy?

The pharmacy industry has changed a lot over the years. Going through the degree over the last 5 years I can see that pharmacy is a supportive place for women particularly in leadership roles. This is partly a personal opinion having been involved with NAPSA and FIP I can see that things are changing for women. When I was involved with FIP YPG there was a very even spread of representation from both genders and I can see that slowly translating to a national level with ECP contributing members largely being women.

What do you like about being a pharmacist?

I enjoy being a pharmacist because I know that I am making an impact on someone’s life even in the short term when I see them in the hospital setting. I also enjoy the connections that pharmacy brings, whether that be through work colleagues, interprofessional collaborations, ECP working groups, industry events and also all the networking we are exposed to throughout our university degree.


Veronica Nou
Pharmacist proprietor at Morris Care & Advice Pharmacy and at Colyton Centre Pharmacy

Do you think pharmacy is a supportive place for women, or do you think more can be done to support women in pharmacy?

AHPRA tells us nearly two thirds of Australian pharmacists are women, but this number is nowhere near reflected in our leadership or ownership roles. The data shows we still have a fair way to go before reaching equity, even though we have made great progress as a profession.

Women returning to work after time away bearing or raising children is especially difficult. Without understanding workplaces with specific support structures in place such as flexible work hours, break areas for pumping milk and so on, women are often discouraged from even trying.

Pharmacy can be a very isolating profession, where we risk knowing only what goes on in our own workplaces, and more needs to be done to ensure women are able to access support and advice when and where they need it.

The fantastic Mindful Pharmacists Campfire is a great online community where women can seek support and mentorship from other pharmacists, be it brushing up on their clinical skills, seeking career advice, perhaps even on ownership, or simply to connect to other likeminded people. Pharmacist Mums – Australia is another online group I recommend for women to find support.


Erin Cooper
Pharmacist, Capital Chemist Wanniassa
NAPSA president 2019-20

Do you think pharmacy is a supportive place for women, or do you think more can be done to support women in pharmacy?

From my experience as a student, intern and now pharmacist the two pharmacies I have worked at have been incredibly supportive and celebrate women and encouraged the best of all their staff and their various roles within the pharmacy workplace.

Throughout this time I have never felt that there is anything I can not achieve in my career and the number of incredible women who are inspirations in this profession have proven that!

However, I do still feel like more can be done to support women venturing into leadership positions particularly ECPs.

This is something that is improving and that so many people are working to achieve but still has more that can be done.

What do you like about being a pharmacist?

I am thoroughly enjoying being a pharmacist particularly the engagement with the local community and assistance we as pharmacists can provide them.


Chrysa Giannellis
Pharmacist manager, Balmain Community Pharmacy

Do you think that pharmacy is a supportive place for women, or do you think more can be done to support women in pharmacy?

Currently, at an entry level, where our workforce is predominantly female, there is adequate support for women. Conversely, as women progress throughout their career and move into more senior management roles or pursue ownership, certainly more can be done.

I believe areas which we can improve our advocacy for women in pharmacy is to increase our resources and support programs available to women considering pharmacy ownership.

I also believe we can do more around mentorship, encouraging regular networking opportunities to engage discussion around gender-specific concerns and issues such as maternity leave and standardised leadership development programs for women which provide a clear pathway to pharmacy management.


Kay Dunkley.

Kay Dunkley
Pharmacist and executive officer, Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS)
2020 Pharmacist of the Year

Do you think that pharmacy is a supportive place for women, or do you think more can be done to support women in pharmacy?

When I was making career choices, women were being told that they can have it all (meaning a career and a family) and pharmacy was seen as a good career for a woman.

However at that time there were very few women who owned pharmacies except in partnership with their husbands.

There were women in senior roles in hospital pharmacy but they were usually single or women without children. In addition at that time it was common for the working woman to be expected to undertake the majority of household and family work.

Consequently many women dropped out of the workforce and in particular senior roles, to focus on family responsibilities and only returned to work, usually in less demanding roles, when children started school. Some however did progress their career later in life as children became independent.

Much has changed and there are now many more female pharmacy owners. Women in senior roles in hospital pharmacy are now able to work part-time for a better life balance. Part-time employment has become much more common as the working week in pharmacy has extended into 7 days and even 24 hours a day.

This has offered more flexibility for anyone who has caring responsibilities to balance with their work. During the COVID-19 we also saw some hospital pharmacists able to work from home, though community pharmacy was on the face to face frontline.

However we still see males holding the majority of senior elected roles in our pharmacy organisations. At present there are male presidents of our five major pharmacy membership bodies; PSA, SHPA, PGA, PPA, and PDL. NAPSA is leading the way with a recent series of female presidents and this provides hope for the future.

What is holding women back from these roles? Is it a lack of support or is it a lack of desire?

Behind every leader there has to be supporters who encourage their ambition and provide practical support to enable the increased commitment. So while women may be supported to be in the workforce and this is a financial necessity for many, we do need more support for women to take on leadership roles in pharmacy.

This support needs to come from a variety of sources including personal, collegiate and broader professional support. Women in leadership roles also need to be able to support themselves through self care and a balance in their lives.

Adele Tahan
Pharmacist proprietor, Adore Compounding Pharmacy
National councillor elect and NSW Branch Vice President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia

Do you think that pharmacy is a supportive place for women, or do you think more can be done to support women in pharmacy?

It’s encouraging to see so many women choose to take up community pharmacy ownership.

It’s also beneficial to see so many of them becoming members of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. 

International Women’s Day is a celebration for the men and women who support those women to reach their potential and achieve proprietor status.

As women constitute the majority of the community pharmacy workforce and approximately 62.9% of newly registered pharmacists are women, it is essential that women are recognised for their leadership role in our sector nationally.

From my personal perspective, I am thankful to my father and all my brothers for their support. Growing up in a household full of men and even the dog was male, that unique position and support is something to be appreciated and celebrated.

Happy International Women’s Day 2021 to all the women and the men.

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