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April 15, 2016

Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women Pharmacy Leaders Changing Practice

Women in Pharmacy

ASHP created a Women in Pharmacy Leadership Steering Committee to help guide ASHP’s efforts in providing services and support for women pharmacists as they seek leadership positions.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a four-part series examining the growing number of women in pharmacy leadership and ASHP’s work to support them.

AS ONE OF THE MOST egalitarian careers available today, pharmacy is an attractive choice for many women. Professional opportunities to conduct direct patient care combined with flexible scheduling and six-figure salaries have drawn more and more women into the profession. In 2014, more than 60 percent of pharmacy students were female, and according to the 2014 National Pharmacist Workforce Study, there are now more licensed female pharmacists than male.

Recognizing the growing number of women in the profession, ASHP is preparing for the future of the pharmacy workforce by identifying and addressing barriers to female leadership.

“Clearly, we have a wonderful opportunity to tap existing and future talent in the field and help nurture our members into positions of leadership,” said Hannah Vanderpool, Pharm.D., M.A., ASHP’s vice president of member relations. “ASHP is committed to finding ways to bolster the career and professional aspirations of women pharmacists.”

The Leadership Gender Gap

The demographics of change are striking, and it’s not just in pharmacy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than three-quarters of the healthcare workforce are women. While they are well represented in mid-level healthcare management positions, women are extremely underrepresented in senior management and CEO-level positions. Although few studies have yet quantified the full scope of the under-representation of women in pharmacy leadership, one 2014 study of women in academic pharmacy found gender disparities in tenure, leadership positions, salary, and even awards.

Women often cite several factors that can block career advancement, including the need for better guidance and training to help them advance. To help step in that gap, ASHP held an online roundtable discussion in March 2015 called “Fostering Women Leaders in a Knowledge Café.”

Sharon Murphy Enright, B.S.Pharm., M.B.A.

Sharon Murphy Enright, B.S.Pharm., M.B.A.

Six well-known pharmacy leaders guided the conversation, addressing the nature and implications of the demographic and leadership shifts in pharmacy, the need to develop emerging leaders, and differences in gender leadership styles. The conversation was enlightening.

“Men and women lead very differently. Women tend to be more nurturing and better multi-taskers, but women also tend to disparage themselves more,” noted roundtable moderator Sharon Murphy Enright, B.S.Pharm, M.B.A., president of EnvisonChange, LLC, adding that men often seek advancement with full confidence that they are qualified or will quickly gain the skills and experience needed. According to Enright, women often underestimate their qualifications and hesitate before pursuing advancement opportunities because they may not feel 100 percent qualified and ready.

“Men have a different perspective about career evolution,” Enright continued. “We have some serious skill-building to do and attitude adjustments to make to ensure that women have the confidence to step up.”

Panel member and ASHP Past-President Sara White, M.S., FASHP, agrees. “We [women] are often our own worst enemies. We apologize ahead of time, we worry about our experience. Compared to men, we lack confidence. We need to make sure that women have the skill sets they need to be leaders.”

To jumpstart the process of building a new generation of female pharmacy leaders, ASHP held several live networking events at both its 2015 Conference for Pharmacy Leaders in Chicago and its 2015 Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition in New Orleans. The moderators at each conference—women pharmacy leaders—shared their own professional experiences and provided insights into ways to grow into leadership. The events served to connect younger women in the early stages of their careers with positive role models.

White_Sara perferred picture

ASHP Past-President Sara White, M.S., FASHP

In September 2015, ASHP convened a Women in Pharmacy Leadership Steering Committee, chaired by White, to examine opportunities for ASHP to address the professional and leadership development needs of women pharmacists.

“ASHP launched this committee because gender shifts and generational changes have a real potential to change the profession,” White said. “We need to cultivate a new generation of leaders at every level—clinical, administrative, academic pharmacy, and more. And to do that, we need a candid and thorough assessment of the needs that women pharmacists have and the opportunities for advancement.”

The Benefits of Sponsorship

One key issue that arose during committee discussions was the ongoing deficit of professional sponsors for women.

“Mentors are life planners. Coaches help with specific skills,” said White. “But sponsoring is when someone takes you under their wing, opens professional doors for you, and provides opportunities. Men are good at sponsoring each other. Women are excellent at mentoring, but we need more sponsors for women.”

Vanderpool concurs: “Sponsorship is a step above mentoring. You specifically recommend the person for leadership positions. You are their advocate. We need to encourage women to seek sponsors and to be sponsors.”

What are the next steps? ASHP has developed a new online Women in Pharmacy Leadership resource center and ASHP Connect Community and is guiding the steering committee’s continuing work. Formal recommendations from the committee will be forthcoming. In addition, special networking sessions for women leaders will be held at upcoming ASHP meetings.

“ASHP can be a catalyst for change in this new world of pharmacy,” said Vanderpool. “We must build awareness that, although women have different communication and leadership styles, they can add a lot to the profession. We need to support leadership in all forms, and ASHP is in a great position to help do just that.”

–By Ann W. Latner, JD

April 6, 2016

International Pharmacy Residency a Challenging, Inspiring Experience


Ishmael Qawiy, Pharm.D., BCACP

Editor’s Note: Author Ishmael Qawiy, Pharm.D., BCACP, is a public health resident with Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and Rutgers University.

ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING OPPORTUNITIES available to practitioners today is the chance to be a part of the evolution of pharmacists’ patient care roles in other countries.

I was lucky enough recently to do an international Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation & Rutgers University public health residency.

I wanted to improve public health and explore how economic and cultural factors impact health outcomes. Community-centered pharmacy, in particular, appealed to me because of its reliance on a comprehensive approach to tackling healthcare disparities.

Beginning in July 2015, I worked in sub-Saharan Africa for six months as part of the foundation’s Secure the Future initiative. This cross-cultural program is an immersive experience in which participants address health inequities by working with indigenous people and their healthcare systems.

A Professional Shift

I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, excited and optimistic about making my mark in community healthcare. After being trained on the position’s scope of work, I traveled to Ethiopia, Swaziland, and Lesotho to work with grantees who are trying to reduce the incidence of cancer in women and lower the transmission of HIV.

This residency posed quite a professional shift for me, as I had previously been more comfortable doing medication management and health education. But the work was particularly exciting given the new focus on chronic disease management generally, and oncology in particular, that is currently taking place in Africa.

Dr. Qawiy poses with nurse Birhanu Moges.

Dr. Qawiy poses with nurse Birhanu Moges.

I was lucky enough to be able to work directly with the leaders of several community-based health organizations, including the African Medical and Relief Foundation (AMREF) and the Mathiwos Wondu-Ye Ethiopian Cancer Society (MWECS). These groups are on the front lines of providing care to underserved populations throughout Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, I developed educational health materials for patients that were translated into the local language and distributed at community mobilization events. During my residency, I also created medication safety protocols and medication-handling procedures, and I developed an electronic patient database to collect and streamline reporting and improve operational efficiency.

The Reality of Healthcare in Developing Nations

During my time in Africa, I learned that it’s important to be realistic about the kinds of care you can provide when working in a developing nation with limited resources. For example, I found that standards of pharmacy practice vary from country to country. I also witnessed the fact that clinical and regulatory guidelines developed in the U.S. or in Europe weren’t well-suited for a low- or middle-income country with limited numbers of specialists and patient access to resources.

In Lesotho, for example, pharmacy technicians and nurses have the ability to dispense medications without the supervision of a pharmacist. This may raise some red flags in wealthier countries, but in low-resourced communities, building healthcare capacity by educating and training available personnel is often the most viable option. In many sub-Saharan countries, access to drugs — particularly, chemotherapy agents and pain medicines — is limited. Clearly, this negatively impacts patients’ quality of care and survivorship.

11809902_433888716818578_1803379262_nAs a public health resident, I worked on a number of different projects. For instance, I gave presentations to medical staff and hospital administrators on drug interactions and developed a framework for a drug and therapeutics committee.

I also helped create a protocol used to assess baseline awareness of cancer and met with officials with the local Ministries of Health to discuss their goals for combatting HIV and other communicable diseases.

The work was so inspiring because it made me challenge my own biases and begin to look at the world through a more culturally sensitive lens.

The Vital Role of Pharmacists

It’s important to know that if you choose to do a public health residency such as this one, it can be both professionally gratifying and emotionally taxing. During my time in Africa, I saw that health disparities can be systemic and embedded deeply in a society’s very fabric due to failed health policies, poor governance, or both. Creating equity in healthcare requires contributions from every part of society, including policymakers, healthcare providers, and the community.

I was fortunate during my residency to meet people from different walks of life and enjoy the local culture. I also found that pharmacists can contribute in significant ways to ensuring that the disadvantaged receive appropriate healthcare. Now that I’m back in the United States, I look forward to using this life-changing residency experience to explore the difference I can make in the lives of my patients.

–By Ishmael Qawiy, Pharm.D., BCACP

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