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Tuesday, March 8 is the designated day to celebrate the achievements of women around the world: from scientists to CEOs to none other than women in independent pharmacy. International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over 100 years — recognizing women’s work and fighting for equality in all sectors of society: at home, in the office, and in positions of power.
This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. #BreakTheBias aims to remove negative gender stereotypes and place women on equal footing, especially in the workplace. That’s why this year, more than ever, we celebrate the role of women behind the counter: those who have fought for opportunity and reshaped the profession for women everywhere.
Because of them, we can envision a better future for all of pharmacy practice.
Women account for 63% of recent pharmacy school graduates, which is significant considering that only 14% of graduates were female 50 years ago. Also 50 years ago, the wage gap for female pharmacists was $0.66 on the dollar. Today, it’s roughly $0.92: marking the lowest gender wage gap in all of healthcare.
Clearly, strides have been made for women in pharmacy; and today, we celebrate those strides. But there are still opportunities for change.
While women dominate the industry, they still fall behind in positions of power. In the past few years, we’ve seen some moves made forward, but women are still in the minority when it comes to leadership, deanship, and ownership. Statistics show that:
But the tide is turning.
In spite of obstacles, women in the industry are stepping up to take their place at the table — banding together, making change, and empowering the next generation of female pharmacists. This International Women’s Day, we hear from one pharmacist who’s a part of that mission.
Jordan Ballou wears many hats: from educator to influencer to independent pharmacist. First and foremost, Jordan serves as the Clinical Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.
At Ole Miss, Jordan explains, “I primarily teach in our skills lab, where we show students the skills of being a pharmacist, beyond just dispensing: how to give immunizations, check a blood pressure, how to counsel patients, etc.”
Outside of the classroom, she works as the Clinical Program Lead at Tyson Drug Company in Holly Springs, MS. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s the Managing Network Facilitator for CPESN Mississippi and works closely with Flip the Pharmacy.
Like many independents, Jordan’s path to pharmacy started early on: at a summer job in her home state of North Carolina. Working first as a clerk, then as a tech, she became acquainted with pharmacy and eventually decided to pursue a career in it.
She finished her undergrad at NC State, attended pharmacy school at Campbell University, and launched into an impressive career — and it was the women she met along the way that helped her do it.
Jordan credits much of her success to the women she met in pharmacy: from personal mentors to program directors to colleagues she works with to this day. These women mentored her, encouraged her, and helped shape her into the pharmacist she is today. Now, she’s able to use the influence they had on her to influence her own students. It’s a domino effect.
For Jordan, it all started back in pharmacy school. She explains how one faculty member, Leigh Foushee, helped her find her passion for community care.
Jordan says, “Leigh was really instrumental in my life… she showed me the importance of serving the profession — of not just treating pharmacy like a job, but like a career. More than that, she really impressed upon me the importance of serving and of giving back to students and patients. And that was really, really impactful to me.”
When Jordan finished up pharmacy school, Leigh suggested she look in to community-based residency programs. Jordan didn’t know it at the time, but during her residency program, she’d meet another woman who would help her find her true calling: educating the next generation of pharmacists.
A few months later, Jordan started her residency at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. There she met Macary Marciniak, the program director.
As she recalls, “I was originally going to do a one-year residency. I was going to go learn all about how to implement new services, and then I was going to go back to my hometown pharmacy. At some point during my residency, Macary was like, ‘Hey, you have a lot of the same characteristics that I have, and I’m a faculty member. Maybe you should be one, too.’” And for Jordan, it was the perfect fit.
Looking back, Jordan knows that influence was invaluable.
She says, “Macary saw a lot in me and gave me a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. She saw me as a young female leader who had the potential to be able to do a lot of cool things… Her support was instrumental in laying the foundation for my career and getting me to where I’m at now, six years later.”
So it made sense that when Jordan started her own faculty position at Ole Miss, she wanted to lay the same foundation for other young women.
Today, Jordan makes it her mission to encourage her students — especially young women — as other women encouraged her. In particular, Jordan encourages young women to be bold enough to break barriers in pharmacy leadership and ownership.
Jordan says, “For a long time, pharmacy was a male-dominated career. More recently, it’s become female-dominated. But when it comes to independent pharmacy ownership, women are still in the minority, right? So I’m constantly encouraging all of my students — but particularly my female students — that it’s not just men who can own pharmacies. Women can be badass business owners.”
For Jordan, it all starts with representation.
She says, “We just had Black History Month in February. We’ll have students of color who will say, ‘I didn’t even know that [pharmacy] was a career path for me, because I’ve never seen anybody in this career that looks like me.’ So we expose them to diversity in the profession. Similarly, young women think, ‘Well, I’ve never seen another woman who owns a pharmacy — so it never crossed my mind that that’s something that I could do.’ So I try to expose them to more female leaders.”
In one of her classes, an elective course about community pharmacy, Jordan breaks down ownership for her students. To help, she brings in female pharmacy owners to talk to her students, including local legends like Cheryl Sudduth and famous names like Amina Abubakar.
Jordan says, “I have [these women] come in and share about culture and leadership: how they lead their pharmacy team to be successful. And it’s really been impactful. My students have really enjoyed the experience. In fact, I think I had 24 students enrolled in that class, and 19 of them were female. So that was really exciting for me.”
Today, on International Women’s Day, women like Jordan Ballou are fighting to get greater resources and recognition for female pharmacists. Change is slow-going, and there’s still a lot of work to be done, but Jordan is optimistic about the future of the profession. With enough advocacy and effort, she believes we can see a more inclusive healthcare space.
As for young women entering the world of pharmacy, Jordan has some advice:
She encourages young women to take a step, find a seat, and fight for representation in the industry. She continues, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to be a part of things. I think that those who are willing to put themselves out there will be most successful.”
This International Women’s Day, step out. Speak up. And fight for the future of female pharmacists.