The Most Egalitarian of All Professions


A pair of Harvard economists crunched the numbers and found that pharmacy is the most egalitarian profession in terms of relative pay for men and women.

If you have ever attended an APhA annual meeting, you will undoubtedly remember the ribbons trailing down from attendees’ name badges. There appears to be a competition to collect as many of these ribbons as possible, with some people boasting more than 10. One that I have noticed for many years is a pink ribbon stating “Pharmacy Girls Rock.” While I have never personally worn one or talked to anyone about its meaning, I have always wondered about the people who distribute and wear it.

While I am not sure I have found the answer, I did think about it during the recent national discussion on equal pay for equal work. It was reported that, on average, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. While this fact is distressing and worthy of rectifying, further research on the topic reveals some interesting nuances.

A 2012 report by Harvard University economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, based upon data from the American Community Survey, contained a more detailed analysis of relative earnings for men and women across different professions. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Goldin and Katz found that women earned 88 cents for every dollar men earned when comparing those who have a 40-hour work week. When they evaluated the data for a range of different professions, they concluded that female pharmacists make 92% of what male pharmacists make. On this basis, Goldin and Katz referred to pharmacy as the most egalitarian profession.

I felt honored and proud to have this title bestowed on us. Pharmacy has become a profession where more women than men are getting licensed each year. It is important that we have no differentiation in how we treat anyone, whether in terms of schedule, salary, or opportunity for advancement. I am pleased to identify myself as a pharmacist based upon the economists’ findings.

With that said, I do want to point out some issues that could be troubling for our profession in the future. We cannot rest on our laurels and need to be proactive in preparing for what will come.

  • While health care is starting to treat all days the same, there are still fewer workers present on evenings and weekends in most hospitals. The changes to health care financing and a society that increasingly expects services to be provided when needed are creating a need to offer all health care services every day of the week. This means that a health system will need to provide the same range of preventive services and elective procedures on a Saturday that it does on a Friday. As this change occurs, it will require major shifts in how pharmacy departments schedule their employees, and the impact will be felt by everyone on their staffs.
  • Health-system pharmacists cannot develop an employee mentality. With health systems growing in size and complexity, it is easy for individual pharmacists to settle into shift work and leave professional advancement to their employer. This could have a negative long-term impact on the future role of pharmacists and limit our ability to attain collective professional ambitions such gaining provider status.
  • Those occupying senior leadership positions in pharmacy should represent the gender diversity of our profession. Not only is it important to be egalitarian in our pay, we also need to have the same balance in our senior leadership teams. This is critical if we want to serve as a model of egalitarianism to other professions.

I have come to the conclusion that indeed, Pharmacy Girls Rock, and I might even wear one of those pink ribbons at future APhA meetings. I would appreciate any insights you might have on this perspective. You can let me know what you think by email at

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