I’m not the assistant, I’m the contractor!

Sukvir Basra, Independent contractor and prescriber By Sukhvir Basra, an Independent Contractor and Prescriber

25 years in the making as an experienced independent clinical pharmacist and someone suggests I'm just the ‘assistant’ who hands out medicines for my husband who they presume is the boss! How do you change that narrative?

Although latest GPhC data reports that 62.3% of pharmacists and 86.3% of pharmacy technicians identify as female, only 25.5% of superintendents (SI) identify as female. Why is it that 74.5% of the superintendents identify as male but only makeup 37.4% of registered pharmacists?

Another thought to consider is how many of those 25.5% female SI’s are also the contractors of the pharmacy? Quite possibly even less, although currently there is no data available to answer this question.

Is it that the university's psychology towards its female students needs to change? Female pharmacy students need to be encouraged to think about being contractors in the future and not just the assistant pharmacists driving clinical services. Society needs to change its public perception to encourage business environments, cultural perceptions and families to develop the ambitions of our new emerging graduates. Such changes will help to drive the narrative that women can run successful pharmacy businesses too.

Most innovators and drivers of the pharmacy profession are not only female pharmacists but also technicians and dispensers, but leadership at the patient-facing level is limited as data suggests. This could perhaps be due to the many small to medium-sized businesses that are owned by women in the UK and globally, and therefore not a sole problem in the pharmacy industry. 

A way to address this would be for our male comrades to be our ‘champions’ or ‘advocates’ and educate the public’s perception. They could encourage their female colleagues to apply for leadership roles and highlight their successes to those in leadership more. Banks could perhaps make asking for a business loan and help with business planning female-friendly and not such a scary environment. Structured business education about running a successful pharmacy could be taught at the undergraduate level, stretching female students’ minds to potential possibilities.

Our students’ ability to understand pharmacy economics and politics will arm them with amazing negotiating skills and transferable analytical and leadership skills, to adapt to our ever-changing profession. Our universities, our colleagues, our families and friends need to encourage us to think like contractors. I say this through 25 years of experience trying to prove that I was equally capable as a contractor as any other male counterpart.

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