Women in Leadership for Healthcare and Pharmacy: A 2020 Update

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Disclosure: there are paywall white paper references below.

I wish I had better news here, but…sharing it is better than not.

Just over a year ago, I gave an update at Cardinal Health’s RBC on Pharmacy, Women, and Leadership. It feels like a decade ago now, but I dug out my slides and have all along been updating the Who’s at the Helm of Healthcare and Pharmacy? data sets. Below, I’m going to show you some results from that presentation, and share some actionable items for your consideration if you feel as I do that women still have an unequal shot at the C suite.

The data presented in July 2019 still needed some major improvements, and I’m sorry to report that the pandemic has not helped. Women in academia are publishing less now, moms are dropping out of the workforce to take care of their families during the pandemic, and we’re not gaining pay equity either.

I’m sharing this in the spirit of transparency and process improvement — the only way we can improve is by moving the spotlight over to the problem.

Women Are Decisionmakers in Healthcare

First, if you don’t think women are important to the healthcare decisions out there, consider this:

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The bottom line: Women make the majority of healthcare decisions in the US. They also control the purse strings.

Women Have Been the Majority of the Profession of Pharmacy for 35 Years

Next, I believed in the past that pharmacy was one of the most egalitarian professions out there — in that women were/are nearly paid what men are. But, this data does not support this notion. (No, I have not looked at the latest data on this — to be fair, but I can’t imagine it is improving:)

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Someone joked online that gender reveal parties should involve handing out wallets — $1 with boys coming, and $0.72 in the wallet to reveal a girl. I guess if the parents are pharmacists, they can toss an extra dime and penny in…? Still, we’re slipping on the gender pay equity issue — and no, pharmacy sadly is not egalitarian as I once thought.

Women-Ran Orgs Are More Profitable

Next, I’m going to share from the investor’s standpoint why we need to fix this problem: PROFIT. Women at the helms of organizations make the org MORE MONEY:

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I know everyone is nervously watching the stock market right now. Maybe a factor in that is how many women are actually running the orgs you’re invested in?

Yet Women Healthcare Leaders are Declining

And meanwhile…healthcare and pharmacy are decreasing the # of women in the helms of organizations (again, this data was up to date as of July 2019). (Also, for the pharmacists out there, I updated the awards for women pharmacists and posted that grid recently in the Pharmacy MTMS group on LinkedIn.)

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Why Aren’t Women Making it to the Healthcare C-Suites?

Finally — I’m going to set the record straight and provide a list of why I think women aren’t getting to the tops of pharmacy and healthcare organizations. I’m certain there are even more ideas than this which could play roles inside women not getting to the tops of their healthcare and pharmacy organizations:

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I could spend a series of posts or even a book for all of these reasons. But, I would say of any of these factors, #9 has probably increased in terms of a barrier holding many women back right now, in that they are caring for their families now more than ever, making the family a priority (which it obviously should be.)

What To Do About It: Taking Action

If I’ve convinced you there still is a problem (and there really is), here are two items for your consideration available right now to support women leaders in healthcare and pharmacy if you want to take action:

  1. Please consider signing the petition from Change.org on recognizing more women in clinical pharmacy leadership and gender equality. Here is the petition: https://www.change.org/p/end-gender-inequality-in-clinical-pharmacy?redirect=false.
  2. Please consider nominating a woman pharmacist of the year for the Women Pharmacist Day coming up on October 12, 2020. The last day to nominate is Sept 15. Here is the nomination form along with the criteria for the award: https://womenpharmacistday.com/women-pharmacist-year-award/.

Ladies, we’ve been the majority of the profession of pharmacy since 1985. That’s 35 years ago. It’s beyond time for us to step up and lead — even when the world is against us. Do everything you can to support one another right now. It’s the only way we’re going to move the needle and achieve parity within the profession. Gentlemen, we need you to step up and continue to support women mentees as well. Gender should not matter when it comes to leadership — however, the data does not support we’re even at gender parity, and for a profession that has been dominated by women over the past 3 decades, it’s beyond time to take action and at least get us to parity as the population is of 50/50.

#pharmacy #womeninpharmacy #pharmacyleadership #womenpharmacyleaders #women #leadership #clinicalpharmacy #pharmacistCEO


Dr. Erin Albert is a pharmacist, attorney, writer, preceptor, and pharmacy benefit practice lead at Apex Benefits. Opinions are her own in this article.

Pharmacist, author, lawyer, entrepreneur and The Edutainer Podcast Producer. Opining is my own. www.erinalbert.com

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