Fair is fair. Or not.
According to the National Pharmacist Workforce study, pharmacy continues to be a female-dominated profession with close to two-thirds of pharmacists comprised of those identifying as women. It is one of a handful of professions where the earnings gap between men and women is the lowest, as earnings are more linearly related to hours worked and there is more flexibility with part-time and per diem employment. In fact, in 2021, women pharmacists earned 4 cents more per dollar than men.
Many contend women in particular have been attracted to pharmacy as a profession because it offers them an opportunity to combine a professional career with family.
As October is National Pharmacy Month and October 12 is Women Pharmacist Day, I would like to recognize the success of gender pay parity in pharmacy broadly, but highlight one area of pharmacy where there’s still work to be done: academic pharmacy.
The wage equality in community pharmacy contrasts sharply with the existing earnings gaps among female and racially minoritized pharmacy faculty. A recent analysis of gender and race found that negative salary gaps emerge for women after promotion from assistant professor. The gap (compared to white male colleagues) continues to widen after promotion, with a gap of -$20,419 at the associate professor level and -$37,495 at the CEO dean level.
The gender wage gap, coupled with lower rates of promotion, leadership advancement, and other inequities (such as child-rearing responsibilities, student evaluation biases, funding and publication biases, and disproportionate service efforts) continue to plague women in pharmacy academia. These significant inequalities persist despite their dominance in numbers within the profession as a whole.
Across all industries, women and minorities continue to experience pay inequalities. In a recent Pew Research Center analysis, women earned an average of 82% of what men earned in 2022. These results are similar to the pay gap 2 decades ago, when women earned 80% as much as what men earned in 2002.
Looking across racial and ethnic groups in the Pew analysis, the numbers are worse. Black women earn 70% and Hispanic women only 65% as much as white men. This slow place of change differs significantly from progress for women as a whole since the late 20th century: in 1982, women earned just 65 cents to each dollar earned by men. Women are making progress, but progress for women of color is limited.
To be sure, the gender gap varies by race to some extent because of differences in occupation, experience, and education. Research from 2018 shows hiring discrimination exists among various racial and ethnic groups, LGBTQIA+ people, and disabled workers. However, a 20-year stable wage gap is inexcusable and enormously burdensome for women of color, who experience the compounding challenges of both racism and sexism. This adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income over a lifetime. It is unfair, unjust, and illegal.
Many solutions exist to level the playing field. The National Women’s Law Center suggests strengthening equal pay laws, prohibiting pay set based on salary history, increasing pay transparency, increasing the availability of high-quality, affordable child care, and remedying caregiver discrimination and pregnancy discrimination.
Arguably, policy makers, healthcare providers, pharmacists, advocates, and leaders in academic institutions and professional organizations can raise awareness every day and work to remedy the injustices and inequitable environments that continue to exist for women and minorities.
Fair is fair.
Rosalyn Padiyara Vellurattil, PharmD, is assistant dean for academic affairs and clinical associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy, Systems, Outcomes, and Policy at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy, and a public voices fellow with The OpEd Project. She is the author of “Pharmacy Research: A How-To Guide for Students, Residents, and New Practitioners,” and lead editor of “A Pharmacist Parent’s Guide to Work-Life Balance.“