Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Being a good ally

by Sandra Gidley, RPS President

We know that pharmacy is a diverse profession, but how can we ensure we are also an inclusive profession? As part of Black History Month, I recently spoke on an RPS Facebook Live session about the importance of being an ally and supporting black pharmacists in the workplace. I was joined on the panel by Elsy Campos Gomez, Claire Howard and Tase Oputu. Thank you all for taking part in the discussion.

My experiences

The allyship issue I relate to most easily is the lack of female representation in leadership roles - still a huge issue in so many workplaces. As we mentioned in the Facebook Live discussion, having more male colleagues advocating for women in leadership and joining the movement is vital to ensuring gender equality. In fact, when trying to further my political career, many of my male colleagues were willing to use their positions of influence to make a difference and help myself and others get the opportunities we deserved.

It’s hard to break the heavily male-dominated networking arena, but the allyship of men helped me get where I am today.

Now, as an individual in a position with influence on decision-making processes and agendas, it‘s my turn to be an ally for my colleagues and recognise the difficulties black pharmacists face on a daily basis.

Having signed up as an ally through UKBPA, I will continue to strive for equality for black colleagues and work to ensure that our workplace is as inclusive as it can be.

What can we do?

You don’t have to be in a leadership position to ally yourself with someone and make a difference. Of course, true change must come from the top, but being a role model for others and setting a good example of workplace inclusivity will influence others around you, and, there are many positive actions all of us can take to support others.

People who are not black are helping to push the agenda of equality. As we’ve seen from the voices of the Black Lives Matter campaign recently, people DO care. By recognising inequalities and calling out institutional racism we can make a difference to the experiences of our colleagues. Those actions that we take on a daily basis, can make a difference to how an organisation is run.

Some people hold back from making a complaint because of a perception of negative reactions from colleagues, and I agree with the panel that calling out issues in the workplace can be daunting, especially if a scenario may not directly impact on you.

However, there is such a burden on black pharmacists to say how they feel and raise their concerns. Many black pharmacists, as we heard in the discussion, are afraid of how others view them raising issues, or fear being dismissed as disruptive to the working environment.

If you are sufficiently privileged to not experience injustices, then you should be working to make a difference. Unity is vital to ensure inclusion and diversity in the workplace, and it’s crucial that all of us are allies for others.

Listen again to our Facebook Live discussion for Black History Month.

We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected] or get involved through our ABCD group.

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