‘No’ to quotas

The tribe has spoken: AJP readers do not believe in quotas for women in pharmacy leadership

Last year, AJP asked whether women were adequately represented in pharmacy leadership and discussion – at the time of writing, 70% of readers voted ‘no’.

However according to another poll we ran this month, our readers don’t believe this issue can be fixed by setting quotas.

“Women should compete on their own merit to avoid tokenism,” according to 61% (232 votes) of respondents who said they do not believe in quotas.

Meanwhile 13% (50 votes) stated that pharmacy organisations should have targets – but not quotas – for female leadership.

A further 11% (40 votes) stated pharmacy organisations should have quotas, and approximately the same amount believed “quotas for female leadership are sexist against men” (43 votes).

Three percent (11 votes) said there can be a quota/target for women in leadership, as long as there’s an equivalent quota/target for men.

Just 1% (3 votes) said they don’t believe we need more women in leadership.

Some well-known women in pharmacy say there is still a need to see targets implemented.

“I used to be against quotas because nobody wants to be there as a token female,” leading consultant pharmacist Debbie Rigby said at a PSA17 panel.

“But the reality is that we’re not there yet. I think there should be targets but not quotas.

“Quotas mean there’s a specific number to reach. It is a challenge and PSA has made some good in-roads,” she said.

“What needs to change is the culture – if that doesn’t change, we’re not going to be able to make a difference.”

Others support the quota concept – Rhonda White, for example, said she believes they can be used for positive change.

“I was always against quotas too,” she said in agreement with Ms Rigby.

“I started being added to boards in the ‘80s, and at that time I really was the token woman. You weren’t expected to say anything… And as a principle I said a lot.

“But I think quotas have made good men aware of their responsibility.”

However some readers have argued that having female quotas would be a discriminatory practice.

“Would that not be discriminatory, and therefore illegal?” commented AJP reader Toby.

Despite these concerns, pharmacy organisations have recently implemented policies to support having more women in leadership.

george tambassis

“The Pharmacy Guild is determined to represent the diversity of our membership,” said President George Tambassis late last year.

“The number of women entering the pharmacist profession continues to grow, with two-thirds of current graduates being female.

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

“We want and need more female members involved in the leadership of the Guild,” said Mr Tambassis.

“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.”

ACT Guild Branch President Amanda Galbraith confirmed that the Guild is currently working on strategies to improve diversity at the representative level, for women as well as multicultural pharmacists.

“We have great diversity in our staff at the national secretariat, and among many of our group executives as well, but we do want to see women more actively involved in the Guild,” Galbraith says.

“We’d like to encourage them to be involved in branch committees and use that as a stepping stone to the national council if that’s something that interests them.”

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  1. Debbie Rigby

    Diversity is a fact – inclusion is a choice. At least according to the 300+ people who voted in this poll, inclusive culture, where all talent feels valued regardless of gender (or ethnic background), is not valued nor aspired to.

    As I have said many times, the profession needs to embrace the diversity of pharmacist practice. We need to empower others to lead. The profession needs to feel connected to and supportive of one another. Bro-cultures are not supportive of women leadership.

    At the PSA17 panel I highlighted that a quota is not the same as a target. Quota is a target that is mandatory. I am not supportive of quotas, but I do believe targets should be set. As with most beliefs, change starts with acknowledging the problem. Targets are a bridge to take us from one set of beliefs to another. There is no shortage of qualified women who can represent the profession. The undeniable fact is that we need diversity on our Boards and representative organisations.

    Gender targets are not the goal, they are a means to an end ie better Boards with diversity of opinions and good governance and strategic direction. Less diverse Boards lack multiple perspectives that promote sound decision making, problem solving and strategic planning.

    I wonder what the gender bias was with those responding to the poll?

    • Jarrod McMaugh

      Perfectly stated Debbie.

      I don’t agree with Quotas, because they don’t fix the underlying issue. People who complain that diversity is reverse discrimination just cannot grasp the enormity or even the nature of the problem.

    • Ronky

      Targets are just another name for quotas, with somewhat less severe punishments for not “achieving” them. You imply that some huge male-supremacist conspiracy is black-balling or blocking qualified and willing women from representing our profession. I think you need to provide at least some evidence of this.
      To get better Boards, we need equality of OPPORTUNITY of every qualified person to apply and succeed, regardless of sex. Not equality of outcomes, whether imposed or (supposedly) merely aspirational ideals.
      Given the numbers of each sex in the profession, it seems unlikely as you imply with your “gender bias” comment that all of the 76% who oppose both quotas and targets are not only male, but also sexists. Given that the remaining 24% would include at least some men.

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