Kick-started in January 2021, FPM’s Women in Pharmaceutical Medicine project set out to evaluate potential differences in the experience and barriers in the career progression of women in pharmaceutical medicine.
Through a detailed survey and a series of focus groups, we have gathered compelling evidence that, while the experiences shared by women in our specialty are more positive than those reported in other sectors, like in academia or in the National Health Service, shared anecdotes of gender and ethnicity bias by participants show that biases are present in the workplace that may inhibit career advancement for women, particularly women of colour, in pharmaceutical medicine.
You can read comments from our leadership and download the full report below.
This project was funded by the Inclusion and Diversity Fund of the Royal Society of Chemistry who provided £10k for the project.
“You cannot be what you cannot see”. Marian Edelman’s words have resonated since she spoke them. When I applied to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Inclusion and Diversity Fund for a grant towards the Women in Pharmaceutical Project in autumn 2019, the aim was to find out if there were barriers that prevented women from progressing in their careers. Following the tragic death of George Floyd in 2020, the RSC launched another fund supporting projects focused on black members and I took the opportunity to explore the specific experiences of black women.
I hope that the recommendations in the report will help organisations to benchmark their own progress on gender and ethnic equality and take action to dismantle barriers that impede progress.
I strongly support this report.
I joined industry 40 years ago when the percentage of women in leadership positions in pharma was so low that female leaders were celebrities! Many comments in the report resonate with my own experiences. Whilst we have made progress, it is not enough. Few people would openly admit to being sexist or racist but unconscious bias is present in all, regardless of gender or ethnicity, as illustrated by the report. The training recommendations are critically important. We are all biased and must have personal insight, not only to reduce barriers, but for the overall success of our organisations.
The journey to mutual respect can be uncomfortable but it is a journey we must take and this report is very timely.
In reading this report four things stood out for me:
- The paltry number of ethnic minorities in the industry in general,
- The limited number of parental/childcare support schemes,
- The large proportion (a quarter) of women who felt their companies weren’t open to having discussions about gender and racial inequality,
- The prevalence of racism and sexism still extant.
While there has been a shift and increase in the number of women in the field, it’s clear that more work needs to be done at the structural level to build an environment where diverse groups can thrive. A new cohort requires an environment conducive to their growth and this doesn’t appear to be happening. Highlighting, as has been done here, is the first step. Encouraging policies that lead to these environments will be an ongoing – but worthwhile – challenge. What is clear is that putting new wine in old bottles will avail nothing useful over the long term.
The report was upsetting to read because of the facts laid out – but it’s absolutely vital that work like this is done and awareness is raised, since it’s likely many are unaware of the scale of the problem.