Women in Pharmacy: Female Industry Leaders Weigh in on Pharmacy Ownership


On the first National Women Pharmacists Day, top voices in the field discuss how women are helping to shape the future of pharmacy.

In recognition of the first National Women Pharmacists Day today, October 12, Specialty Pharmacy Times conducted an interview with female pharmacy leaders and a pharmacy student to hear their unique perspectives on the state of the industry, as well as challenges and opportunities in store ownership.

Q: Why is now an exciting time for women in pharmacy?

A: Jennifer Zilka, group vice president of Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s field programs and services

This is truly an exciting time for women in pharmacy. Although it has typically been perceived as a very male-dominated industry, we are seeing more women pursue a career in pharmacy. For instance, more than half of pharmacy students today are women.

However, the percentage of women pharmacy owners still lags behind the percentage of male owners. As the industry continues to evolve, we need to offer female pharmacists support and resources to help them grow. Mentorship is an important aspect of that. At Good Neighbor Pharmacy, we want to help pharmacists connect and share information and experiences.

We also want to create a forum where women can seek advice, learn from one another and find ownership opportunities. It’s a priority for us and something we think is very needed in the industry.

Q: What are the challenges and opportunities for aspiring female pharmacy owners?

A: Melynda Munden, owner of Hemmingsen Drug Store in Marshall, MI

One challenge that female pharmacy owners—and all pharmacy owners for that matter—may not be prepared for is the business side of ownership. Pharmacy school does not prepare you for day-to-day business operations. It is important to find a partner that can walk you through administrative tasks, such as employee management, running staff meetings, developing policies, etc.

On the other hand, one thing that female pharmacy owners should be excited about is the overwhelming opportunity that exists for them at this moment in time. Today, pharmacies are uniquely positioned to become go-to health care destinations in their communities.

In this position, we can create programs that have a tangible local impact. For example, since we opened our pharmacy 2 and a half years ago, we created a program where we give away blood glucose meters and test strips to all customers with diabetes. We weren’t grandfathered into Medicare billing for [diabetic macular edema], but we knew we had to help these patients.

A giveaway program was one way we knew we could step in, foster relationships with patients, and ensure patients are testing their blood sugar on a regular basis. It’s a popular program and a huge benefit to our diabetic patients.

Q: How can female pharmacy owners achieve work-life balance?

A: Deirdre Myers, pharmacy instructor at Ohio Northern University

When I chat with my students about the idea of ownership, the elephant in the room is always work-life balance. And the question “will I be able to raise a family?” often arises. Work-life balance is inherently challenging for owners, but ownership is possible and manageable through collaboration.

For some owners, collaboration can come in a variety of ways, whether it is co-ownership where an owner is able to share responsibility with someone else or co-parenting for owners with children. Creating a personal or professional structure that works for you will create balance so you can thrive in business and at home.

Ultimately, work-life balance is something that must be prioritized. You’ve got to figure out how to make it happen for yourself. Taking the time to understand your priorities, support team, schedule and what balance means to you will help you develop a plan.

Q: What perceptions about pharmacy ownership exist for your peers and what factors should pharmacy students consider?

A: Jessica Satterfield, pharmacy student at the University of Iowa

We continue to see an increasing number of women pursue a career in pharmacy, which is really encouraging, especially considering this was once a male-dominated field. However, many female students choose to pursue careers as clinical pharmacists, so the number of female pharmacy owners still lags the number of male pharmacy owners. I think many factors contribute to that trend, but one critical element is the lack of information about, and exposure to, pharmacy ownership. As a student, you don’t see or interact with many pharmacy owners, so it can be difficult to consider that route, especially when you hear about the challenges of running your own business.

Whether it’s at pharmacy school or through a summer program, it’s critical to increase students’ exposure to pharmacy owners and ownership activities. Students should seek programs or mentorships that help them better understand how to open and operate a business, including learning how to manage financials, develop employees, and drive profitability—all while delivering high-quality, personalized health care.

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