Diversity and the value of representation in pharmacy

The PDA is committed to having diversity represented across all parts of the pharmacist community and the profession.

Sat 11th December 2021 The PDA

In 1905 women pharmacists recognised the need for a National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAWP). UK society and the profession at the time did not treat them equally and was dominated by, and designed for, the progression in general of older, white, straight, able-bodied males. Over a century later, NAWP is still needed, alongside the PDA’s other Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Networks, for similar reasons even though the profession is much more diverse, for example, it is now majority female, with a significant mix of ethnicities.

The work of the EDI Networks includes efforts to promote diversity within pharmacy. The goal is for every pharmacist, potential pharmacist and patient to see the profession as “including people like me”. For those with a career in pharmacy, that means seeing leadership roles, speakers at events, case studies, professional role models and every part of the profession reflecting the same sort of diversity that there is in the population.

In terms of the legally protected characteristics which are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, it is unlawful discrimination to treat people less favourably because of any of these factors, but the aspiration goes further to also include other characteristics such as social class and regional accents too.

Of course, every individual is a unique combination of their own characteristics, for example, the experiences, views and values of one woman will not represent those attributes in all women. However, if overtime and on average there are at least as many instances of female representation as there is male, then the underlying message is clear that women’s voices matter as much as men’s. This similarly applies to all forms of diversity.

Some outcomes such as from recruitment processes and elections into positions of influence may be subject to who it is that applies for a role. While the diversity of applicants is to be encouraged, ultimately the outcome cannot be controlled for reasons of fair employment practice and democracy.

There is scope for those responsible in other areas of activity to proactively aim to improve representation, e.g., not having so-called “Manels” (all-male panels) where an entire panel of invited speakers are all men. Similarly, organisers of events should seek to have panels that are suitably diverse in other ways, wherever possible. This positive effort to improve equality and diversity should be praised and celebrated as well as being the norm.

Following a recent panel, PCN pharmacist and PDA Regional Committee member Abimbola Musa reflects on her experience as a woman of colour, after she was invited to speak at an event and found herself the subject of criticism. Abimbola Musa wrote the below:

I have decided to write this piece after my experience with the term ‘tokenism’

Tokenism is ‘The practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.’

I was recently invited to speak on the panel at The Pharmacy Show 2021 on the topic of supervision, I was asked to speak in the place of a male colleague, of a different ethnicity, who is a lawyer as well as a pharmacist, he had been put forward as a speaker by a group. I was led to believe that for reasons undisclosed, the colleague, was no longer speaking and that the purpose of the panel was to discuss supervision as it pertains to community pharmacy.

I have extensive experience in community pharmacy and felt I would be able to lend my voice to the subject as it has directly affected me both as an employed pharmacist, pharmacy manager and locum in almost all the multiples for over 10 years.

This would have been my first time speaking publicly on pharmacy matters, to such wide audience and at such a highly publicised event.

Unfortunately, on the day I was not able to attend the panel, although I did attend other sessions and was later made aware that there was discord with my potential appearance on the earlier panel.

In one of the sessions I attended, a question was posed asking ‘Should pharmacists without merit be put on panel discussions as tokens?’ I cannot say for certain if this was aimed at myself, but found that this was an incredibly inflammatory comment.

I was later made aware of commentary that was written on a social media platform, of which I am a member. The same inflammatory comments were made again but this time below a picture of myself as a speaker.

I approached those who had commented for an apology, explanation and to understand the base of such comments but the response was less than favourable and echoed the above statements, that my speaking on the panel was tokenism and not because of merit. I was incredibly saddened to be referred to in this way and even sadder that at no point did either party approach me about the issue, especially when on other occasions they have spoken against forms of racism and prejudice.

This was not what I would expect from a group of esteemed, established professionals. My main concerns are the use of the word tokenism, as it has no merit, and the inconsistencies among members of the pharmacy community that on one hand say they support the inclusivity agenda but on the other hand describe displays of inclusivity as ‘tokenism’.

I hope all bodies within the sector will stand against all forms of prejudice and support efforts for more diversity of representation. Personally, I will continue to consider invitation to speak on panels and to play my part as an actively engaged member of our profession, both in my professional practice and within bodies such as the PDA. I will also support others to do the same.

 

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