First, this post is going to be long. Sorry.
Second, I don’t typically write about pharmacy and healthcare stuff a lot here. Furthermore, I don’t like bashing my first profession of pharmacy. However, I got into a written battle over at LinkedIn this week on a post where I asked in a group, “Where are all the women leaders in pharmacy?” I kept getting told (by men) that there were plenty of women in healthcare leadership, and many of them were managed by women.
One item pharmacy as a profession in particular LOVES to tout (particularly being in STEM) is that it has a lot of women within the profession. We average 60% women graduating pretty much across the board in pharmacy schools every year vs. 40% men. And, it’s been that way ever since 1985, according to an article published in AJPE. Considering the STEM crisis with women right now, you’d think at first glance these stats were awesome, and that pharmacy was way ahead of other STEM professions when it comes to gender equity, particularly in leadership roles.
Not so fast.
When you go up to the C suite to look at the leaders of pharmacy or healthcare, however, it is striking. So, I conducted a super unscientific search of healthcare and pharmacy heads utilizing…Google. (And for the record, some sites did a far better job of revealing their heads than others…it was next to impossible to find some of these!)
Literally, after looking at the demographics, if aliens landed on the planet and only talked to the heads of pharmacy and healthcare organizations, they’d swear that women were rare anomalies on the planet. (Hint: we’re 53% of the population.) And, this is so bad, that I kept going across types of organizations involved in pharmacy to try and find some good news! Sadly, I don’t have much.
Ready to see how striking this is? (I’m about to color stereotype with pink and blue for a moment, forgive me, but you have to see how striking this really is.) Here are the top 15 community practice pharmacy chains in 2014, and who is heading them, followed by the percentage in the category of women:
Not good. OK, what about Specialty Pharmacy in 2014?
Let’s try again. How about 2014 Top Pharmacy Wholesalers?
Next up, the 2015 Top 10 largest For Profit Health Systems in the US?
Still seeing a LOT o’ blue. Next up, let’s try Largest health systems, but NOT for profit:
Blue. Blue. Blue. (Granted, I don’t have Chief of Pharmacy listed in either of these, but finding the CEO was hard enough! ASHP is working on this problem, which is good.)
OK, let’s shift gears and try top 10 largest Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs):
Jeez! What about the top 15 Pharmaceutical Companies in 2014?
Is anyone else seeing a pattern here, and why the aliens would be totally confused if they spoke with the heads of healthcare coming in from a different planet? I sure do! What about Contract Clinical Research Organizations (CROs)?
We’ve got to turn this ship around! How about large, national pharmacy associations?
What about Deans at schools of pharmacy in 2013?
And State Pharmacy Associations heads?
Let’s bring in the consultants here for a minute – largest healthcare consulting firms?
The pink lettering above didn’t show up very well, but Bain has a Chairwoman of their board, which I normally didn’t include, but I figured at this point, we’d take all the women we could get. (And, I will reserve my comments about women from Mitt’s binders here, I’m proud that he’s got a Chairwoman!)
And then, let’s get tecky – what about the big electronic medical record (EMR) software companies?
And, my unscientific study would be remiss without a “Misc.” category in healthcare:
OK, the best we can do in categories, ladies, is 38% of women at heads of state pharmacy associations. Great! (Yay, ladies!), But unfortunately it is still nowhere near the ratio of 60/40 for women graduating from pharmacy schools. Ladies and gents, I’m not going off the deep end here, yet. We’ve still got a LONG way to go to achieve anything toward 50/50, let alone 60/40 like graduation ratios have been and currently are in schools of pharmacy.
Friends, I really don’t care what profession you’re in, but considering women in this country make most of the purchasing decisions in the household, and that women usually end up managing a family’s healthcare, these numbers just aren’t adding up. We all should care about healthcare. If you’re a parent, this is going to be pretty hard to explain to your daughters, if not downright embarrassing. This is an epic problem. And until we get it fixed, I fear that healthcare will continue to be the hot mess that it is… Let’s fix this by:
- Acknowledging that this is a problem. Even being aware of it is the best way to start! Here are my slides on this topic, download and use them to spread the word!
- Hiring more women at the helm of these organizations!
- Let’s help women start their OWN healthcare companies by supporting and FUNDING them.
- Please watch this video, and/or
- take some unconscious bias training. Even being aware that there’s a problem here is a great first step.
Until we fix this huge problem, the aliens will remain confused…and so will I.