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Focus on Current Thinking: Women in Pharmacy

Author: Stephen F. Eckel, PharmD, MHA, BCPS, FASHP, FAPhA

I recently read with interest a commentary by Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD, in the September-October 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association titled “Rising Women.”1 In the commentary, Dr. Koda-Kimble describes her experience as a woman in academia at a time when no childbearing leave policies existed. If she wanted to have a family and stay employed, she had to go back to work within 2 weeks of giving birth, an unthinkable scenario by today’s standards.
 
Dr. Koda-Kimble’s commentary accompanied the reprinting of a landmark study titled “Practice Continuity and Longevity of Women Pharmacists.”2 Originally published in 1969, the study surveyed female pharmacists to gain insight into their career experiences. Almost 90% of the female pharmacists surveyed reported that they had worked full-time at some point in their career, but less than 25% had worked full-time for their entire professional careers.
 
During the same week that I read and reflected on these articles, I received in the mail the October 8, 2012, issue of Fortune magazine. The cover had a picture of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and announced a feature story titled “The 50 Most Powerful Women.” The issue described the positions and careers of very successful women in business—both in the United States and around the world.
 
Besides reading about the current success of women in business, I have witnessed the increasing role of women in pharmacy during my own career. Over half of our current pharmacy residents and clinical pharmacists are women, many schools of pharmacy have more women than men enrolled, and I frequently find myself at meetings where women outnumber men. Dr. Koda-Kimble is a prime example of the success that women have had in pharmacy. She became dean of one of the most prestigious schools of pharmacy, UCSF; she won the Remington Medal; and she authored one of the most widely used textbooks in the field.
 
It is clear that career opportunities for women have expanded dramatically over the past 40 years—especially in pharmacy. There are many women in positions of leadership in academia, hospital pharmacy, association executives, and professional societies today, and Dr. Koda-Kimble alludes to these changes in her commentary.
 
It is great to see that the pharmacy profession provides opportunities for talented individuals to advance regardless of their gender. This profession is accommodating to those who want both a career and a family life—all while maintaining a comfortable income. Let’s hope that opportunity and choices in pharmacy continue to expand for everyone.
 
I would appreciate hearing about your experience on this topic in comments below or via email at seckel@unch.unc.edu.

1. Koda-Kimble. Rising Women. JAPhA 2012:52(5);579-80.
2. Ohvall RA and Sehgal SK. Practice Continuity and Longevity of Women Pharmacists. JAPhA 2012:52(5);711-3.