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Wonder Women in Pharmacy – Helen Gordon

Since 2001, there have been more women than men on the Register and their role in the profession has been firmly established. In celebration of International Women’s Day this year the charity approached a number of women working in the profession today about their role models and experiences.

Here we speak to Helen Gordon, Chief Executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society:


Helen Gordon smallWho were your role models?

I have looked up to and learnt from a number of leaders who have shaped my clinical and managerial practice over the years.  I particularly drew from the approach and wisdom of the first ward sister I worked with as a staff nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, a Chief Executive I worked for in West London, and an eminent doctor who was President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.  Although all three were very different in style and had differing backgrounds and roles, they shared the same determination to make a difference for patients and the public, were committed to excellence, they truly engaged those they worked with and treated everyone with respect. These traits are important to me now in my role.

What has been the defining moment in your career so far?

Being Chief Executive of the new Royal Pharmaceutical Society is a privilege, and is a defining moment for me in my career as we have set up a new professional body, pretty much from scratch, we are now starting to make a difference in pharmacy and for the public and it’s a critical time of development of health services and public health.  It is also defining as I draw from all my previous CEO, managerial and clinical experiences in this role.

What does it mean to be a woman in the profession?

In health, we need to have a good mix of both men and women in all roles and at all levels. This is good for patients and public and good for the profession.  I am concerned that in some sectors of pharmacy, we don’t enjoy gender diversity at a senior level which begs questions about succession, support, and development of women through their career, and through organisational structures. Developing both men and women towards leadership roles is not only the right thing to do, there is growing evidence that diversity of Boards and senior teams also brings about business success.

Do you have any wellbeing tips or coping mechanisms that might help others in the profession?

    • Learn about your own personality and develop your interpersonal style and resilience to help you work with colleagues effectively.
    • Get a mentor, consider a coach and use your networks for support and advice
    • “Sharpen the saw” with  targeted development
    • Spend time with your family and friends regularly – without interruptions. Date nights are good.
    • Look after your mental and physical health – you are a human being and need nurturing.
    • Laugh often!


We were delighted to talk to some of the other women working in pharmacy today. Click to read their stories:

Sue Sharpe, Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and co-founder of the Listening Friends Scheme; Thorrun Govind, pharmacy student and Pharmacist Support fundraiser and Professor Rose Marie Parr, Director of Pharmacy, NHS Education for Scotland

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