One hundred years ago, on August 26th, the U.S. adopted the 19th Amendment, which gave white women the right to vote. Initially, the 19th Amendment did not extend to women of African American, Asian American, Hispanic American and Native American heritage. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act was passed nearly a half century later, on August 6, 1965, that African American women were able to exercise their right to vote. Though remarkable changes and significant gains have been made since then, much work remains to be done to promote equality, inclusion and diversity not only within the veterinary profession but throughout the world. Watch our Spark video series below to hear female veterinary professionals discuss lack of diversity, the gender pay gap and lack of female representation in leadership positions, among other concerns. These issues reverberate deeply within the veterinary profession, which has seen a tidal shift in its demographics.
Consider this: In 1986 there were an equal number of male and female students attending veterinary schools in the United States, but today, more than 80 percent of veterinary students are women. Despite this, women are not as well represented in leadership roles. Hear from leaders and change agents who are working to overcome gender bias, challenge gender stereotypes, and be a driving force in preparing women for leadership roles in all sectors of the profession and industry.
Royal Canin is dedicated to advancing the health and nutrition of cats and dogs. We recognize the role veterinarians play in helping us achieve this goal and understand that the future of veterinary medicine is tied to the success of the people in the profession. It is our hope that we can contribute to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community within the profession to foster that success.
The Royal Canin Women’s Leadership Forum will kick off the week of October 19 with our ‘Know Your Worth’ series featuring Drs. Amanda Donnelly, Joy Fuhrman, and Jessica Vogelsang. This series will continue over the following weeks and registration info is coming soon. Visit https://my.royalcanin.com/livece for registration as soon as available and for other CE opportunities.
The History of Women in Veterinary Medicine
Challenges, opposition and obstacles had to be overcome by the early female pioneers in veterinary medicine in the United States. Here is a timeline of some of the significant milestones achieved by women who have helped pave the way for women succeeding in the profession.
The Veterinary Glass Ceiling:
Cracking, But Not Shattered
Women make up the majority of practicing veterinarians (61.9%) and overwhelming majority of veterinary nurses/technicians (89.3%) in the United States.1 Yet, women still face a pay gap and are not represented proportionally in leadership positions. The median income for women working as veterinarians is about 16% less than that of their male counterparts—a difference of about $18000 per year, according to a 2018 report by the U.S. Department of Labor.1
While women are seeing more leadership opportunities, they have not reached a proportionate level to represent the amount of women working in the profession. For example, among the 30 accredited U.S. veterinary colleges, 9 are led by female deans. This is an increase from 6 in 2013, but 2 of the deans are currently leading in an interim role.2 About 80% of students attending these 30 colleges of veterinary medicine are women, according to the Association of American Veterinary Colleges, yet only 30% of the colleges are led by women.3 Similar discrepancies at the top can be seen among animal health companies, VMAs, and other veterinary organizations.
A lack of representation at leadership levels creates inequality for women at all levels. A recent study by the British Veterinary Association illustrates one consequence. In the study, managers were given descriptions of a worker, with the only difference being a male or female name. The results: most managers rated the male worker as more competent and recommended a higher salary, which came out to an average 8% pay gap.4 According to the BVA, managers who thought bias no longer existed in the profession drove the gap, while those who acknowledged the existence of such bias recommended roughly equal pay.
Driven to Lead:
Meet One of the Founders of the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Forum
Let’s Hear It From the Boys
Time to Lead the Way
By Simon R. Platt, Editor in Chief, Today's Veterinary Practice
No one can underestimate the importance of having positive role models at each stage of their lives to inspire and support. If we agree on this, then we must look inward and evaluate representation among leaders in our profession.
Change is needed not only to inspire the women of our profession, but also to ensure that the culture of the profession moves forward. We must reject the dogma that has challenged the changing gender proportions of veterinary medicine and work to represent what is actually going on at the grass roots.
“I saw my female colleagues struggle to really achieve what they wanted to and to balance their life with expectations that were placed on them.”
I was lucky to grow up and be educated in a culture of equality, and during my veterinary education there was a 50/50 gender split. However, when I entered the profession in the ’90s, the inequality was evident. A very white-male dominated profession seemed to echo what was considered acceptable in earlier decades across all professions, and veterinary medicine was being left behind. I saw my female colleagues struggle to really achieve what they wanted to and to balance their life with expectations that were placed on them. I actually felt embarrassed to be part of this problem by not being part of a solution. This has only become worse as time has changed the landscape of our profession. I am less representative of this landscape, but I feel committed in my current position to at least keep the awareness of the problem on the front pages.
How does this happen? Do we just let time run its course or should we be more active? What tangible actions are in place to really support a change? Along the lines of the Women on Boards initiative, which laid out the business advantages of having gender-balanced boards in FTSE 100 companies, veterinary medicine needs to have mandated representation and the community must buy in to the advantages that increasing numbers of women in power will bring. Numerous independent research studies have shown that public corporations with women on their boards outperform boards with only men, as measured by profitability, productivity, and workforce engagement. It should be seen as an opportunity to naturally advance a career and is a step toward gaining, regaining, or maintaining a positive workplace for women.
Addressing equality requires different approaches, but none of them are rocket science. Appropriate representation of the demographic is one of the key ways that equality can advance. If your leader has your best interests at heart, then it’s easier to see how those interests will be placed at the top of the to-do list—and that currently would mean challenging unequal employment treatment. Sadly, evidence has shown women veterinarians are still discriminated against on many grounds, and so the need for women to lead the profession is critical.
Where Are the Men?
By Lisa Greenhill, MPA, EDD
Every so often I field a call from a veterinarian inquiring about the declining numbers of men in the veterinary profession. These callers are mostly genuinely interested in the factors that have led to just under 20% of DVM students identifying as men. Occasionally, such calls devolve into suggestions that diversity programs have disadvantaged young men who have an interest in the profession. Not long ago, I responded to an email with facts and figures suggesting that the persistent decline of men in veterinary medicine is due to factors other than any perceived super advantage that women might have in the profession.
Prior to the 1972 passage of Title IX, which federally prohibited sex discrimination, women made up 16% of DVM students in the United States. Within three years of the anti-discrimination law’s passage, enrollment of women more than tripled, revealing just how stifling sex-based discrimination in the profession had been for women. Women made up half of DVM students in less than 15 years and 75% within 30 years.
These are output figures. The story of men in veterinary medicine starts well before veterinary school.
Nothing Can Stop Me Now
“Today, I've gotta make a change” is one of the lines from the song “Nothing Can Stop Me Now” in the animated film Planes. “All I need is a horizon; courage to keep trying” is another line. Jessica Vogelsang, veterinarian, author of All Dogs Go to Kevin, and founder of the Facebook group Veterinary Telemedicine Community, says there are challenges and barriers facing women in pursuing their goals, including ones of their own making. There are three obstacles female veterinarians must overcome in order to make a change and realize their dreams, Vogelsang says: Stop undervaluing yourself, throw out the rulebook, and establish a personal brand.
Are you ready to hear — and take action on — her straightforward advice?
- U.S. Department of Labor. Employment and Earnings by Occupation. dol.gov/agencies/wb/data/occupations. Published: 2018. Accessed August 14, 2020.
- Veterinary Leadership Conference. Women in the field but not upper ranks of veterinary medicine. wvldi.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/VLC-Roundtable-2015.pdf. Published: 2015. Accessed: August 14, 2010.
- AAVMC Annual Data Report. aavmc.org/assets/site_18/files/data/2019%20aavmc%20annual%20data%20report%20(id%20100175).pdf. Published: 2019. Accessed: August 14, 2020.
- Begeny CT, Ryan MK, Moss-Racusin CA, Ravetz G. In some professions, women have become well represented, yet gender bias persists—Perpetuated by those who think it is not happening. Science Advances. June 26, 2020. 10.1126/sciadv.aba7814