Industry Must Champion and Accelerate Equity

Pharmacy TimesOctober 2020
Volume 88
Issue 10

Women Help Improve Economic Growth, Financial Performance, Innovation, and Value at Pharmacy Organizations

In the United States, women represent slightly more than 50% of the population and about half the workforce.1 Among practicing pharmacists, about 65% are female, up from about 46% in 2009.2

In 1960, just 8% of practicing pharmacists were female.3 Now the workforce is predominantly female, and this applies to full-time female pharmacists in every practice setting except independent community pharmacy.2 From 1970 to 2010, the ratio of female- to-male pharmacist earnings grew from 0.66 to 0.92, representing a gender wage gap much smaller than what exists in most other high-wage professions.4

The minority of women in management positions flipped to a majority between 2009 and 2014, as illustrated in online figure 1, with females now occupying nearly 60% of pharmacy management positions.2

Although they report heavy workload and job-related stress and earn lower wages and salaries than their male counterparts, women in the United States consistently report greater overall job satisfaction with their pharmacy careers than men.5

The proportion of female pharmacists who report working part time has decreased over the past decade from to 13.4% from 27.2%.2 Of female pharmacists working full time, 10% reported having secondary employment in 2019, up from 7% in 2014.2 Multiple factors influence an individual’s choice of full- or part- time primary-employment and secondary-employment options. One factor may be the staggering increase in debt load, higher for female pharmacists than males, as shown in online figure 2.2

Pursuit of post-doctoral training can affect loan debt of female pharmacists to a greater degree than their male counterparts, as the percentage of PGY1 and PGY2 residency-trained women is 2 to 3 times that of men.2 online figure 3 shows the comparison by gender of residency- and fellowship-trained pharmacists among all actively practicing pharmacists.2

Despite their majority position in the health care workforce, women are underrepresented in leadership positions across academic health professions programs, pharmacy, and in health care overall. This is particularly true at the board and executive levels.1 For female pharmacists, this is not attributable to education attained, as they pursue postdoctoral education at a higher rate than men. However, their advanced education is often linked to pursuit of more specialized roles, which may hinder progression to higher-level leadership positions compared with those with greater experience in general management roles.

Women are more likely to be promoted from within than hired externally, 54% versus 46%, respectively, according to the results of a study conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.3

In pharmacy education, women are generally over- represented in entry-level faculty positions, such as assistant professors or instructors, and underrepresented in administrative and senior-level positions, such as associate professors, full professors, deans, or presidents.6 Over the last decade about half of pharmacy faculty members were women.7,8

The deficit of women in leadership positions perpetuates another barrier: the lack of mentors, role models, and sponsors for future female leaders.9 Other barriers can change over the course of an individual’s career. The most common barrier reported by women aged 20 to 29 is lack of self-confidence, whereas women aged 30 to 49 most commonly report family obligations or time constraints as their primary barrier.7 Additional challenges reported include insufficient career development and training, lack of consideration of women for leadership positions, sexual harassment, and women bullying women.3

Studies conducted across the globe have found that inclusion of women in business leadership significantly improves economic growth, financial performance, firm value, innovation, insolvency risk, philanthropy, and social responsiveness.10-13 Women also boost organizations’ collective intelligence.1

Companies with high numbers of female board members had greater return on equity, invested capital, and sales than companies with low numbers of women in the same positions.14

A critical mass of about 30% representation by women on boards correlates with corporate outperformance in various measures relative to performance at companies with boards composed mainly or only of men, according to McKinsey & Company.15


  • Chisholm-Burns MA, Spivey, CA, Hagemann T, Josephson MA. Women in leadership and the bewildering glass ceiling. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2017;74(5):312-324.doi:10.2146/ajhp160930
  • Schommer J, Doucette W, Witry M, et al.Pharmacist segments identified from 2009, 2014, and 2019 National Pharmacist Workforce surveys: implications for pharmacy organizations and personnel. 2020;8(2):49. doi:10.3390/pharmacy8020049
  • Shillingburg A, Michaud LB, Schwartz R, Anderson J, Henry DW. Women in oncology pharmacy leadership: a white paper. J Oncol Pharm Practice. 2020;26(1):175-186. doi:10.1177/1078155219874872
  • Fitzgerald J. Pharmacy and the evolution of a family-friendly evolution. National Bureau of Economic Research. October 2, 2020. Accessed October 2, 2020.
  • Carvajal MJ, Popovici I, Hardigan PC. Gender differences in the measurement of pharmacists’ job satisfaction. Hum Resour Health. 2018;16(1):33. doi: 10.1186/s12960-018-0297-5
  • Lennon T. Benchmarking women’s leadership in the United States. University of Denver Colorado Women’s College. Accessed October 2, 2020.
  • Hoover RM, Are A, Ludvigson K, Nguyen E. Trends in women’s authorship in pharmacy literature. J Am Pharm Assoc. 2019;59(3):356-360. doi:10.1016/j.japh.2019.02.001
  • Pharmacy faculty demographics and salaries reports. American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Accessed October 3, 2020.
  • 2020 annual report. American College of Healthcare Executives. Accessed October 3, 2020.
  • Desvaux G, Devillard-Hoellinger S, Baumgarten P. Women matter. Gender diversity, a corporate performance driver. October 1, 2007. Accessed October 3, 2020.
  • Nguyen H, Faff R. Impact of board size and board diversity on firm value: Australian evidence. Corp Ownership Control. 2006;4(2):24-32. doi:10.22495/cocv4i2p2
  • Hafsi T, Turgut G. Boardroom diversity and its effect on social performance: conceptualization and empirical evidence. J Bus Ethics.2012;112:463-479.
  • Torchia M, Calabró A, Huse M. Women directors on corporate boards: from tokenism to critical mass. J Bus Ethics. 2011;102:299-317. doi:10.1007/s10551-011-0815-z
  • Joy L, Wagner HM, Narayanan S. The bottom line: corporate performance and women’s representation on boards. Catalyst. October 15, 2007. Accessed September 20, 2020.
  • McKinsey & Company. Women in the workplace 2016. Accessed October 3, 2020.

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