A woman of influence


Samantha Kourtis

We recently released our list of Pharmacy’s 10 Women of Influence. Here we speak to Samantha Kourtis, who was ranked the fifth most influential woman in pharmacy.   

Do you think the full-time/pharmacy ownership expectation holds women back?

In my personal experience as a pharmacy owner I have acknowledged the requirement to commit at least 30 paid hours a week to be a pharmacy owner. I can’t imagine how I could build my team and execute my business plan if I worked less. Most of my years as an owner have seen me work up anywhere from 40-70 hours a week plus those non paid hours. For me it has been a juggle with my work and family life but it would be the same if I was working fulltime in any other capacity.

I did wait until my youngest child was 10 months old before I moved into management and he was 2 before I bought into pharmacy. I was fortunate that it all aligned at the right time however I was worried that because I hadn’t been able to work fulltime while having my children I might miss out on an ownership opportunity. This is MY story though and I made choices that worked for my family.  

I believe that any woman, or man for that matter, who wants to own a pharmacy is well aware of the time  commitment and will have a plan on how to manage that around their other commitments.

The only time that you would be held back is if opportunities weren’t made available to you because of other people’s bias – conscious or unconscious – surrounding your ability to meet the expectations of an owner.

I have worked with and am currently working with female pharmacists who work part time and are investigating buying into community pharmacy. This is possible because of the culture of Capital Chemist where gender, age and family commitments are not a barrier to ownership.

How could women be better recognised and represented in pharmacy leadership?

I would like to see and hear from women across our industry more often and as equally as often as men. The AJP just reported that up to 61.4% of pharmacists are women. So based on the assumption that for every male leader there is an equally talented female leader why aren’t we seeing these women in at least equal numbers to the men on industry boards and panels, at conferences, in our journals and in our universities – across all facets of our industry?

I firmly believe that you do not need to be named a leader to be a leader. Great leaders in history have attracted their people because of the good they do, their values and the vision they share. They lead through example. They are relatable.

A title or job position alone doesn’t make you a leader – a person who holds power perhaps but not necessarily a leader!

Do you think it’s short-sighted to focus on gender issues rather than the work a pharmacist is contributing?

The gender debate is just one of many great debates in pharmacy at the moment. We could also have this discussion about age and cultural diversity. This leads into the wealth we gain from having diversity of thought at the top that reflects the grass roots of our industry. My observation is that if the people we see and hear from in our industry are a true representation of the 29000+ pharmacists in this country we must largely be 40+, white and male. So I don’t think it’s short sighted to focus on gender at the moment. This is a marathon debate that won’t be over any time soon. We need to mentor and support all our young pharmacists to step into leadership roles so that hopefully in the not too distant future we do see them representing our industry.

This question is similar to the debate about quotas vs merit. Should we start saying that at every conference, on every panel, on every board and at every university there should be a 50% female representation. If we said that we would be discounting the contribution each individual makes. In our industry with 61% of pharmacists being  female we are NOT at a loss for valuable contributors that make someone worthy of being a leader.

Do we need affirmative action at the top? If so, why?

In order to move forward we need to firstly raise awareness of the inequality we are currently experiencing. As a partner in the Capital Chemist group where more than 50% of partners are women I am a product of their lack of bias and gender discrimination and THIS has come from the top. I know that both the Guild and the PSA (I can’t comment on other areas in the industry) are aware and working on strategies to support and integrate more women into their organisation.

The people ‘at the top’ hold a position of power and influence in their organisation and industry and therefore have the ability to pave the way for more diversity to be seen ‘at the top’ and that of course must include more women.

Do you think women bring a different skillset to pharmacy and if so, how could that benefit the sector?

Our industry will only benefit from the diversity of thought that women can bring to the table. Our industry is not alone with this issue and there is an enormity of data and studies that have discussed the contribution women make that is varied from their male colleagues.

Two years ago I was part of the Guild’s female delegation to parliament house. I personally received feedback from several of the politicians about how my stories impacted their view on how our industry worked. I shared stories from the grass root level and at times was quite emotional talking about the work I do and the impact of the CPA on my business and my community. There were several comments made about how refreshing it was to see female pharmacists in their office rather than the usual men. I’m not sharing this to say that the men don’t count. Throughout my career I have been mentored and stood side by side with remarkable male pharmacists. It is when we have stood side by side – or even given a little nudge to step forward – that the magic has happened.

I just wonder how many of those 17000 or so female pharmacists have amazing innovative ideas, great business models or touching stories that we might never hear about because they don’t have the support to get into a position to share or execute those ideas? That is what we are missing out on.

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