Feminisation of the Veterinary Profession

Vets from Tibet, Sikkim and Australia collaborate on a veterinary volunteer program in India.
Female Vets from Sikkim and Australia collaborate on a veterinary volunteer program in India.

There have been several academic studies on the affect of gender in the veterinary profession. This page presents some studies that focused on the feminisation of the veterinary profession.

Gender Work in a Feminized Profession- The Case of Veterinary Medicine

Veterinary medicine has undergone dramatic, rapid feminization while in many ways remaining gendered masculine. With women constituting approximately half of its practitioners and nearly 80 percent of students, veterinary medicine is the most feminized of the comparable health professions. Nevertheless, the culture of veterinary medicine glorifies stereotypically masculine actions and attitudes. This article examines how women veterinarians understand the gender dynamics within the profession. Our analysis reveals that the discursive strategies available to women sustain and justify the status quo, and thus preserve hegemonic masculinity. Women use strategies previously used toward female tokens in nontraditional jobs, such as role encapsulation, and strategies previously used by male tokens in traditionally female jobs, such as distancing from the feminine. Through this discursive “gender work,” women help to maintain the institutionalized inequality and the masculine ethic of the profession. Veterinary medicine illustrates the importance of considering organizational context in studies of feminization.

Effect of gender on ownership and income in veterinary practice

More than three-quarters (78%) of male but 36% of female private practitioners were partial or sole owners of practices. The median annual income for all male practitioners working more than 40 hours/week was $70K, but that for females was $43K. These disparities existed in both city and country practices, and in the case of income it increased with increasing time in the workforce. Male practice owners also reported higher incomes than female owners. Female veterinary practitioners are less likely to own practices, and more likely to earn low incomes than males. These differentials do not appear to be due to location, hours worked or years since graduation or, in the case of income, to whether they are owners or employees. The evidence points to a lower interest by women than men in the business aspects of veterinary practice.

A longitudinal study of veterinary students and recent graduates. Gender issues.

Females decided to study veterinary science at a younger age than males and were more influenced by ‘a love of animals’, the image of veterinarians as portrayed on television, an interest in living things and in the scientific study of disease. Males were more influenced than females in aspects of the workplace: bosses and money. There were no gender differences in their background in relation to farms, or to animals, or in their career plans. However females when in first year expected a lower initial income than males; an expectation that was realised in the first year after graduation. As first year students and also as veterinarians, females had stronger views than males on animal welfare issues, and also felt that the veterinary profession had a lower status relative to other professions. Significant differences in attitudes and experiences exist between males and females entering the veterinary profession. The situation of females in relation to income and status is consistent with that in other professions, where females have been disadvantaged compared with males.

Gender and veterinary medicine

Veterinary medicine, previously a male-dominated profession, has experienced a significant increase in the number of women studying at veterinary colleges and practising in all fields of the profession. In Canada, and in the United States, women constitute approximately 80% of the veterinary college student population. Forty-three percent of practising veterinarians in Canada are now female, and women are predicted to represent the majority of the veterinary profession by 2007.

Perceptions of fourth-year veterinary students about the human-animal bond in veterinary practice and in veterinary college curricula.

Senior veterinary students believed that the human-animal bond should be a concern of practicing veterinarians, but most did not believe they were receiving adequate instruction about the human-animal bond in their veterinary colleges. Gender was significantly related to differences in perceptions; female students appeared to have more interest in addressing the human-animal bond than male students. Students in small animal programs viewed the human-animal bond differently than those in large animal programs. Finally, students attending schools with extensivehuman-animal bond or human relations curricula were more likely to believe they were receiving adequate instruction in this area than students in other schools.

Trends in gender, employment, salary, and debt of graduates of US veterinary medical schools and colleges.

The greatest changes in employment occurred in predominantly large animal practice, which attracted 10.7% of new graduates in 1989 but only 2.2% in 2007, and in advanced study, which attracted 15.2% of new graduates in 1989 and 36.8% in 2007. In 2007, 75% of graduates were women, but this gender shift was not associated with the decline in the percentage of graduates entering rural practice. From 1989 through 2007, starting salaries in private practice increased at a rate of 4.60%/y. During the same period, educational debt increased at an annual rate of 7.36%, or 60% higher than the rate of increases for starting salaries. As a result, debt at graduation increased from 1.1 times the starting salary in 1989 to 2.0 times the starting salary in 2007.

Longitudinal study of veterinary students and veterinarians: family and gender issues after 20 years

By 15 years after graduation, the percentages of males and females doing some veterinary work are similaralthough males are more likely than females to be working full time. Females and males in full time private practice are equally likely to be practice owners, but female owners and female employees earn less than comparable males. Males and females have similar attitudes to having done the veterinary course.

Assessing the Influence of Gender, Learning Style, and Pre-entry Experience on Student Response to Delivery of a Novel Veterinary Curriculum

We investigated whether a novel veterinary curriculum was biased toward a particular gender, learning style, or pre-university experience (entry following undergraduate degree or direct entry from secondary school). We found no significant difference (p>0.05) in overall performance of first-year male, female, graduate-entry, or school-entry students. Students rated live-animal practical classes and facilitated problem-based learning as the most favored method of teaching, and this response was not biased by gender or pre-vet school experience. Men rated multiple-choice question (MCQ) assessment more highly than women, but there was no significant difference (p>0.05) in male or female performance on MCQ examinations. Men and women also performed comparably well in essays (both knowledge based and critical), suggesting that the retention of knowledge and depth of understanding was not gender biased. However, men performed significantly (p<0.05) better on critical essays compared with knowledge-based essays, and this trend was shown for both graduate-entry and school-entry students alike. We found no significant difference (p>0.05) in performance between groups of students with multimodal, kinesthetic, or reading–writing learning styles. Students with an auditory preference consistently performed less well in all types of assessment (p<0.05), but the number of students in this group was very small. Students whose learning style could not be specifically determined by Visual, Auditory, Read/write, Kinesthetic (VARK) tests consistently performed better than other groups, but this finding was not significant. Our results indicate that the Nottingham veterinary course does not bias for or against any of the variables we investigated.

Gender differences and the definition of success: male and female veterinary students’ career and work performance expectations.

This article addresses the challenges that gender performance expectations create within the veterinary profession. An investigation of veterinary students’ perceptions of the essential characteristics that define successful veterinarians and veterinary students, and the gender differences within these definitions, is described. Because previous research supports the premise that the standards required for success differ for males and females, it is likely that male and female veterinary students possess different career expectations and definitions of career success. The ramifications of these differences are explored, and proposed strategies to address this issue, in the form of student support services, are discussed.


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