Royal Pharmaceutical Society

What are some of the barriers for black pharmacists?

by Martin Eguridu, UKBPA Board Member and Primary Care Network pharmacist

During Black History Month, it’s vital we highlight and discuss the issues associated with inclusion and diversity in our profession, and to recognise the difficulties that black pharmacists face.

I had the privilege of chairing an RPS Facebook Live recently on progression, visibility and representation. We heard from some amazing black pharmacists at different stages in their careers, talking about their own experiences. A very big thank you to Pre-Reg pharmacist Noel Kizere, Louise Brown, Principle Teaching Fellow at UCL School of Pharmacy, Charles Odiase, Consultant Pharmacist in Primary Care and Diabetes at Dacorum GP Federation and Raliat Onatade, Group Chief Pharmacist and Clinical Director for Medicines Optimisation at Barts Health NHS Trust.

Here are some key points for me that came out of the discussion.

At the top

There are many barriers at all levels of pharmacy for black pharmacists. Pharmacy is a diverse profession, but there’s a real lack of representation in senior roles. Bias at the top – unconscious or otherwise – impacts on us in terms of recruitment, ambition and our careers.

Staying positive whilst finding it hard to catch a break is tough, but it’s important not to lose faith. It’s vital for a young pharmacist to continue to believe in and remind yourself that you do have the skills to belong where you are and can propel yourself to the top, especially if you’re the only black pharmacist within your organisation.

True change can must come from the top. Once you’re in a leadership position, you can influence decisions, create positive change and provide the visibility which contributes to a shift in culture. Being seen is powerful, both for affirming individual identity and the impact it has on those around you – role models are vital. In essence it is very important never to see yourself as a victim but as an individual who has the ability to bring something new to table and make that change. Perseverance is a major factor to one’s success and I personally believe if you adopt this skill in your everyday travels, nothing can stop you from reaching the top.

Finances

Money too can be a significant barrier. The need to provide for your family is a big obstacle when trying to make it and progress in the profession. One of our guests spoke powerfully about their experience of being a mature student and having 11 different jobs throughout his time at university to ensure he could get enough money for his family and pay for his tuition. Finances can often become a burden on progression. However, if you have that determination just like so many other pharmacists in the profession, nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams.

Call it out

We have to do more to make it safe to call problems out. Many colleagues have been too afraid of how other people may view them if they were to raise issues. Then, when you do raise concerns, others can find it hard to accept and you may be dismissed as being disruptive or a problem. It’s vital that employers create spaces for people to come together and talk about inclusion and diversity issues in the workplace.

Being truly inclusive is more than just having a diverse workforce; diversity does not equal inclusion, and inclusion does not mean you feel you belong. A true sense of belonging, where you can be yourself, supports success and a culture in which everyone is seen and enabled to be the best they can be. I’m optimistic about the future and feel the time has come to break down the barriers of that many black pharmacists face to our progression, visibility and representation. With hope we can see more black pharmacists elected in key senior positions and lead the change for diversity in the profession.

Listen again to this Facebook Live session 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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