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Who’s at the Helm of Healthcare?: A Focus on Deans at US Schools of Pharmacy

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 9.18.02 AMThis week, the academic pharmacists are meeting for the annual summer meeting of AACP, or the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. So, I thought it might be fitting to post about where we are in terms of gender and leadership at schools of pharmacy again.

First off, when people argue with me about STEM professions overall, and state that there aren’t many women at the helms of STEM organizations because most women opt out of said STEM professions, I always return to pharmacy to refute the argument. Simply because pharmacy, as a profession, since the 1980s, has historically and continues to attract more women than men into the profession, and has for several decades. Historically, 60-70% of pharmacy students are women.

However, when you look at leadership–the very tippy top of pharmacy schools in this case–at the Dean position–that majority disappears. It actually flips, in that 25% of women are running schools of pharmacy as deans, and 75% are men! I went over to ACPE, the pharmacy school accrediting body today, to check the stats again. Despite the fact that ACPE updated its website of accredited programs and actually made it harder to go through the schools to see who’s at the helm, here’s my analysis:

Clearly, women still aren’t running the US schools of pharmacy. (Also, and candidly, I find it interesting that many pharmacy programs are ran by people who are not pharmacists. How can you run a program if you’ve never worked the bench as a pharmacist? I don’t understand this, but I digress.)

Here’s my point with this post: even though pharmacy as a STEM profession attracts more women, there are not more women at the helm of US pharmacy schools (and most of healthcare, as I’ve previously shared). We’re not even at parity – not event close, and we are actually backtracking again.

If we really want gender parity, particularly in leadership positions and in STEM, we’re going to have to keep banging on this drum, ladies and gentlemen. My plea: I hope the 35 women deans in US accredited schools of pharmacy are getting together at AACP this week and having a frank discussion about how to solve this problem – because it is a problem. And while I’m on my soapbox, my challenge to the Council of Deans at AACP: put in writing that you’re going to fix this by striving to attain 50/50 gender parity in pharmacy school dean roles by 2020. That shouldn’t be too hard to do considering the majority of pharmacists are women. And, if you get pushback on workload, try what one school of pharmacy does: have co-deans.

For all the reasons in the literature and then some – we have to have diversity in leadership in order to make programs stronger, more creative, and yes, even more profitable. While a lot of pharmacy schools are non-profit, they can still benefit by improving their programs with more revenue if they are attracting more students and higher quality students–to improve research and programming for students, who in turn can graduate and better serve their patients.

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