Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Driving Equality for Women in Pharmacy

By Claire Anderson, RPS President

I have been lucky to have strong women and men as role models, especially my late parents, who always believed in me and encouraged me that I could do whatever I wanted to.

When I started work as an academic, I entered a more male dominated world and got used to being the only person at the committee meeting without a beard!

Overall, I have been encouraged, well supported, and mentored by many of my male colleagues and I would certainly not have achieved all that I have in my career without them, and their belief in me.

Slow progress

I started off in practice but have been an academic for most of my career. I became the first ever female professor in my School of Pharmacy in 2003, when only about 11% of professors in my university were women. That percentage is slowly improving, we now have 4 women professors in the school and 11 men, so there’s still a long way to go.

Although we a strive for equity, it’s interesting to note in my field that during the pandemic women have been less productive with academic publications than men. However, it’s positive to see that finally gender pay gaps are being addressed across academia.

The need for allies and mentors

Women have often played a disproportionate role in responding to COVID-19 as healthcare workers on the frontline and carers at home. Emerging data shows that, since the outbreak of the pandemic, violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has increased. Focussing solely on empowering women though is not enough. Women's equality will never be achieved if men are not brought into the conversation and engaged and educated as allies and ambassadors. Societies that value women and men equally are safer, healthier and more productive.

One of my pet hates is people who “pull the ladder up” after them and do not support those coming up behind them. I see mentoring and helping people to develop as an important way of giving back to our profession. I encourage all of you to sign up to the RPS mentoring programme either as a mentor or a mentee. I have gained and learned so much from my mentees.

Progress can be made

As President of the RPS, I am privileged to be part of developing the profession and making it more equal. I realise to be able to do that I need to actively listen to men and women from all backgrounds and experiences and to learn from them.  

RPS is committed to leading the way and we are having conversations about gender equality across the profession. We have come a long way but need to foster a culture of inspiring and empathetic leadership within all sectors of pharmacy to create change.  Although our work on equality, diversity and inclusion is progressing well, there is still much to be achieved.

I will continue to actively listen, to challenge everyone to keep moving forward on this journey, providing inclusive and authentic leadership that is not afraid to challenge barriers. I want the world to be a better place for the students whom I am teaching who are joining our profession.

RPS President Prof Claire Anderson is speaking at our event Driving Equality for Women in Pharmacy on 19 November.


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