Pharmacist: Most Equal Job For Men And Women

pharmacist jobsBy Annalyn Kurtz

NEW YORK -- Doctors are still mostly men, and nurses are almost all women. But pharmacists are another story.

Pharmacy is a fast-growing profession offering a six-figure salary -- and the pay is nearly equal for men and women.
"The position of pharmacist is probably the most egalitarian of all U.S. professions today," Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz wrote in a paper on the subject they published in September. Women make up slightly more than 50 percent of all full-time pharmacists, according to Census data collected in 2011. Once you factor in part-timers, they make up around 55 percent of the profession.

Full-time female pharmacists earned a median salary of $111,000 in 2011, about 92 cents to the dollar of their male counterparts.

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Yes, there's a small pay gap there, but it can be almost entirely explained by some men working longer hours -- not discrimination.

"Women with children earn less largely because they work fewer hours," Goldin and Katz said in their paper.

It wasn't always this way. Fifty years ago, women made up only about 8 percent of all pharmacists. What changed?

Your corner drugstore. The pharmacist profession was once dominated by men who owned small stores, but the rise of drug store chains Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid greatly increased job opportunities for women in the field.

A pharmacist no longer had to juggle the responsibilities and long hours of owning a small business. Chain stores offered fewer barriers to entry and more flexible work schedules.

"In the 1950s and 1960s, before the real cultural revolution for women, independent pharmacy owners were a little reluctant to hire women," said Lucinda Maine, CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. "It was just purely, 'you're not big enough to lift these boxes' or 'we're worried about you closing a store at night.'"

Then came the chains ... with longer hours and bigger staffs.

"By the time we got to the 1980s, half of the graduating class was women, and the industry needed them," she said.

The field's professional associations also made an effort to reach out. The American Pharmacists' Association elected its first female president in 1979 and marketed the fact that a woman could have flexibility -- to work part-time, for example, if she wanted to raise a family.

"That was really the magnet," said Maine, who enrolled in pharmacy school at the time. "I can be a health professional. It's a reasonable length of study. The job itself is in a clean, professional environment, and I have some work-life flexibility."

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Decades later, that work-life balance still attracts women to the job. Mandee Pierce, 30, is a Walgreens pharmacist in Manhattan. After taking off for a few months on maternity leave, she'll soon be heading back to work with a part-time schedule.

Pharmacy colleges, which used to require five years of study, reached an equal number of male and female grads around 1984. By comparison, nursing schools have always been dominated by women, and med schools didn't reach gender parity until 2008.

The pharmacy degree is now a six-year professional doctorate program that students can enter straight out of high school. The field's high pay is a selling point.

"For me personally, an important thing was a good return on investment," Pierce said. "In pharmacy you can count on making a good living."

Unlike other "feminized" professions, pharmacist wages have increased even as women entered the field. It avoided the "pink-collar" curse.

"Competition, and a shortage of pharmacists, came into play," Maine said.

She points to the early 2000s, when Walgreens alone was adding a new store nearly every 17 hours. The chain would sometimes hire nearly half of all new pharmacy grads nationwide, she said.

The boom is still going: The Labor Department expects the field to grow 25 percent between 2010 and 2020, adding about 225,000 jobs. Pharmacists are taking on more clinical roles, like administering immunizations, blood pressure screenings and medication management programs.

"Most people thought of pharmacists as the person behind the counter, counting pills from a big bottle to a small bottle," Maine said. "That never was a very accurate depiction, and is especially inaccurate now. All of our new grads are trained to offer many services."

How to Become a Pharmacist

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Most women DO NOT want to do "EQUAL work" for equal pay.Instead they want to be paid more for the jobs that they like to do. All iron workers that frame skyscrapers get the same hourly wag, all roofers get the same hourly wage, all tractor trailer drivers get the same wage ___yet few few women want such jobs.

February 18 2013 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Working in a large chain store as a pharmacist is debilitating. Common are 13-14 hour shifts, no breaks (as there is only one pharmacist so they can't close the counter for a lunch or rest break), company pressure to process one prescription every two minutes, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome from opening and closing 200-300 Child proof bottles per day and the list goes on. Meanwhile new pharmacists are graduating with $150,000 or more in student debt so they can't complain or speak out.
Yes, it's a well paying job but the large chains have taken all patient care and consultation out of the equation and expect a trained professional to be a robot processing prescriptions without ever slowing down to actually consult with a patient.

February 16 2013 at 8:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sailronin's comment

That happens everywhere. Nurses, teachers, cashiers -- pick a job, any job, and you'll see quality is DEMANDED in addition to quantity. CEO's don't care...they want their money and want it at any cost. Ask a bedside nurse what the worst part of the job is and most of the time they won't say co-workers or terrible patients, they'll say administration that wants 3 things out of the hospital: MONEY, MONEY, and MONEY. Quality healthcare? Yeah, okay, only if that quality = MORE MONEY for CEO's and less money for staff.

February 18 2013 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

More women should go into mining, construction and heavy industrial work. That might help raise women's pay (after all dangerous work usually pays more) and, at the same time, would help narrow the ENORMOUS GENDER GAP virtually ignored by the news media and politicians: men account for 92% of workplace fatalities; women account for 8% of workplace fatalities. Why does that gender gap, which is so large, get so little attention? Could it possibly be cultural sexism?

February 15 2013 at 9:32 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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