Celebrating Women in Pharmacy Oct. 12

Every year on Oct. 12, the pharmacy community celebrates female pharmacists across the U.S. for Women Pharmacist Day. Established several years ago by the Pharmacists Moms Facebook group, the day helps bring awareness to the growing influence women have in the pharmacy industry.

According to the #WomenPharmacistDay website, Oct. 12 was chosen because October is American Pharmacists Month and the first recognized U.S. female pharmacist, Elizabeth Gooking Greenleaf was the mother of 12 children. Yep. 12.

Not only was she a mother of 12, but she is considered the mother of pharmacy too.

Elizabeth was the wife of Harvard educated physician Daniel Greenleaf and began her pharmaceutical career by assisting her husband in preparing medications for his patients.

In 1727, she took the brave step to move to Boston to establish her own apothecary. She was the only female among 32 New England apothecaries in the early 1700s.(1)

Her husband soon followed, and they spent the rest of their lives running the apothecary together until her death in 1762.

The growth of women in pharmacy

Despite Elizabeth’s pioneering efforts, it took more than 100 years before the first woman, Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi, MD, graduated from a school of pharmacy in the U.S. (in 1863, amid the Civil War.)

Today, the number of female graduates from U.S. pharmacy schools has surpassed the number of male graduates.(2,3)

Though women make up 59.6% of pharmacists, they own less than one-third of independent pharmacies.(4,5)

Increasing ownership among women

To help address that ownership disparity, McKesson’s Women in Rx program is working to increase the number of women pharmacy owners. The program recognizes that women face extra challenges, from gender stereotypes to expectations at home.

Through its mentor program, women pharmacists can learn the skills, resources and connections to thrive as pharmacy owners. Women pharmacy students and pharmacists are matched with experienced female owners. Beginning pharmacists see and learn how women pharmacy owners have succeeded.

Leaning in with ownership

Mom, pharmacist and 2022 Health Mart Innovation Award winner, Laleh Ford, PharmD, manages her pharmacy, CDM Drugs, with a little help from her family and top-notch staff. Click on the photo to watch the CDM Drugs business profile.

The Women in Rx program provides a format for women to learn from other women who have taken the reigns of ownership.

Ellie Darj, owner of Corner Market in Silver Spring, Maryland, opened her first pharmacy more than a decade ago.

“Ownership offers the rewards and advantages of a flexible schedule and daily interactions with patients, as well as financial independence,” she said.

While ownership can seem daunting, McKesson provides a few resouces for men and women wanting to own, expand or sell pharmacy practices – RxOwnership®. The RxOwnership team helps pharmacists navigate the process, from writing a business plan to assembling experts, such as accountants and lawyers.

Embracing the leadership role

Ownership starts with leadership. Pharmacy owners must be able to build and lead a team.

“It’s important that we set standards and expectations for our team, and lead new team members,” said Diana Arouchanova, owner of CliniCare Pharmacy in Northridge, California, during a Women in Rx panel at McKesson ideaShare.

Successful owners also lead outside the store. They advocate on issues affecting the industry.

“We have to speak up, step up, write letters and call representatives to make changes we need for the profession,” said Christine Lee-Wilson, owner of Professional Pharmacy in Baltimore and an active legislation advocate for independent pharmacy.

2023 Health Mart Pharmacy of the Year Finalist Professional Pharmacy owner Christine Lee-Wilson, PharmD, started up her own pharmacy in 2016. She has lead her team through many ups and downs to reach success as a critical service and business in her community. Learn more about Christine and her team.

1 “Women in Pharmacy,” American Pharmacists Association.

2 “Pharmacist: Most equal job for men and women,” Annalyn Kurtz, CNN, Feb. 11, 2013. 

3 “Academic Pharmacy’s Vital Statistics,” American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. 

4 “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022.

5 “Preserving and Supporting Women Pharmacy Ownership,” Pharmacy Podcast, Dec. 12, 2017.

Note: The information provided here is for reference use only and does not constitute the rendering of legal or other professional advice by McKesson. Readers should consult appropriate professionals for advice and assistance prior to making important decisions regarding their business. McKesson is not advocating any particular program or approach herein. McKesson is not responsible for, nor will it bear any liability for, the content provided herein.

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