Working together to advance women as leaders in pharmacy

By Debbie Weitzman, President – Pharmaceutical Distribution, Cardinal Health

I’m so pleased to support Women in Pharmacy Day 2020. As a female leader in healthcare, I know first-hand how important it is to support women and encourage them to fill leadership roles. Throughout my 25-year career, I received encouragement and guidance from countless people along the way that empowered me to build my career, and I have the opportunity to thank those people by encouraging the next generation of women to further their careers.

With women now comprising more than 60 percent of those entering the profession, there has been outstanding progress made in creating a more diverse and inclusive pharmacy workforce. According to the 2019 National Pharmacist Workforce Study, nearly 60 percent of pharmacists in management positions are women. There has also been growth in the diversity of the pharmacy workforce – the number of pharmacists of color increased 46 percent from 2014-2019, and the number of black pharmacists more than doubled during that time. [1]

While much progress has been made toward a more inclusive pharmacy workforce, there is still work to be done. Only one of the top 10 retail pharmacy chains in the US is led by a woman (Heyward Donigan, CEO of Rite Aid) and more than 70 percent of community pharmacies are owned by men. [2] The 2019 National Pharmacist Workforce Study also reported that 31 percent of pharmacists surveyed experienced discrimination, with gender discrimination being cited as one of the most common occurrences. More than 15 percent of pharmacists surveyed reported hearing demeaning comments related to race or ethnicity [3].

Studies have shown that culturally competent care – acknowledging a patient’s heritage, beliefs and values during treatment – often leads to improved outcomes. [4] Having a pharmacy workforce that is diverse as the patients it serves can only strengthen the role of pharmacists as trusted community healthcare providers. In order to achieve this, we need to provide spaces for female pharmacists to connect, share best practices and develop their skills, such as the Cardinal Health Women in Pharmacy program, a nationwide, grassroots initiative that connects female pharmacists with the tools and resources needed to become owners and entrepreneurs, and the Pharmacy Moms Group, the official pharmacist advocacy organization for women in the United States. When we work together to advance women as leaders in pharmacy and devote the resources needed to achieve greater inclusivity and representation, we can improve the health of our communities.