Posted on 08 March 2024

8th March crowns International Women's Day (IWD) as an annually significant occasion for recognizing the achievements of women, raising awareness about equality in society and the workplace, and advocating for hard won women's rights worldwide. It's a day for individuals, companies, and communities to come together and highlight steps to take which will lead to a more inclusive and equitable society. Feminist, journalist and world renowned activist, Gloria Steinem, said of the annual occasion, “The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."

The theme for this year’s International Women's Day 2024, "Inspire Inclusion," encapsulates the essence of fostering a more equitable and inclusive world for women. We can collectively work together towards creating a better society where all individuals have equal opportunities and representation – especially in respect to the leaders in healthcare. In pharmacy, the discipline is an attractive path for women, with flexible working, strong salaries and plenty of opportunity for progression, a leading report from the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) latest diversity data shows. In the report, 62.5% of UK pharmacists and 85.8% of pharmacy technicians are women, but conflicting findings from the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) showed that women only account for 36% of pharmacy leadership roles.

Indeed, in 2021, it was found that 88.6% of the 342,104 nurses and health visitors are women, 42.5% of 18,509 ambulance staff, 77.6% of 172,267 scientific, therapeutic and technical staff but only 62% of 22,552 managers. More than two thirds of the entire NHS are women. The NHS offers women leadership groups delivered by the NHS Confederation which give support and assistance. The Health and Care Women Leaders Network is an inclusive network for all women working across health and care and allows connection, networking, support groups and campaigns, to promote female leadership in healthcare. The focus, this international women’s day, is that although gaps have closed in women being involved in healthcare, there are still disparities in the number of leadership roles that are filled by women.

The WHO, reports that although two thirds of women are in healthcare as in the UK worldwide, yet just 25% of healthcare leadership positions including pharmacy, medicine, surgery and other fields. This is related to lifestyle factors and the fact that women are five times more likely to experience career interruptions due to family-related reasons underscores the need for supportive policies in the workplace ensure gender equality – this is often a reason women earn less than men when compared to weeks worked in a year.

These interruptions may be viewed as a lack of commitment by managers with a less inclusive worldview, and can have serious implications for career advancement which ultimately fuels the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions within the medical profession. For the first time, though, more women are studying medicine than men, but may still be hindered by the glass ceiling of the patriarchal management class which dominates healthcare. Young children and adolescent women need to see examples of themselves succeeding and have strong role models in healthcare, yet may look up to an outdated system which they feel doesn’t truly represent them.


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