It has been over 170 years since the signing of the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments at the Seneca Falls Convention, a key moment in the gender equality movement. Although significant strides have been made since 1848 to encourage equal rights for women, gender inequality remains an issue in many facets of our society, including in healthcare and the profession of pharmacy. Policy changes and grassroots movements to change societal beliefs are needed for change to occur at every level, including within our profession.
Gender Inequality in Pharmacy
According to the 2013 “Women in Healthcare” report, women make up the majority of the healthcare workforce, but they only hold 19% of hospital CEO positions and lead only 4% of healthcare companies. Unlike many other health care professions, there are nearly equal numbers of males and females practicing as pharmacists. When we take a look at the leaders of the 13 organizations that comprise the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners (JCPP), we find seven women at the helm of these organizations. Indeed, some of these organizations, such as American Pharmacists Association Foundation and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, have developed resources and events to promote women in pharmacy and leadership.
Although there is an equal representation of females within the profession of pharmacy, gender inequality does still exist. Within academic pharmacy, men are more likely to be tenured or in tenure-track positions, and serve in school and college leadership positions. Additionally, aligned with the national average, in 2019 women pharmacists earned $0.84 for every $1 earned by men.
Recognizing the detrimental effects of gender inequality in pharmacy, the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) included addressing these inequities as a primary objective in their Workforce Development Goals for the profession of pharmacy. However, more action must be taken by national pharmacy organizations, employers, and academic institutions to close the gaps caused by these gender inequalities.
Past, Present, and Future: The Equal Rights Amendment
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), passed by Congress with bipartisan support in 1972, was proposed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens, regardless of sex. In order for the amendment to become part of the United States constitution, it must be ratified by three-fourths (or 38 out of 50) of the states. It wasn’t until January 2020 that Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA. In order for the ERA to be enacted, Congress must vote to eliminate the deadline originally included when this legislation was passed.
The ERA is essential to address sex discrimination in the United States. In addition to improving women’s rights in the workplace, including equal earnings and access to all careers and levels of leadership, it could also prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This not only matters for our professional careers, but also for the well-being of our patients. Learn more about how to be an effective advocate for the ERA and ways to share your advocacy stories here.
What else can I do to help eliminate these gaps?
We don’t need to tell you how toxic it is to our entire system when any person known for sexism and sexual misconduct is in a position of power (if you haven’t already, be sure to register to vote!). In addition to electing qualified officials and advocating for policy changes, there are other ways we can all make an impact on gender inequality.
In 2010, the U.K. passed an Equality Act, requiring equal pay for men in women in the same job. Despite this significant stride, a gap in earnings remained as more men served in senior leadership roles. Continued grassroots efforts to change societal beliefs are necessary. According to a 2019 Forbes article, four key aspects should be focused on to overcome gender bias in order to address this systemic issue: awareness, attitude, analysis, and systemic change.
- Awareness: recognize our own biases and how these biases affect our daily decisions and actions. Try taking the Implicit Association Test.
- Attitude: break gender stereotypes and allow everyone the freedom to pursue roles best suited for them.
- Analysis: continuously collect data on our organizations to determine where efforts should be focused.
- Systemic change: create systems designed to eliminate bias. From policy changes, such as assessing candidates for new positions in a gender-blind fashion, to ensuring equal participation from men and women in meetings, changing the systems is key to creating real change.
Inequality between men and women affects each one of us, and thus can impact our patients. We must all work together to close this gap, not only to ensure equality between male and female pharmacists, but also to eliminate discrimination and burden for those that we care for. Although policy change is essential, changes in our behaviors and attitudes will serve as a catalyst to overcoming this barrier and ensuring equality for all humans.