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NAWP Newsletter – January 2021

Welcome to the latest issue of the NAWP newsletter - the quarterly mailing that keeps you up-to-date on news, events and issues that relate to women in pharmacy.

Wed 20th January 2021 The PDA

NAWP Newsletter January 2021

Welcome from the NAWP committee

NAWP was relaunched as part of the PDA on 1 January 2020, so we are now celebrating a year together. Looking back over the last year, an event was held in March 2020 to mark International Women’s Day. Then a new committee was elected in August 2020, comprising of Naina Chotai as President, Daniela Rusalim as Vice-President, and Eilidh Milliken as Honorary Secretary.

The new committee has been active in raising awareness of the issues women face and produced a factsheet on the menopause to coincide with World Menopause Day in October 2020. They were also successful in publishing an article in Pharmacy Business Magazine on the topic of how employers can support women pharmacists during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Next, they are busy planning an event for International Women’s Day 2021. The event will be held online on Saturday 13 March, so please save the date!

Read more about the committee below.

Naina Chotai, NAWP President

Naina has worked as a pharmacist in various roles, gaining experience of community, hospital, primary care and the whole patient journey from primary care to secondary care and end of life care/ hospice, as part of a Department of Health Project.

Currently, Naina mainly works with independent pharmacies, maintaining contact with LPC representatives and NHS England, to ensure pharmacies work to regulatory standards.

Naina’s role is that of a virtual office for independents that have very little time to keep abreast of regulatory changes and time to commit to training staff and locums, mainly women. Of 62% women pharmacists (GPhC 2019 register), only 2% own their own businesses, so in this role, Naina comes across locum women pharmacists on a regular basis.

Naina has been a member of the PDA Union since 2010 and is familiar with the way the union works and its commitment to equality and diversity. She has also been trained as a representative by the union for the South East region.

Naina said: “As a woman pharmacist who is aware of the pressures of work in most pharmacy roles undertaken, I feel very much empowered to support, speak up for, and represent all women pharmacists. Starting life as a pre-registration graduate to the chosen pathway undertaken by the pharmacist, I can confidently support their interests and I am able to represent them in the media and other networks as necessary.”

Daniela Rusalim – Vice-President

Daniela is a Pharmacist Advanced Practitioner and Independent Prescriber with more than a decade of experience in community pharmacy. She has been trained as a representative by the union for Boots in the East of England region and is also an active member of the Equal Pay Joint Working Party.

Daniela said: “I recognise the countless challenges women are facing in their personal and professional lives and I am determined to lend my support to initiatives like equal pay, equal opportunities and equal representation while strongly supporting family-friendly working practices, such as flexible working, job sharing and part-time working. Fighting stereotypes and biases is just as important because reducing these practices will positively impact on women’s abilities to take up more leadership roles.”

Eilidh Milliken – Honorary Secretary

Eilidh has experience of working within primary care, hospital and community pharmacy which has given her an understanding of the issues faced by pharmacists within different sectors. She also completed the NHS Education for Scotland Taste of Leadership Course.

Eilidh currently works in two roles: one as a Hospital Pharmacist and the other as a Homeless Outreach Pharmacist.

Eilidh said: “An intersectional approach to representation is important to the NAWP committee given that the needs of women from different backgrounds are often not understood. I have a particular interest in the overlap between women and those belonging to the LGBTQI+ community. Intersectionality is relevant to both pharmacists as professionals and to our patients.”

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  • Use #PDAnawp on Twitter and Instagram and tag @the_pda to posts on issues relevant to women pharmacists and to suggest recommended reading for allies of the network.

NAWP take part in the 9th General Assembly of EPhEU

By Daniela Rusalim, NAWP Vice-President and PDA Union Representative (East of England)
The European Association of Employed Community Pharmacists in Europe (EPhEU) is the first European-wide organisation that connects representative organisations across Europe and represents professional, strategic, legal, socio-political and cultural interests of employed pharmacists in Europe.

EPhEU’s online general assembly took place on 15 October 2020, with participation from Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Montenegro, Norway, Poland and the UK. The discussion was dominated by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on pharmacists’ lives and the adaptations they have had to make to maintain the very high standards of care they have consistently demonstrated throughout the pandemic.

After reports from President Katarina Fehir Šola, Vice-President Raimund Podroschkoof and Treasurer Andreas May, speakers from all participating countries gave short briefs about the current COVID-19 situation and presented their country-specific challenges and strategies to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This included the relaxation of medicines laws to facilitate access to prescription-only medication and the issuing of decrees to allow pharmacists to dispense experimental medication. Speakers from several countries drew attention to the strong trade union involvement in protecting pharmacists’ pay and work conditions.

PDA Chairman Mark Koziol, who is part of the EPhEU Executive Committee, gave an interesting presentation about the existing situation in the UK and highlighted the PDA’s support for pharmacists that comprised of the development of the Risk Assessment Tool, influencing the decision to include pharmacists in the Death in Service benefit, increasing awareness of the zero tolerance to Violence in Pharmacy and supporting individual members during times of enormous pressure.

Paul Day, PDA Director, remarked the “feeling of one community across borders” that dominated the meeting. Daniela Rusalim, Vice-President of NAWP, who attended the meeting for the first time, observed: “based on the positive interaction of the participants and the friendly atmosphere of the meeting, it became clear that the strength of EPhEU as an organisation doesn’t exclusively rely on the individual activism of members within their countries, but also on the social connection they share and the strong collaboration that exists between the countries.”

It was unanimously agreed that the 10th EPhEU Congress will take place in Oslo in the autumn of 2021. In the meantime, Daniela Rusalim invited all participants to extend their support for the European Women Pharmacists Meeting, which is planned to take place in Romania in May 2021.

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NAWP raises awareness of the menopause

By Sherifat Muhammad Kamal, Senior Specialist Pharmacist (HIV and Sexual Health),
and NAWP member
The menopause affects women in different ways, marking the end of menstrual cycles and is diagnosed after going through 12 months without a menstrual period. A blood test can help confirm the diagnosis when required.

The cause of the menopause is linked to hormonal variations and produces various symptoms including irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, excessive sweating at night, hot flushes, itchy skin, vaginal dryness, pain during sexual intercourse, frequent urinary tract infections, mood swings, fatigue and weight gain. Symptoms can vary from being mild to severe – your GP will be able to help with extreme cases of symptoms.

The menopause tends to occur in women in their late 40s with most women reaching menopause between the age of 45 and 55, with early menopause occurring from their 30s. The average age is 51 years, including the perimenopausal stages.

Often, our healthcare services are not well trained in the menopause, with 50% of all female patients going through menopause and 80% experiencing symptoms resulting in some considering stopping work, some with relationship issues, whilst others just suffer in silence.

However, no specific treatment is recommended, treatments are mainly directed at reducing the signs and symptoms which can span from hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) to non-hormonal treatments and supplements which are helpful to some women.

Educating women and the wider community is needed to support women at this stage, as most people are not aware of the effects of the menopause on women.  That is why NAWP produced a factsheet in October 2020 to coincide with World Menopause Day.

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Gender balance in pharmacy leadership 

By Naina Chotai, NAWP President and South East Regional Committee Representative
Pharmacy is a female-dominated profession and as such we would expect to see an increased representation in leadership positions. A study in 2018 at the University of Birmingham School of Pharmacy looked at gender balance in senior positions, focusing on two independent multiple pharmacy chains in the UK. The research highlighted that even though women comprise 61% of the profession, only 36% of women were in senior positions at the time the study was undertaken.

The UK is not alone with an underrepresentation of women in leadership roles in pharmacy.

Australia has a very similar gender distribution, with women accounting for 62% of Pharmacists in 2018. Research was carried out into whether pharmacy leadership reflected gender distribution in the pharmacy workforce in Australia as well as how it has changed over the last 20 years. This project was fuelled by the ‘50/50 by 2030 foundation,’ established by the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra. The single vision of the foundation is to see men and women represented equally in all levels of government and public administration throughout Australia.

The data collected showed an increased female representation over time and looks to be on track to have 50/50 representation by 2030. The limitations of the study were that the data collected merely looked at women holding a position in professional committees, which does not necessarily equate to leadership. The study also excluded other areas of leadership such as ownership and management roles across the various sectors of pharmacy, including community, hospital, academia and government.

The International Pharmaceutical Federation predicts that in 2030, 71% of pharmacists will be female, so targeting gender equity will become increasingly important for the pharmacy profession. Increased female representation in leadership positions is likely to lead to increased innovation, prosperity, and satisfaction with the profession by tapping into a wider base of knowledge and experience. Pharmacy organisations should devote more time and resources into building more diverse leadership teams in order to achieve this.

NAWP is working to support pharmacy organisations and the pharmacy workforce to build leadership qualities at every level from universities to the workplace.

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How Employers can support Women Pharmacists during the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Daniela Rusalim, NAWP Vice-President and PDA Union Representative (East of England)
The disproportionate effect of the coronavirus pandemic on women has been highlighted in a number of reports issued by national and international organisations. The recent United Nations policy brief emphasises that ‘from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women simply by virtue of their sex’ and the UN Secretary warns that the limited gains made in the past decades towards gender equality are at risk of being rolled back.

In the UK, more than 50 years have passed since the Equal Pay Act has come into force in 1970, yet little progress has been made towards gender equality, with the gender pay gap stuck at 16-17% and extremely difficult to close. There are growing concerns that in the context of the existing pandemic, gender-based inequalities are going to increase in the coming years, wiping off the modest gains made over the last few decades. Everyone will be affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic, but women will be affected harder.

Women make up the majority of the global health workforce and continue to be a major presence at the frontline of the pandemic response, risking their lives and those of their families. Across different sectors, women pharmacists, who represent around two-thirds of the total number of pharmacists in the UK, have demonstrated how crucial their presence has been in the last few months to ensure high-quality care.

Although women make up the majority of healthcare workers, they are not well represented in leadership positions. The gender disparity in leadership remains a big problem in the healthcare sector, with pharmacy included, and follows the general trend of men taking up most leadership roles. The existing gender leadership imbalance has the potential to inadvertently deepen inequality due to women’s lack of representation in response planning and decision making.

Businesses have a responsibility to ensure that their response to the pandemic is taking the unequal impact on women into consideration. Companies employing pharmacists should focus their attention on creating the right working environments to enable women pharmacists to undertake jobs that allow them to find a good life-work balance. This requires awareness and acceptance from employers that in many cases women have caring responsibilities.

In order to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on women pharmacists’ pay, employment, work conditions and work-life balance, NAWP is urging businesses to:

  • create the right conditions and incentives for women to work while respecting their caring responsibilities
  • increase the offer of family-friendly policies like flexible working and shared parental leave
  • invest in women’s leadership education
  • increase the uptake of women in top leadership positions
  • include women more in response planning and decision making.

There are already some encouraging signs that the unintended consequences of the global pandemic are stimulating employers to shift their attention towards adopting gender-inclusive policies like flexible working and family-friendly policies. In order to avoid losing ground in the fight against the widening of the gender pay gaps, employers are encouraging women to take on leadership positions. NAWP is relentlessly supporting women to be part of these initiatives and urges women pharmacists to get in touch if they encounter any difficulties in the workplace.

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