Women pharmacists' association dissolves after 114 years

(NAWP)

The National Association of Women Pharmacists has announced it is to dissolve at the end of 2019 after 114 years of existence. The NAWP said “societal changes” and an increasingly “monetarising culture” have hit membership numbers and ultimately made the organisation unviable.

A statement released yesterday (Monday May 6) by the NAWP – which says its driving ethos is to help women in the pharmacist profession realise their full potential and raise their profile – said the organisation had “been aware for several years that it could not continue to operate in its existing form”.

Speaking to Pharmacy Magazine, NAWP executive committee member Dr Christine Heading explained that these social changes included longer working hours making it difficult for people to take part in professional organisations, and that individuals increasingly make membership decisions on a commercial, “what do I get out of it” basis.

“This is not all bad, but the tradition of joining an organisation because of an affinity with its purpose has diminished,” Dr Heading said.

Membership dwindling

A decision was made at a NAWP executive meeting in November 2018 to stop all new membership from 2019 and to “wind up the organisation” at its 2019 AGM, which took place on April 30.

“Our membership numbers and thus funds have dwindled over the past five years, so on present forecast we only have sufficient funds for one year,” the organisation’s February 2019 newsletter explained.

The organisation said it plans to “wind up its activities over the remainder of the year” and that it “hopes to find ways for continuity of involvement” with activities such as helping to develop [STEM gender equality] Athena SWAN programmes in schools of pharmacy.

There have been talks about the NAWP potentially being incorporated into a new ‘diversity entity’ currently being developed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Dr Heading told Pharmacy Magazine that “we had hoped to be able to transfer our experience and expertise into RPS, but plans have not progressed as hoped."

"Possibly something will materialise," she commented, adding that the possiblity of integrating the NAWP into the RPS had been discussed as far back as 2014.

‘Proud of what we have accomplished’

In its statement, the NAWP said it was “proud of what it has accomplished during the years since its foundation 114 years ago, which has only been achieved by dedication, hard work, collaboration and professionalism.”

Dr Heading told Pharmacy Magazine that with the loss of the NAWP there “will be a [representation] gap, unless something materialises over the months ahead”. 

There are many areas in which progress still needs to be made, Dr Heading said: “Firstly, pharmacy needs to address the diversity issues with the same professionalism it adopts with healthcare – truly evidence-based but with occasional inclusion of case studies.

“Secondly, consideration of gender and diversity issues should be seen as routine, whether in workforce discussions or recommendations for smoking cessation.”

Reaction: “A sad day for the profession”

The news of the NAWP’s dissolution attracted comment on social media. Former RPS president Steve Churton described the announcment as “sad news” on Twitter, and said the NAWP was “always dedicated to their cause and always acted in the best interests of the whole of the profession”.

Pharmacist Ade Tojuola said it was a “sad day for the profession” and that the NAWP had been “invaluable both in terms of the hardworking women in pharmacy and the ethnic minorities facing various challenges”.

Pharmacist Tony Schofield asked on Twitter: “As the profession is dominated by excellent women has its day not been and gone?” The NAWP responded that this was a “perfectly reasonable question and in part this is the case,” but that “unsustainable” working practices in the UK continue to be a problem.

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