Sharing the Flame: Advancing Diversity in Pharmaceutical Medicine

Posted on: Wednesday 24 April 2024
Author: Dr Marcia Philbin

Something that couldn’t possibly have escaped your attention recently was the call for professionals in our field to apply for Fellowship of FPM via the updated eligibility criteria. Fellowship represents the pinnacle of membership within our professional body. It signifies not only expertise but also a deep commitment to advancing pharmaceutical medicine, and we are delighted to have received a very healthy number of applications this year.

And yet, as we eagerly sifted the applications that poured in, we couldn’t help but notice something very significant: whilst our membership gender mix is roughly 60:40 (men: women), only 14% of applicants and nominees were women.

Of course, we celebrate the enthusiasm and dedication demonstrated by all our applicants. Nonetheless, the stark fact that such a small percentage of those applicants are women serves as a reminder of the challenge we face in striving for gender equity within our profession. In an era where diversity and inclusion are rightfully at the forefront of many organisations’ priorities, the fact that comparatively few women have put themselves forward, or been put forward, for Fellowship is a sobering thought.

At FPM, we firmly believe that diversity is not just a buzzword but a cornerstone of excellence. Embracing diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds not only enriches our profession but also enhances our ability to address the complex challenges facing pharmaceutical medicine today. However, to fully harness the benefits of diversity, we must confront the barriers that hinder the full participation of women and other underrepresented groups.

In 2022, FPM published the Women in Pharmaceutical Medicine report which highlighted the positive experiences of female pharmaceutical physicians as well as some of the challenges which still need to be addressed to achieve gender equity. The report can be found at here. One of the recommendations from the report was that FPM would actively encourage the nomination of women for Fellowship and Honorary positions. So, how will we do this and foster a more inclusive environment within our Fellowship application process?

First and foremost, we must proactively address the underlying factors that may contribute to the underrepresentation of women in our applicant pool. This requires a multifaceted approach, reaching out, engaging with and encouraging women to pursue Fellowship, as well as providing support and resources to navigate the application process.

How can you help?

Is there an implicit bias in the new Fellowship criteria?

What might be holding women doctors back from applying for Fellowship?

Can we be doing more to champion women in our specialty?


FPM is hardly the first organisation to open its doors and find that it’s mostly men who walk through, and it certainly won’t be the last. But what does that tell us? I’d say one thing it tells us is, we must critically examine our selection criteria and processes to ensure they are equitable and free from bias. Are there any implicit biases “baked in” that may disadvantage women or other marginalised groups? Are we giving sufficient consideration to diverse perspectives and experiences in our evaluation of candidates? Or is the issue a more fundamental one about how female talent is recognised and nurtured within the profession?

These are not easy questions. Nonetheless, it’s only by implementing measures to mitigate bias and promote fairness, we can create a more level playing field for all applicants.

There is a saying which goes, “You do not lose your light by sharing your flame”. We recognise the importance of support networks in fostering the professional development of women in pharmaceutical medicine and that is why we are proud that we will be launching soon our bespoke mentoring platform, FPM Connect. The platform will provide mentorship and networking opportunities, as well as a platform for the exchange of knowledge. Through this, we encourage those who can share their flame to empower women to excel in their careers, to aspire to leadership roles within our profession – and to apply for Fellowship.

As we reflect on the successes of this year’s Fellowship application round, we are reminded of the collective responsibility we all – individuals, organisations, and institutions alike – share to actively champion diversity, challenge inequities, and create pathways for success for all members of our community.

Moving forward, FPM is committed to redoubling our efforts to promote gender equity. The current round of Fellowship applications may soon be behind us but over the next few months we want to invite women and individuals from all backgrounds to consider putting themselves forward, as we strive to build a more inclusive and representative professional body. The bar for eligibility has intentionally been set high, so if Fellowship is something you want to pursue in the future, I strongly recommend that you consider how you can boost your status in the specialty ahead of making an application or soliciting a nomination. For more information please refer to the 2024 eligibility criteria.

Together, let us break down barriers, empower underrepresented voices, and pave the way for a more equitable future in pharmaceutical medicine.

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