College of Pharmacy Professor experienced bias, discrimination in former career, now advocates for education, women

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Janet Walkow is a clinical professor in the College of Pharmacy and co-founder of Leading Women, an organization focused on helping women achieve their personal goals. Walkow also helped create the Drug Dynamics Institute labs at the Dell Pediatric Research Institute.  

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

When she started working at a top-tier company, Janet Walkow was the only woman in her department with a Ph.D. But as her colleagues began receiving raises, she said she was told she wouldn’t be getting one because her husband had a job. 

After enduring similar situations, Walkow’s employees encouraged her to sue the company. 

“I said, ‘No, that's not how I'm going to change something,’ and it's just not my style,” Walkow said. “I'm either going to educate them, switch jobs or just (power) on through it.”

After eight years, Walkow left and focused on empowering others as she continued in her career. She went on to secure a job in global strategic planning and start her own company. Now, Walkow leads UT’s Drug Dynamics Institute and teaches several classes. She said she received her Ph.D. from UT in 1982 but always saw herself returning to campus one day. 

James Cong, UT alumnus and director of business development at Tarrytown Pharmacy, said Walkow was his professor and mentor when he studied business within the pharmaceutical industry. 

“Everything I learned from her was beyond the textbook,” Cong said. “She brings a lot to the table and continues relationships past graduation and coursework.”

As an undergraduate student herself in 1976, Walkow studied Plan II interdisciplinary programming but was interested in pharmacy. She began taking classes in the new biopharmaceutics program because it blended her favorite science courses. 

“My dad (was) an engineer, and we would play math games and do puzzles,” Walkow said. “I was really drawn to science.”

In graduate school, Walkow pursued pharmacokinetics and product development and said she felt like she had to work harder to be visible among her male classmates. 

“Women sometimes feel like if you put your head down and work hard, you'll be recognized,” Walkow said. “That typically doesn't happen. You have to tout your accomplishments, be proud of what you’re doing and make yourself get recognized.”

After receiving her Ph.D., Walkow said she spent the first 15 years of her career in the pharmaceutical industry. But she said she is “not a pharmacist,” and she knew her interests expanded beyond her degree. 

“I was moving around everywhere,” Walkow said. “I was somebody who liked to be challenged.” 

Once Walkow began working at a drug development company after graduate school, she led local high schoolers on a Junior Achievement team. Surrounded by students from primarily disadvantaged families, she said she recognized the disparity of education and financial stability, especially for women. 

Now with three adult daughters of her own, Walkow said she doesn’t think women’s treatment in the workforce has changed dramatically. 

“I experienced bias and discrimination on a day-to-day basis,” Walkow said. “That is why I’m an advocate for all women, not just privileged or underprivileged. Pay equity has just never happened. It's very demeaning, and it's very unfair.”

Walkow met her friend Christine Jacobs while working at the same pharmaceutical company in Philadelphia in 1994. Soon after, Jacobs said they decided to lead their daughters’ Girl Scout troop to give them the same experience their sons were receiving in boy scouts. 

“It was quite shocking for these little girls because they'd been making doilies,” Jacobs said. “Janet and I come in there, and we’re both senior executives with agendas for them.” 

Jacobs and Walkow later went on to create the Leading Women Project, an organization that encouraged women through speaker events to be the star in their own lives and to “change the script” if they don’t like something. 

Throughout the project, Walkow said she learned women face different obstacles across cultures and often feel alone in their struggles. But she said there is community and strength in sharing stories. 

“I think it takes courage and self-leadership to really carve your own path, and it doesn't mean you're alone,” Walkow said. “You can’t lead anyone else unless you can lead yourself.”