JP at Large: Not a man's world anymore

March 21, 2005

The sacrifices a woman has to make to have a full career are much more profound than those a man has to make. A man is expected to work for 40 straight years. Society, his family, and his friends don't even take a second look at his going to work five days a week when he has a new baby in the family. His worth as a husband and a parent are never questioned.

The sacrifices a woman has to make to have a full career are much more profound than those a man has to make. A man is expected to work for 40 straight years. Society, his family, and his friends don't even take a second look at his going to work five days a week when he has a new baby in the family. His worth as a husband and a parent are never questioned.

A woman, on the other hand, is liable to get creamed if she decides to go right back to work after the baby arrives. The same parents who cheered her on when she was in pharmacy school could very well be the first ones to criticize her when she arranges for professional day care for her infant.

I received a mountain of hate mail in the '90s when I said that many women pharmacists worked about 80% of the career that a man works. I still think that's accurate, and I suspect that women pharmacists may actually agree with me a decade later. Of course, there are women pharmacists who choose not to be mothers, who work just as hard and as long as any man. Just not all of them, not by a long shot.

"This is the best profession for a woman," I once heard from a pharmacist who worked only part-time. She was in her forties and lived a good life. Her husband ran a small business, but her benefits and $50,000 a year was the glue that held the family's fortunes together. "I rarely miss one of my kids' games. I go to all of their school events, and I have never had to tell them that I could not do something because I have to work. I'm a mother first." She looked at me and smiled. "I love what pharmacy has done for my life." I trust that no one claims that she is shirking the duties of parenthood in order to work.

What's the big deal, Plagakis? Part-time pays as well per hour as full-time. You can get full benefits at 24 hours. You can work two 12s and have five days off for the family. You can refuse to work weekends or nights and some of you will get exactly what you want.

I worked with a pharmacy manager who got the hours she wanted. Monday through Friday, 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. with a full hour for lunch. Never on weekends and never on holidays. It is a great job if you can get it, and she got it.

The big deal is that there is a shortage of pharmacists out there. The fact that a majority of new pharmacists are women who will eventually interrupt their careers for up to a period of years and may never work full-time just exacerbates the problem. Now I know that what I just said may get your back up, but what have I said that is not accurate? A man is likely to cut back to part-time in his mature years. He may never really retire. Women are likely to cut back to part-time when they have a family, and their part-time could last until the kids are out of the house. It is just the way it is.

So, if you gotta work me over about this, go ahead! I probably deserve it. I just trust that the skin of women pharmacists is thicker than it was 10 years ago. We'll see!