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The gender balance in independent pharmacy is shifting. In 2000 and 2004, just 14.6% of pharmacists in owner/partner positions were women, according to the Pharmacy Manpower Project. By 2009, that number had risen to 24%.
Seen from another perspective, of the 12.6% of active pharmacists running their own shops in 2000, 10.3% were men and 2.3% were women. By 2009, 19.7% of active pharmacists were running their own shop and the gender gap had narrowed: 11.6% of male pharmacists and 8.1% of female pharmacists occupied ownership or partner roles.
Expect that shift to accelerate as the current cohort of pharmacy owners — mostly men who entered the profession in the 1970s — retire over the next few years. That baby boomer generation was the largest group of pharmacists ever to enter practice, said Lucinda Maine, PharmD, executive vice president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. It was also the last generation of pharmacists dominated by men.
With women accounting for 60% of pharmacy students, a growing proportion of new owners will be female. Attendance at Pharmacy Ownership Workshops sponsored by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) is already approximately 41% female, said Lisa Fowler, NCPA director of management and professional affairs. According to Fowler, pharmacy demographics favor women, while current business and economic trends favor pharmacy ownership.
Would-be pharmacy owners are finding a wealth of opportunity in the huge number of current owners ready to retire. At the same time, a growing supply of pharmacists and pharmacy graduates is putting a lid on employment opportunities in chain pharmacy. That makes store ownership a visible and attractive alternative, a shift in perception that NCPA wants to encourage.
"We would clearly like to see pharmacy ownership expand," Fowler told Drug Topics. "Most pharmacy owners are currently male, but most pharmacy graduates are female. Pharmacy ownership is on the rise, and the gender balance in ownership is clearly changing."
"I already see it in the Phoenix area," said Jacinta Hines, PharmD, owner of J & J Arrowhead Pharmacy in Glendale, Ariz. "A few years ago, all of the local independent pharmacy owners were men. Today, most of the new owners are female, whether they buy an existing practice or open a new store, as I did."
Gender doesn't seem to play a major role in pharmacy ownership. DeAnn Mullins, RPh, CDE, owner of WeCare Mullins Pharmacy in Lynn Haven, Fla., said that she has never seen gender as a limiting factor in the entrepreneurial world. When she bought her father-in-law's practice in 1998, her business plan, financing, and entrepreneurial skills counted. The fact that she was a woman wasn't part of the equation.
"Changing demographics in pharmacy mean the ownership landscape has to change," said Robert E. Graul, national vice president, RxOwnership, for wholesale giant McKesson. "I'm not seeing a difference in ownership results by gender. Women are equally entrepreneurial as their male counterparts, sometimes even more so."
Graul oversees McKesson's growing pharmacy ownership transfer program. In 2008, when the program began, McKesson guided about 90 independent sales and acquisitions. In 2010, RxOwnership handled about 300 transfers. This year should see about 400 transfers. Overall, he said, there are approximately 1,000 pharmacy startups or ownership transfers per year across the country.