Are Women Gaining Traction in the Pharmacy Profession?

3 years ago  •  Add Comment  •  by Donna Bliss

Women Pharmacists & the Pesky Glass Ceiling

Traveling at the speed of light.  That’s pretty fast.  Except when light travels through glass and it slows down to a crawl.  It’s no wonder that the metaphorical term used to describe the barrier between women and their upward mobility into management positions is called a glass ceiling.

The U.S. Department of Labor defines the glass ceiling as “those artificial barriers based on attitudinal or organizational bias that prevent qualified individuals from advancing… into management-level positions” To get a glimpse of this phenomenon in the microcosm of a particular industry one need look no further than the representation of women as pharmacy leaders.

Oh No, She Didn’t

Ever since Elizabeth Gooking Greenleaf became the first woman to graduate from a school of pharmacy back in 1863, women have been making their mark in the pharmacy industry.  But, for one hundred years after, men were still the predominant recipients of a Degree in Pharmacy.

 According to an analysis of Pharmacy degrees by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, in 1965 only 21 women attained their Pharm.D. Degree compared to 162 men.  In the mid-‘80s, there was a significant shift in the number of women graduating with a Pharm.D. Degree.  Women continued to widen the gap and have held the lead since.

The Survey Says…

The study shows that in 2017, 61.9% of the pharmacy degrees awarded went to women. Yet, Erin Albert, PharmD, JD, MBA, PAHM in her Pharmacy Times article wrote that as of June 2018, there were no women running a top-10 pharmacy chain or pharmacy wholesaler in the country, and of the top 10 specialty pharmacies, only one is run by a woman”. 

In the article “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women Pharmacy Leaders Changing Practice” it is a well-known fact that women are represented in mid-management positions, but are extremely under-represented in senior management and CEO-level positions.  With so many women entering the pharmacy industry, what gives?

Though the pharmacy industry is perceived to be male-dominated, the solution may very well be found within the ranks of the growing population of women in the industry. Women not only make up more than half of the pharmacists, but they are also tasked with the responsibility of striking a work-life balance between their career and their home life. A woman’s job doesn’t end when she punches her time card at the end of the day; her responsibilities at home can be just as demanding.

Is There Such a Thing as a Work-Life Balance?

A study conducted by the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, determined that several family life factors were labeled as obstacles for women when trying to develop a work-life balance which included ‘family situations requiring women to spend more hours than men on household responsibilities, family support structures, and parental leave policies.’ It would stand to reason that some of these factors could make it challenging for women to not only advance in their careers but to stay in them altogether. For women in the pharmacy industry finding a way to lighten the load through collaboration could be the key that helps open the door to possible future advancement.

Work-life balance is not the only obstacle that women are faced with on the journey of their career path. The grind of their busy lives doesn’t leave much room for themselves much less allowing the opportunity to advocate and support others within the industry. With so many women represented in the pharmacy industry, the need for encouragement and support cannot be overstated. Supporting and empowering each other through mentorship is a great way to pay it forward and help the next generation of women in the pharmacy industry break through to the next level. There is something to the old adage that there’s strength in numbers, considering the percentage of women graduating with their pharmacy degree compared to men if there was a concentrated effort towards advocacy within the ranks the results could be significant.

Shine a Light

The opportunities are out there. The first ever Woman Pharmacist Day was celebrated on October 12, 2018, founded by Suzanne Soliman, the day seeks to shine a light on the contributions that women are making within the pharmacy industry. It is efforts like this that can unite women together with a common cause to help encourage and lift one another up and quite possibly tip the scales towards more women representation in pharmacy leadership positions.

Other initiatives like the Women in Pharmacy program helps to provide encouragement and support to women by offering events and sharing ideas that not only seeks to inspire and empower other women but to also encourage personal and professional growth. The Modern Medicine Networks articleWomen in pharmacy: Leadership roles grow through self-advocacy, mentorship, and support”  drives the point home saying that ‘Women in pharmacy careers need to advocate for themselves as well as receive support and mentorship, in order to obtain leadership positions in the field.’

Advocating for one another through mentorship programs, finding ways to encourage each other, and offering support through organized events, could be the momentum needed to swing the pendulum towards more representation for women in pharmacy leadership positions. Not only that, but it also sets the standard to help pave the way for future women as pharmacy leaders, especially for pharmacy students and other women just starting their pharmacy careers.

Women and men in the pharmacy industry must find ways to enact positive changes that encourage more female representation in pharmacy leadership positions. Paying it forward by sharing their insight and experience through mentorship and support of others could be the key to opening up opportunities for the next generation of women pharmacists looking to advance in the industry.

Striking a work-life balance can not only allow women more time to focus on their personal career path, but it allows them to have the time to advocate for others within the industry.

Shake It Up

It is time to shake up the status quo. Not only does light slow down when it passes through glass, but it also bends and changes direction. Maybe science is trying to tell us something. Gaining a new perspective on an old problem could very well change the trajectory of women’s roles within the industry and empower the next generation of women as pharmacy leaders.

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