Pharmacists on ethnicity, pay and career progression

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Unconscious recruitment bias, role models and the appropriateness of the term BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups) were all topics of discussion during The Pharmaceutical Journal’s most recent Twitter chat held on Wednesday 12 December 2018 on the issue of ethnicity and pay in UK pharmacy.

The discussion was prompted by the results of a survey carried out by The Pharmaceutical Journal which revealed a pay gap of 16% between white and non-white pharmacists in the UK.

The Twitter chat, tagged #PJMindTheGap, attracted 80 contributors and comprised over 600 tweets, all sharing experiences, concerns and potential solutions around the ethnicity pay gap.

Chaired by The Pharmaceutical Journal’s careers editor, Angela Kam, the discussion covered thoughts on the ethnicity pay gap, why it exists and what the pharmacy profession should be doing about it.

Participants in the discussion said that the ethnicity pay gap was indicative of widespread discrimination, not just in pharmacy, or even healthcare, but across society.

Many participants suggested that the ethnicity pay gap and lack of BAME representation in senior positions in pharmacy was the result of recruitment bias, including Patel’s fellow board member, Aamer Safdar.

As a solution, blinded curriculum vitaes were suggested as a way to eliminate bias, whether conscious or unconscious, at the shortlisting stage so that more BAME candidates make it to interview. One contributor said that they have never understood why this was not current practice.

It was also suggested that further studies, and an “honest review” of the ethnic background of candidates who apply for top pharmacy jobs, shortlisting and recruitment was needed. Although others disagreed that ethnicity was the key problem.


Some contributors to the Twitter chat said that failures begin early on in a pharmacist’s career, at preregistration, where fledgling BAME pharmacists are less likely to pass the preregistration exam. A number of contributors praised the Oriel IT system for eliminating aspects of bias. Others mentioned the ‘Rooney Rule’ a National Football League policy, that requires league teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs, as another possible approach.

Many highlighted the importance of having BAME role models and individuals in leadership positions, and it was suggested that, for the ethnicity gap to be closed, more BAME individuals needed to be seen in senior roles. Although others highlighted that there are already a number of BAME pharmacy role models which young pharmacists should look to for inspiration.

One key question raised during the discussion was whether BAME was the right term to use or whether it had become redundant. Some respondents said that they were not comfortable with the phrase and that the experience of individuals captured by the term was not always the same. Others said that, although they were happy with the term, there was a need to break it down in certain areas.

When asked how to enact change some respondents looked to pharmacy organisations, such as the RPS and the General Pharmaceutical Council, and questioned the level of diversity on their boards. But others said that change needed to start at the ground level.

One contributor said that times were changing and that BAME professionals are now more engaged thanks to leadership courses aimed at “unleashing their potential”, however, they added that the “glass ceiling” is still proving difficult to break.

Another said she was aware that many would prefer to leave the pharmacy profession as a result of limited career progression and leadership opportunities, or choose to locum instead to boost their income, especially in community and hospital pharmacy.

One contributor, Jaswinder Dhap, provided links for individuals who are part of an organisation without a BAME group of network to help them set one up.

The conversation continues, so tweet your thoughts using the tag #PJMindTheGap to take part.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Pharmacists on ethnicity, pay and career progression;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205900

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