Women in Pharmacy: A Look Back
To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re looking at the achievements of women in pharmacy.
In 1988, Drug Topics reported on the state of women in pharmacy. The article provides an interesting insight into the progress women have made and shows how far we’ve come today—even if, as we said back then, there is still a “long, hard climb.”
The article begins on a positive note: “You’ve come a long way!” it shouts. “Women have come into their own in pharmacy. In 1985, they tipped the scales, becoming a majority of pharmacy school graduates at just under 52%,” citing research from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). “Last year , 55% of all graduates were women, and today, women represent 59% of pharmacy students.”
The article then goes on to highlight some of the recent major accomplishments. Dean Adelaide Thomas became the first woman dean of an American school of pharmacy in 1988. Lambda Kappa Sigma—a fraternity for women pharmacists—celebrated its 75th anniversary. (The group now has more than 25,000 members.) Clearly, things had improved since Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi, generally considered the first American female pharmacist, graduated from the New York College of Pharmacy in 1863, although she is better known now as a physician.
However, the 1988 article also highlighted the work still needed. “Last year, 57% of bachelors’ awardees were women but only 32% of Pharm.D. diplomates. And this year, women make up only 17% of all pharmacy faculty.” The APhA planned to provide programs to address these issues, but added that it would not be easy. “There is a surprising amount of resistance to woman pharmacists,” the article says. The article gave examples of stories of women being accused of “degrading the profession,” and the struggle for female pharmacists to find full time work, along with a host of other prejudices.
Today, the numbers seem more promising. The 2014 National Pharmacist Workforce Survey released by Pharmacy Workforce Center, Inc. found that more women than men were practicing pharmacy or working in a pharmacy-related career, 83.9% versus 65.2%, respectively. The 2016 National Technician Workforce Study found that 85.4% of pharmacy technicians are women. According to the AACP, “Of the total number of students enrolled in first professional degree programs for fall 2015, 61.4% were women.”
But even though places like CNN have declared the pharmacist as the “Most equal job for men and women,” there is still more of that hill to climb. A more recent Drug Topics article from 2015 reported on a webinar discussing the role of women in pharmacy and the work that still needed to be done. The panelists found that the greatest obstacle facing women in pharmacies was possibly the “reluctance to pursue advancement as well as resistance from others.” In the webinar, 76% of the attendees said they had experienced gender bias at their jobs.
So what should be done to combat this problem? The webinar concluded that women need to be encouraged and motivated to achieve their full potential in the workplace.
But at least one thing is the same today as it was in 1988: “Women’s place in pharmacy is assured.” Here’s hoping for a future that continues to become more inclusive.