Women move on pharmacy ownership

October 15, 2011

As the current generation of pharmacy owners retires, women are stepping up in greater numbers.

Key Points

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.

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."

The shifting gender gap

"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.

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.