Women in Pharmacy Today

Today the challenges facing women in pharmacy take a different shape to those of the 19th and 20th centuries. Women no longer struggle to enter the profession, in 2019 women accounted for 62% of GPhC registrants. Yet women remain under-represented in senior leadership roles. Despite representing the majority of pharmacists, only 2% of women are pharmacy business owners compared with 13% of men. There also continue to be gender and ethnicity pay gaps affecting women in pharmacy.

RPS continues to address these challenges, and in recent years has held an annual Women in Leadership conference, to explore ways of supporting women to fill leadership roles. The Pharmaceutical Journal continues to champion the issue of pay gaps (LINK). 

Despite these challenges, the contribution of women in pharmacy is continuing to grow. Our Inclusion and Diversity strategy now focuses on championing inclusive leadership and supporting women leaders from diverse backgrounds across all levels of pharmacy. 

Women today continue to represent the profession in the RPS as presidents, on the National Boards as RPS Fellows and as members of staff.

Gill Hawksworth

LDRPS:2004.7.23  Gill Hawksworth, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, 2003-2004

Dr Gill Hawksworth was elected as the President of the RPS in 2003, the first time all elected officer posts at the Society were filled by women. Alongside Hawksworth, former president Linda Stone served as treasurer and Alison Ewing as vice president. 

Gill first registered as a pharmacist in 1974. She opened her own pharmacy in Yorkshire in 1986 and then in 1999 completed her PhD, which she had undertaken part time. She later went on to become a senior lecturer at the University of Huddersfield. 

Gill was a member of the RPS Council from 1992 until 2000 and became a Fellow of the RPS in 1997. Gill continued to be recognised for her commitment to pharmacy, winning the Schering Award in 1999. She was awarded an MBE for services to pharmacy in 2002. In 2017 she won the RPS Lifetime achievement award. 


Sandra Gidley

Portrait of Sandra Gidley, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society 2019-present

Sandra Gidley was elected and RPS president in 2019 making her the one-hundredth non-consecutive president of the RPS. She had previously served four years as chair of the English Pharmacy Board and is a Fellow of the RPS. 

 Sandra has worked predominantly in community pharmacy, with a background in supermarket pharmacy management. 

From 2000-2010 she was the Liberal Democrat MP for Romsey, and as a member of the Health Select Committee, she was able to raise the profile of pharmacy within government. 

Today Sandra uses her previous shadow ministerial responsibility for health and equality to advocate for inclusion and diversity within the pharmacy industry. 

She continues to work in community pharmacy as a locum. 



Board Members

English Pharmacy Board

There are currently fourteen women sitting on the National Pharmacy Boards of England, Wales and Scotland, including Suzanne Scott-Thomas and Cheryl Way as Chair and Vice Chair of the Welsh Pharmacy Board, Sandra Gidley, the President of the RPS and a member of the English Pharmacy Board and Professor Claire Anderson as the Chair of the English Pharmacy Board. 




Scottish Pharmacy Board

The experiences of women board members span community pharmacy like Kathleen Cowle, Thorrun Govind and Sibby Buckle, Sandra Gidley academic pharmacy like Dr Anne Boyter and Professor Claire Anderson and hospital pharmacy like Jodie Gwenter and Suzanne Scott Thomas. The Women board members use their experiences to represent and advocate for pharmacists working today like Sibby Buckle who draws on her work in community pharmacy management, Tracey Thornley as a member of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) executive committee and Claire Anderson as a trustee of the Commonwealth Pharmacy Association and an Associate Director of FIP workforce development hub. 


Welsh Pharmacy Board

These different experiences and perspectives bring different skills and knowledge to the national boards, such as Dr Ailsa Power’s work at NHS Education for Scotland Pharmacy and Professor Tracy Thornley’s work supporting community pharmacy contract frameworks across the UK and now on secondment to the government’s Joint Biosecurity centre . Deborah Stafford supports subject specialisms while Thorrun Govind uses her experience to represent early career pharmacists. 

Some are new to the profession like Tamara Cairney who brings experience as a student champion, while others like Ruth Mitchell tutor pre-registration trainees, students and pharmacy technicians. 

There is still work to be done to ensure that diverse and intersectional voices are heard throughout the profession, but the increasing representation of women on the National Pharmacy Boards shows how far women have come in the profession since the earliest days of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Women to Watch 2020

2020 Women to Watch

In March 2020 the Pharmaceutical Journal launched their Women to Watch Campaign to recognise and celebrate women working in the pharmacy profession. The campaign was part of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s priorities for inclusion and diversity to create a culture of belonging, champion inclusive and authentic leadership and to challenge barriers to inclusion and diversity. 

In December 2020 a list of 12 women was published. Profiles of women included pharmacists, students, and technicians.

The 2020 Women to Watch are: 

  • Unekwuojo Agada
  • Nabila Chaudhri
  • Mairead Conlon
  • Caroline Dada
  • Lisa Green
  • Amira Guirguis
  • Zainab Hussain
  • Fiona Marra
  • Priyanka Mehta
  • Arshina Patel
  • Aiysha Raoof
  • Vivien Yu

Read more about the fantastic contribution they’re making.   

Looking Forward

We know that there are many stories missing from this exhibition. If you know of a woman who you feel has made impactful contributions to pharmacy in the past please get in touch at [email protected]

Tell us about great unsung women leaders you know about at [email protected]. You can also join our Action in Belonging, Culture and Diversity group  

We hope to continue to tell the story of the diverse pharmacy workforce, and the steps that are still being made towards intersectional equality.