Women Who Want Equal Pay Should Think About Becoming Pharmacists

(Photo: Ged Carroll)

We’ve written before about Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz‘s research on the persistent gender wage gap in the U.S.  Now Goldin and Katz are back with a new working paper (abstract; PDF) on “the most egalitarian of all U.S. professions today”:

Pharmacy has become a female-majority profession that is highly remunerated with a small gender earnings gap and low earnings dispersion relative to other occupations. We sketch a labor market framework based on the theory of equalizing differences to integrate and interpret our empirical findings on earnings, hours of work, and the part-time work wage penalty for pharmacists. Using extensive surveys of pharmacists for 2000, 2004, and 2009 as well as samples from the American Community Surveys and the Current Population Surveys, we explore the gender earnings gap, the penalty to part-time work, labor force persistence, and the demographics of pharmacists relative to other college graduates. We address why the substantial entrance of women into the profession was associated with an increase in their earnings relative to male pharmacists. We conclude that the changing nature of pharmacy employment with the growth of large national pharmacy chains and hospitals and the related decline of independent pharmacies played key roles in the creation of a more family-friendly, female-friendly pharmacy profession. The position of pharmacist is probably the most egalitarian of all U.S. professions today.

Unfortunately for women in other industries, Goldin and Katz conclude that the changes seem to have been driven primarily by structural changes in the industry, not a demand for more “family-friendly workplace amenities.” “The changes, moreover, do not appear to have resulted from legislation or anti-discrimination policy or licensing requirements or the regulation specific to the pharmacy profession,” they write. “Rather, a host of structural changes outside the realm of the labor market has increased the demand for pharmacists and reorganized work in ways that have made pharmacy a more family-friendly and female-friendly profession.”

Cor Aquilonis

Women Who Want Equal Pay Should Think About Becoming Pharmacists - I mean - Should Be Paid The Same As A Man With Who Has Equal Responsibilities, Experience, and Education No Matter What Career They Choose



.....Unless They Come With Higher Costs To Their Employers.

Cor Aquilonis

The thesis of my post clearly supports equal pay for equal work.

*zoom in*

equal work.

*zoom in*


*maximum zoom*


So, if the work/costs they are different... then it wouldn't be relevant to the post, would it?


With a median annual wage of $113,190 (BLS/OES 2011) this occupation is way out of sync with reality and another reason for astronomically high prices for medical care. Sadly another industry at risk of offshoring to the far east where pharmacists make much, much less.

Enter your name...

The pharmacist's salary is only a small part of the cost of a prescription drug, and it is not unreasonable for someone who spent so many extra years in school, with a doctorate degree and a professional license, to get paid about twice what the average family does.

Offshoring would be difficult, since the pharmacist needs to oversee the operations. You can't make sure that the pharmacy techs are properly controlling and dispensing the medications, and not illegally giving medical advice to customers, if you're not in the pharmacy with them. With few exceptions (one in Alaska, to serve very remote communities), most states require a pharmacist to be physically present. They don't get to telecommute.


The benefits of a career in pharmacy were well established as far back as the 1980's. I am surprised to see that the gender distribution of current graduates is 65% female in the US today which is up from 14% in the mid 1960's (page 11 of the pdf file). When I* was in pharmacy school in Germany in the late 1970's the distribution was already 70%+ female and has grown to 95%+ female. (*I switched to a career in biotechnology in the early 1980's but thats another topic). The growth in employment for pharmacists is driven by the growth in total hours needed to support pharmaceutical healthcare delivery. These hours can't be delivered by independent pharmacies at constant costs. The article is claiming that the structural changes in the industry are contributing factors. In my own assessment, however, they are the driving factors.

Interesting point: similar patterns are emerging in other healthcare professions. Many physicians are now practicing in Physicians Associations which can help balance the workload and achieve lower overhead costs. It has not yet led to the possibility of increased part time work because the reimbursement models are still based on personal service such as consultations and procedures rather than outcomes. That is going to be changing radically in the next 10-20 years. {And it has to if we are to have adequate resources to meet the challenge of the obesity crisis.}



The article indicates that the fraction of current pharmacy school graduates is 65% female. I find that to be surprisingly low. When I was in pharmacy school in Germany in the late 1970's it was about 70% female and has since grown to >90% female. A primary attraction of the profession has always been the availability of well paid part time and itinerant work. Licensed pharmacists who maintain their license and fulfill their continuing education requirements can stop work or go back at any time with no significant penalty. If the study were to expand beyond the specifics of the US market, they would have found that it is independent of the business structure (independent retail vs. chain pharmacies vs. mail order) or the specific job setting (retail pharmacy vs. hospital). It is a unique characteristic of the profession which combines scientific knowledge, regulatory licensing and patient contact.



Look, it's great that pharmacy is a good career for women, and I'm happy that women pharmacists earn equal pay and have flexible hours. But this profession has very high barriers to entry, with so much extra school and licensing requirements. Not to mention that this condition is really unique to pharmacy -- few, if any, other skilled professions have professionals that are as interchangeable. Shouldn't women just be paid equally in all professions? Women shouldn't have to seek out specific professions to be treated like a full human being.

The question we should really be asking is, "What characteristics of this profession can we extend to all workplaces?"

Seminymous Coward

Pharmacists are only even remotely close to "interchangeable" in low-volume retail settings. Clinical, compounding, nuclear, and consulting pharmacists are just as differentiated as any other variety professional. Even high-volume retail pharmacy requires a pharmacist with the specific experience necessary to fill fast enough to meet demand; a pharmacist who can (safely!) fill 40 scripts an hour is far more useful than one who can only fill 10, at least if your average volume is 20.


The reason women take more time off is because most of them have husbands who also work so even if they are the primary breadwinner they still bear the brunt of housework, managing school and sports schedules and caring for children. I know of many female sr executives who get the first call from school for a sick child. I work much harder than my male counterparts with stay at home wives because i dont have time to waste.


i am a student pursuing my pharm-D course...its quite an encouraging article...cos we always have people around to constantly put us down...