Rising women
Mary Anne Koda-Kimble
J Am Pharm Assoc (2003) 2012;52:579-580. doi:10.1331/JAPhA.2012.12539
Editor's note: This Viewpoint accompanies the JAPhA landmark article “Practice longevity and continuity of women pharmacists” that has been republished on page 711.
Yosano Akiko (1911) wrote in her poem: “The mountain moving day is coming. … All sleeping women now will awake and move.”
Almost 4 decades ago, in 1975 B.C.—before I had children—I wrote as an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy: “There are many sleeping women in pharmacy … women who are not consciously aware of how their professional lives are affected by the simple fact that they are females. Although women students … have GPAs that are at least equal to those of men, relatively few pursue academic, residency, or administrative positions. They are conscientious and diligent but not career oriented.” +1
This statement is no longer true. Today, as I ready for retirement as a school of pharmacy dean, I report that many women pharmacists have full careers as clinicians and leaders. Female pharmacists, wherever they work, are awake, and they are rising. As a young professional in 1975, I could not have imagined this scenario, let alone my own career trajectory.
When I started out professionally, the women's liberation movement had already been under way for some time. Although I did not join it as a member of an activist group, in retrospect I certainly drove myself to do the things I felt had to be done to get pharmacists involved in patient care. It did not occur to me to limit my horizon because I was a woman. Eventually I had three children, and they stood beside me on the journey, as did my husband. Don and I shared parenting as we raised our children to be self-assured and with the values we hoped would guide their actions and choices in life. We were determined that the life expectations and career preferences of our children would not be determined or limited by their genders; rather, their passions as individuals would guide their futures.
In pharmacy, a few prominent men helped facilitate the rise of many early “firsts” for women: first women directors of hospital pharmacies, first women regional chain store managers, first women academic department chairs in schools of pharmacy, first women presidents of national pharmacy associations, first women deans of schools of pharmacy … and more. In some cases, these men built a slate of all women candidates to ensure that leadership positions went to women.
As more women stepped into these positions and succeeded, they opened doors for other women and guided them through challenging workplace cultures where the rules were designed for men. As an example of that culture, in 1977, I was the first woman faculty member in our school of pharmacy to have a baby. In those days, no childbearing leave policies existed, so I worked until the day I gave birth and returned to work in 2 weeks. My other option would have been to leave the workplace entirely and set aside my career.
No wonder many women pharmacists veered away from academia at that time. They saw too many women faculty who were unmarried, who remained childless to meet the expectations for promotion, or who left academia to secure positions that allowed for better work–life balance. Gradually, one by one, as role models developed, women decided that work and family did not have to be mutually exclusive, and a transformation in academic pharmacy took place.
By the time I became chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, we had family leave policies for both men and women. Today, our university policy states: “Family accommodation policies for childbearing and childrearing responsibilities are fundamental to an equitable and productive academic environment. … An academic appointee who bears a child is eligible for childbearing leave for the period prior to, during, and after childbirth. Leave for childbirth and recovery normally will be for at least 6 weeks” (italics are mine).
As more women have filled critical professional positions, many workplaces have established policies that help women sustain their careers during their childbearing and childrearing years. Furthermore, these policies have been extended to family leaves for both men and women. One of my greatest thrills as a manager was to establish a “family first” culture within our work environment here at the University of California, San Francisco School of Pharmacy. I suspect many other women managers have promoted this culture in their workplaces as well.
In most pharmacy workplaces and professional organizations, I am convinced that a woman's history of competence and qualifications are now the primary determinants of her success, not her gender. This is a credit to our profession. Increasingly, women are selected for leadership positions. Today, many women enter our pharmacy school classes with professional goals already in mind and a commitment to make a difference in the lives of others. They are primed for success and leadership.
All of this is good news for women, but concern has been raised that professional women “still can't have it all.” While women are rising, working mothers are not yet standing tall across the workplace landscape.
I commend to you a very thoughtful and provocative piece authored by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the July/August 2012 issue of The Atlantic magazine. +2 She writes that even when one has a supportive husband who fully shares in the parenting, job expectations remain favorable to those who sacrifice family for work priorities. The attention, effort, and organization needed to attend to children is not recognized or valued, as evidenced by rigid schedules and “face time” expectations. And work time has expanded beyond the usual work week, impinging on precious family time. These situations may not apply to us all, but what Ms. Slaughter makes clear is that there is still more to do to allow both men and women to achieve the work–life balance we all need to be there for our families and to deliver exceptional results at work. This will be an ever-increasing challenge, as technology has dissolved the traditional physical boundary between home and work.
My son, Chris, made an insightful observation after recently attending my retirement celebration. “You know, Mom, I never knew about all those awards you received, but it didn't matter much at home. There, you were just Mom.” I think back now on my career as a working mother over 40 years, constantly juggling the needs of my family with extraordinary workplace pressures; it was not easy to be sure, especially early on. My hope is that today's young women in pharmacy continue to stand tall and, if they choose, take those next steps to ensure that “having it all” is the norm.
Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD
Professor and Dean Emeritus
School of Pharmacy
University of California, San Francisco
doi: 10.1331/JAPhA.2012.12539
Kimble MA.  The sleeping women.  Drug Intell Clin Pharm.  1975; 9: 153. [PubMed]
Slaughter AM.  Why women still can't have it all. The Atlantic July/August 2012; Accessed at www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/6,  August 1, 2012.


Kimble MA.  The sleeping women.  Drug Intell Clin Pharm.  1975; 9: 153. [PubMed]
Slaughter AM.  Why women still can't have it all. The Atlantic July/August 2012; Accessed at www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/6,  August 1, 2012.
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