Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Impact of a Gender Shift on a Profession: Women in Pharmacy

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

The Impact of a Gender Shift on a Profession: Women in Pharmacy

Article excerpt


The face of pharmacy is changing as more women make up the ranks of the pharmacy profession. Women have been graduating from colleges and schools of pharmacy at a higher rate than men for over 20 years and men are retiring at a faster rate than women. These two trends combined have resulted in a practicing profession comprised of a greater percentage of women. Workforce shortages have been reported for nine years and are forecasted to continue for the next five to ten years. The impact of the gender shift offers threats and opportunities for a healthcare profession at the forefront of patient access. Threats resulting from this gender shift have been proposed resulting in decreased pharmacy ownership, diminished political advocacy, and decreased academic leadership.

However, with this gender shift the potential for transformational changes in the profession are in full view. The evolution of the practice to one that is more based in the provision of cognitive services through the delivery of direct patient care may offer advantages to new practitioners. Some data indicate that women have a greater interest in the direct patient care aspects of their practice over that of their male counterparts. In addition, as more women enter the practice and advance into leadership roles the traditional views of girls and young women will change. Finally, policy changes are more likely to occur to facilitate and support women in the profession. Rethinking traditional models and infusing change through innovative policies can propel the impact of this gender shift down a positive path resulting in increased job satisfaction and advancement of the profession.


Over the last two decades, a gender shift has occurred within the practice of pharmacy. A profession that was once dominated by men has become a profession that has increasingly attracted women into its fold. The changing demographics of the profession have significant implications for the potential impact on the workforce shortage. It has been suggested that women will be less likely to work full-time, and that this may negatively impact the number of professionals willing to own and operate their own stores, serve in management roles, and be involved in organizations that lead change within the profession. The impact of females within the profession and their responsibilities at home should be addressed in ways that prevent stifling of their professional careers. Policies should be implemented that facilitate flexible schedules without hindering advancement, that acknowledge the importance of involving new practitioners in professional association leadership, that encourage innovation in the practice setting, and that facilitate leadership development and political advocacy.

Gender Changes in the Workforce

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy reports that the number of students receiving their first professional degree in pharmacy consisted of 2781 men (40%) in 1989-90, as compared to 4175 women (60%). (AACP website) By 2003-04, women made up 67% of students receiving their first professional degree in pharmacy. These numbers have seen similar trends in other countries. In a workforce update based on the 2005 Register of Pharmaceutical Chemists in Great Britain, 24,845 (54.7%) of pharmacists were female. (Hassell and Eden 2006) Interestingly, the number of female pharmacists entering the profession was 1,569 out of 2,399 (65.4%) while the number of female pharmacists leaving the profession was lower than that of their male counterparts 1,490 out of 3,345 (44.5%).

The numbers also reflect that female pharmacists are generally younger than their male counterparts, with 54.8% of females under the age of 40 compared to 37.5% of men under the age of 40. (Hassell and Eden 2006) The trend of having increased numbers of female pharmacists as a proportion of the total has heightened concerns regarding the impact that female pharmacists may have on a potential workforce shortage if female pharmacists are more likely to work part-time or to work less years over the course of a life time than male pharmacists. …

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