International Women’s Day – spotlight on Naheed Phul, chief pharmacist at Moorfields

Tuesday 8 March marks International Women’s Day; this year’s theme is ‘break the bias’.

Naheed Phul joined Moorfields as chief pharmacist last October. In her own words, she reflects on what International Women’s Day means for her and shares her insights into inclusion, diversity, and how Moorfields supports its female workforce.

What International Women’s Day means to me

As we approach International Women’s Day, I often reflect on my career to date, how fortunate I have been and the opportunities I’ve had because of where I was lucky enough to have been born and brought up all; and for those who have fought for our rights in our past.

I’m a pharmacist by background, where women make up 62% of practitioners on the general pharmaceutical pharmacy register; 43% of practitioners are from ethnic minority backgrounds. This demonstrates good diversity, but what about inclusion? I read a fantastic quote that helped cement the difference between the two:

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” (Myers, 2018)

I’ve had a very positive experience of recruitment and selection throughout my career and thought this was reflective of all women/those from ethnic minority backgrounds, selecting the best candidate with the skills for the job. However, when you look at the workforce race equality standards (WRES) there is still work to be done to increase the number of women from ethnic minority backgrounds above band 8a level.

What surprised me, was my own positive stories of recruitment and selection were not always replicated by those from a similar background to my own. This made me reflect on this year’s theme, ‘break the bias’. A couple of weeks ago I was asked ‘what advice would you tell your younger self?’.

My response:

  • Be aware of my own unconscious bias. I undertook a bias test and was surprised by the results. I use this as a lens for my own recruitment and selection.
  • Be aware that my experiences are not reflected by others. When you see something that you do not believe is fair, call it out. A previous line manager once told me – ‘if you do not do, or say something, you are also complicit’. This advice stays with me in my day-to-day practice.
  • Hold leadership accountable. By having a strong strategy for equality, diversity and inclusion, asking to see the information, and presenting the data and actions in all forums.

There is still a long way to go. Just last week I was asked whether I wore a headscarf at home and had an arranged marriage. I was so shocked but reflected that the multicultural landscape we hope for, is not always seen. I politely responded, but perhaps should have used this as an opportunity to educate on diversity.

Moorfields as a place of empowerment and inclusivity of women

Moorfields is a fantastic organisation, and I feel proud and privileged to work for the trust. I believe Moorfields empowers women by the following:

  1. We track data: through recruitment, blind shortlisting, NHS staff survey, taking further action on our WRES and workforce disability equality standard (WDES) data.
  2. We take action: policies to enable flexible working, opportunities for training and development that suits the employee, and we strive for digital inclusion.
  3. We look for opportunities to increase gender equity throughout the corporate ecosystem: this is evident through the number of women in senior leadership positions, not uncommon in the NHS.

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