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“I want women’s voices in pharmacy to be heard” interview with NAWP President, Ayah Abbass

The office of the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England interviewed NAWP President, Ayah Abbass for the December 2022 edition of the Inclusive Pharmacy Practice (IPP) Bulletin

Tue 13th December 2022 The PDA

Ayah Abbass is a pharmacist who works in a community pharmacy and a GP practice. In August 2022 she was elected as President of the National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAWP), part of the PharmacistsDefence Association.  NHS England lead a joint initiative to create inclusive pharmacy practice, in which the PDA is a partner organisation, and recently interviewed Ayah about women in pharmacy.

What is your current role in pharmacy and what do you most enjoy about it?  

I work as a clinical pharmacist in a community and a GP setting in Yorkshire.  

I really enjoy speaking to patients about their concerns and the impact their medication is having on them. I think during the Covid-19 pandemic in particular weve seen how important the pharmacists role is in the community.  


Could you tell me a bit about the National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAWP) and your role as president? 

NAWP was founded in 1905 and has a proud history of supporting women pharmacists. From 1 January 2020, NAWP began a new chapter as a network of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association. 

NAWP is about empowering women in pharmacy, making sure we are heard, and making us aware of different things that impact women in pharmacy at work. Last year I joined a session run by NAWP on women in leadership and I was really inspired. I first got involved by using social media to raise awareness of NAWP.  

I was worried that I didnt have the experience to be the NAWP President, but the Committee encouraged me to apply and said they believed in me. In my role I want to focus on health conditions that affect women at work, like period pains and menopause, that we dont really talk about. 

I want women’s voices in pharmacy to be heard and to create a safe space for female pharmacists.  


Why is diversity in senior pharmacy leadership important? 

Its important because it encourages a wide range of people to put themselves forward and apply for senior roles. If you see a diverse range of people presenting at pharmacy conferences, its encouraging. If you dont, it makes you think that the opportunities arent there for you. There are people that are more than capable of working in senior roles, but they dont see people like them in the role and it makes them think its not for them. 

Diversity is also important as it puts across a different perspective for senior management to consider, as points could be put across that otherwise may not have been thought about. 


What are your top tips for women in pharmacy who want to be in a leadership role?  

As simple as it sounds, just go for it. Whats the worst that can happen? If you get rejected, it doesnt mean you are not good enough. It just means its not the right time. To put my name forward for NAWP President, for a couple of weeks I just couldn’t decide whether to do it. But honestly, getting elected has been such an honour. If you dont do it, other people wont do it and we wont have more diversity in senior pharmacy leadership. 


What are the particular challenges for women who want to achieve a senior role in pharmacy? 

Sometimes people make assumptions and it can limit what we can do! For example, as a young community pharmacist, I had a male dispenser working with me and people assumed he was the pharmacist and asked to speak to him. I recently got married and people ask me when Ill have kids and how it will impact my career but my husband doesnt get asked this at all!  

I’ve talked to other women pharmacists and the main challenge is flexibility particularly if they are single mums. They tell me they dont apply for senior roles because they dont have time to work in one, and theres a lot of pressure and training involved. However, the ability to work from home has opened a lot of doors. I think things are improving, more women are applying and theres better representation, but we still have a lot work to do. 


What are your hopes for the future of women in pharmacy? 

I would like to see women in pharmacy working together more, empowering and encouraging each other to apply for leadership roles. We want to open doors for women and for their voices to be heard. And creating a safe place for women in pharmacy is important, especially to talk about health conditions. 


This article was originally published in the NHS England Inclusive Pharmacy Practice Bulletin

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