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Pharmaceutical Sales Has the Smallest Gender Pay Gap. Here’s Why

“The clock has run out on…inequality in the healthcare workplace.”

Time’s Up Healthcare’s slogan is coming through loud and clear in the pharmaceutical sales industry. In this year’s 9th Annual Medical Sales Salary Report, pharmaceutical sales reported salaries that are closer to accomplishing gender parity than any other industry. 

In medical sales, as a whole, men outearn their female counterparts by 17 percent. That means women earn just 83 percent of what men earn on average. When we broke it down into industries, however, pharmaceutical sales outshined its medical sales counterparts. In this industry, women earn 97 percent of what men earn. 

Of course, we want to see those numbers come to a complete close. However, this noteworthy step in the right direction is critical for women in the healthcare industry. 

The big question however is, why are pharmaceutical sales reps reporting pay equality that’s closer than any other medical sales industry? What are reps doing to get themselves to that point? More importantly, what are leaders and companies doing to close the gender pay gap? 

We went digging for answers and here’s what we found out: 

Leaders aren’t afraid to take chances on inexperienced reps

Closing the gender pay gap starts with hiring more female sales reps. Our research found the number of male medical sales reps is significantly more than female. 

That’s why many pharmaceutical sales companies are throwing out the critical focus on experience requirements. In fact, for the owner of Kings Speciality Pharmacy, gender, experience — none of it mattered. What did matter was the personality and potential of those he knew would work for him one day. That’s exactly what he saw when first meeting Rachel Donohue at her hostessing job in Manhattan. 

After seeing Donohue interact with customers while on business lunches, he simply knew she would succeed by making meaningful connections. 

“He didn’t see direct medical sales experience,” Donohue shared with us in a recent interview. “Instead, he saw someone who was able to openly communicate and comfortably interact with during meetings, dinners, and other tasks involving King’s essential client relations.”

Females are encouraged to climb the ladder

Emma Tod began her pharmaceutical sales career at Allergan as a product specialist. Now, she’s the manager of the national strategic accounts team. Tod never pictured herself as a manager. But through her leaders’ encouragement and self-discovery, she realized her passion for developing skills and training employees to work with high-growth accounts.

There’s no doubt that Tod deserves much of the credit for her determination to climb the ladder. It’s her deep passion for revolutionizing medical sales and desire to be a leader, not a manager that drives her success forward. 

However, it’s also the company backing her up. Allergan is devoted to developing employees. Leaders believe in empowering colleagues to experience new challenges. Through those challenges, employees of any gender discover skills and knowledge that push their career goals forward — even goals they didn’t know they had. 

Pharmaceutical sales companies celebrate women for all they are

“They [women] are caregivers, mentors, mothers, and innovators. They are the anchors of the family, leaders in our business and drivers of the global economy.” — Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson doesn’t just see women as caregivers in the home. The company also doesn’t just view them as powerful business leaders. To this pharmaceutical sales company, women are both of these — and more. 

It’s this outlook that landed them on our Best Places to Work list and why in 2017 the company took a spot on Thomson Reuters Diversity & Inclusion Index. These lists don’t just require a company to have a well-written diversity and inclusion statement. Johnson and Johnson earned these recognitions because they’re intentional and proactive with gender equality.

The company is focused on growing and nurturing women leaders because they have the power to transform healthcare, the ultimate goal in medical sales.


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