Women in Veterinary Medicine
It is no secret that women now outnumber men in veterinary medicine, and this is not just something that is happening nationally but all over the world.
In the month of September, The Webinar Vet presents a free gender event for everyone who wants to be part of it, the aim is to empower and support women in the profession, don’t miss the opportunity to hear spectacular women on the panel.
I graduated two years ago with the desire to become an equine vet, when I got my first job in an equine hospital, I often met clients who did not believe that I could do my job because I was a small young woman, and they thought most of the time that I had not graduated. That made me feel like I had to work twice as hard as all my male colleagues.
According to RCVS, 60% of registered vets are women and 80% of students enrolling in veterinary degrees are female, making Veterinary medicine a female-dominated STEM career. So, why are gender biases, social expectations and misogynistic structures still alive and well in the veterinary industry?
The story begins with Dr Aleen Cust, the first woman to become a veterinarian in Britain. After gaining her degree in 1900, she had to wait two decades to become the first woman awarded a diploma of membership by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, in 1922, as she had not previously been awarded a diploma because she was a woman.
It was not until 1990 that a significant increase began to be seen and in less than a century, the majority in the profession were women, but that does not mean that there was more equality.
Studies have found that more men tend to get owner/partner positions in veterinary clinics or hospitals, and that of the 70% of women who initially have the desire to become practice owners, after a few years only half still have that desire. This can often be associated with motherhood and that women are still expected to be the primary caregivers if they decide to have children.
Due to the lack of flexibility of these practices, many women are left behind to take up these positions.
Improved chemical containment of animals is said to have led more women to opt for the career and although the majority of female veterinarians tend to choose to work with companion animals, there are 4% of new female doctors who wish to work with farm animals.
The farm animal area is still dominated by men, as 80% of the vets working with farm animals are men.
Is this because clients typically demand us to appear a specific way when working with farm animals, or is it due to a lack of flexibility in work schedules for women who want to work these jobs while still raising a family?
Statistically, it is shown that men’s salaries are higher than women’s because men tend to choose business roles that are more in leadership positions.
There is a 16.5% gender pay gap in veterinary medicine in the United States.
There is a theory that when a sector becomes more feminised, its perceived value, and therefore its wage level, falls. With declining salaries, fewer men are interested in the career. Many are concerned that fewer men will lead to an even further reduction in salaries in the profession.
Also, according to a study in the UK, the pay gap for recent graduates is almost zero, but this has nothing to do with equality, but with the fact that corporates tend to have much more transparent and standardised salaries.
My career path took an unexpected turn and I no longer work with horses, but I like to raise awareness of this issue in the veterinary field.
Women should not only reflect positive changes in work-life balance, more flexible working hours, but also empower women to believe they can do it all, from leadership positions to farm animals and better salaries in the profession.
Neither the male nor the female gender should be at odds with each other; we must fight together for improvements in the profession that will benefit us all.
So, what it is like to be a woman in veterinary medicine and what changes do you think are important for the career to improve?