Closing the gap: Gender equality in pharmacy leadership


Diversity in pharmacy leadership is getting better, says Guild National Councillor, but “you don’t want a board that just has quotas”

In late 2016, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia stated that it was “determined” to represent the diversity of its membership.

“The number of women entering the pharmacist profession continues to grow, with two-thirds of current graduates being female,” said National President George Tambassis at the time.

“However women are under-represented as pharmacy owners – at just over 30% – and in Guild leadership roles.”

Mr Tambassis encouraged women to apply for these roles.

“We want and need more female members involved in the leadership of the Guild. So we are actively inviting female pharmacy owners to run for office, and we’re saying to them: we support you, we encourage you, and we need you to come on board.”

The Guild has come good on its call to action for diversity, says Catherine Bronger, National Guild Councillor and NSW Branch Committee Member.

“It has to be getting better,” she told AJP in a recent interview.

“If you look at the diversity that’s come on board with the national council, we’re seeing four new [female] national councillors rather than two national councillors. Where I come from in NSW, coming with no females on the NSW board to six females on the NSW board, I think is excellent.

“And one thing that I have to say is the Guild did really have a call to action for diversity.

“I think myself indeed coming onto the Guild was really having that support and advocacy from a lot of the men that sat on that board – both national and state – saying, you know Catherine, have a go, and not only to me but a lot of women. And so I think Helen [O’Byrne], who was from Tasmania, and all of those national councillors really saw that call to action and came in.

“But I don’t think it stops there, I think really where we need to go is make sure that it’s not just a one call for action to get these women on the board, but what we have to do is reach down back into the branches and back into the membership base, and start to find a lot of these women who are doing great things in our industry and show really good leadership qualities.”

Lucy Walker, branch committee member from the Queensland branch, agrees with Ms Bronger, stating on an APP panel that the Guild had been “really good” about its diversity callout and that its committees are now more diverse in terms of gender as well as other parameters.

“We’re in there, now we’ve got to gain those skills, develop as people and get the knowledge… pass the baton through.”

Ms Bronger says women who display a talent for leadership need to be recognised and encouraged to step up.

“We need to make sure that we’re tapping them on the shoulder or encouraging them to take up opportunities where they can come into more leadership roles into the Guild.

“Because you don’t want a board that just has quotas, you want a board that shows real talent, and have women that can really represent the industry well sitting in those leadership positions. They’re out there, we just need to encourage them to be involved.”

Diversity in the PSA

On behalf of its pharmacist members, PSA is also committed to championing gender diversity within its ranks.

Its top female members include Vice-President Michelle Lynch (who has been on the PSA national board since January 2014), national board member Teresa Di Franco (who served as WA branch committee as Branch President from 2014-2017) and ECP National Board Director Taren Gill.

The organisation also recently appointed former CEO of the Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association Belinda Wood to the role of General Manager, Policy and Advocacy.

“PSA has long championed diversity of its staff and elected officials and has been a leader within the pharmacy profession as a champion of diversity,” National President Shane Jackson tells AJP.

“PSA walks the walk from a diversity point of view, we have a female Vice-President, and 50% of our senior executive team are females.

“Our branch committees have strong gender and age diversity, after an active effort by the PSA to attract early career pharmacists to our branch committees.

“We know that diversity brings better decision making and a better outcome for the profession.”


Women and ownership

Ms Bronger believes there are “a lot” more women that are looking into ownership.

“Certainly there’s a younger generation coming into ownership that we’re seeing with our membership base,” she says.

“I think the most important thing – particularly for women and young people – is it’s one thing to get into ownership but it’s another thing getting into leadership. You really have to do a bit of work getting yourself into a position where you can run for those leadership positions, and I think that’s where we can help them a lot more.

“There’s still a lot more work to do,” she adds.

At a recent panel hosted by the NSW Guild, Ms Bronger said no-one wants token diversity.

“People want to make sure that the people coming through the ranks are substantial women, very capable women coming through. And that has to start at the ground level.

“That means that we have to get young women into ownership quickly, we need to advocate that. We need to say to them: ‘you can do this, you’re really good at it. Run a business, come in and be a partner with this business.”

She told women to “go for every opportunity like a middle-aged white male. Just go for it.

“Because once you’re in ownership you’re going to do a great job”

Watch the full AJP interview with Catherine Bronger here.



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