Although the demographics of veterinary care have changed rapidly over the last 30 years, not much has improved regarding gender equality.
Within the profession, there still exists a remarkable divide between male and female veterinarians, in terms of employment, pay and wellbeing.
Those within the profession who ardently believe that gender discrimination is a thing of the past, are ironically the most likely to pay women less within the field (even when their qualifications exactly match that of their male counterparts), illustrating the severity of the issue1.
Discover the emerging veterinary trends between male and female veterinarians, and how the changing demographics of veterinary medicine may influence veterinary culture in the future.
What is The Gender Divide in Veterinary Care?
Veterinary care is one of the few professions that has experienced a rapid numerical feminization over the last couple of decades. Back in the 90s, only 31% of veterinarians in Canada, for example, were female2. Now, women make up 61% of veterinary professionals in the country3.
And this is only going up. Currently, in the US and Canada alone, more than 80% of veterinary medical students are women4 .
Similar veterinary trends can be observed in the UK. Though back in 1994, 57% of new veterinary graduates were female, they now make up about three-quarters of graduate output5. In the US, there are currently around 69,908 registered female veterinarians and 43,345 male vets. Female vets in the US dominate both private and public veterinary practices6 .
Employment: Male vs Female Veterinarians
Compared to men, female veterinarians are much less likely to be in full-time employment.
Between 2006-2019, more male veterinarians held full-time positions than females. Back in 2006, 70% of men were in full-time employment, whereas only 64% of women were. Similarly in 2019, 68.2% of men were employed full-time, whereas only 61.1% of women were working similar hours.
Interestingly, women were much more likely to be employed part-time (perhaps due to gendered child care responsibilities) in comparison to male vets. For example, in 2019, 30.5% of women worked part-time whereas only 13.6% of men worked in a similar capacity.
Alarmingly, women appear to be almost twice as likely to be unemployed as men in veterinary care (although they were also twice as likely to be taking a career break compared to their male counterparts)7.
The Veterinary Wage Gap
In veterinary care (and many other professions) women typically hold jobs that are lower paid and less favorable in comparison to men of the same professional status. Whilst the gender pay gap in the US has been shrinking since the 1980s, it still exists in almost all occupations8 .
In a Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) survey, researchers found that there was a 19% medium hourly rate pay gap for female vets. According to Data USA, the average male veterinarian’s salary is $118,338, whereas the average female vet’s salary is $89,3379 .
This pay gap is potentially as unethical as it is uneconomical. Closing the pay gap could theoretically increase GDP by 26%, totaling $28 trillion globally10. Although the reasons for this are multifaceted, this is partially because wealthier women spend more- bolstering economic output11.
In a veterinary setting, this benefits employers as better-paid women tend to be more productive, motivated, and less likely to transfer elsewhere12. There are also implications for the speed with which veterinary student debt can be paid down.
Average Hours Worked (Full-time)
Although veterinarian’s weekly hours have decreased since 2010, there remains a gap between men and women in terms of work hours.
On average, male veterinarians (in the UK) work 43.4 hours a week, whereas women work 41.9 hours13. Whilst the cause for the difference is unclear (again, perhaps related to disproportionate childcare responsibilities) this is an interesting insight into veterinary professional’s working weeks.
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Veterinary Wellbeing: Male vs Female veterinarians
When it comes to wellbeing, it seems that there are some notable differences between female and male veterinarians. Although wellbeing varies from person to person depending on personal circumstances, there are some clear wellbeing trends within the data.
In a survey by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, participants were assessed on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS) to calculate their overall happiness. The survey was used to gauge the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of the participants.
The survey found that women scored somewhat lower than men in regards to their wellbeing14. Additional studies have found that female veterinarians experience higher levels of stress than their male counterparts in Australia15.
Female gender has been reported as a risk factor for burnout syndrome, further evidence of the high levels of stress experienced by many female vets16.
Although there is limited research on the influence of gender on the wellbeing of veterinary professionals, it is certainly a stark indicator of a wider problem. Women are paid less well and experience greater stress, surely a serious problem when such numerical gender balance exists.
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Although the veterinary profession has progressed in terms of gender diversity, strong gender biases still exist within the industry.
Whatever measure you care to focus on, slow progress is a concern. With the profession likely to remain or become ever more feminized over the next couple of decades, it seems change must happen sooner than later to improve the prospects for women in veterinary medicine and the health of the profession as a whole.
If you enjoyed our article on ‘Male vs Female Veterinarians: How The Sexes Compare in Veterinary Care’, you should check out our articles on practice life here.
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1- ‘Gender discrimination in the veterinary profession – British ….’ 1 Nov. 2018, https://www.bva.co.uk/media/2988/gender-discrimination-in-the-vet-profession-bva-workforce-report-nov-2018.pdf. Accessed 27 Apr. 2021.
2- ‘Work satisfaction in a rapidly feminized profession: assessing the ….’ 1 May. 2020, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02732173.2020.1751013. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.
3- ‘CVMA | Statistics – Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.’ https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/about/statistics. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.
4- ‘Work satisfaction in a rapidly feminized profession: assessing the ….’ 1 May. 2020, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02732173.2020.1751013. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.
5- ‘Big 6: surgeon gender | Vet Times.’ 6 Mar. 2018, https://www.vettimes.co.uk/article/big-6-surgeon-gender/. Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.
6- ‘U.S. veterinarians 2018 | American Veterinary Medical Association.’ https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/reports-statistics/market-research-statistics-us-veterinarians-2018. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.
7- ‘The 2019 survey of the veterinary profession – RCVS.’ https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/publications/the-2019-survey-of-the-veterinary-profession/. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.
8- ‘Work satisfaction in a rapidly feminized profession: assessing the ….’ 1 May. 2020, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02732173.2020.1751013. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.
9- ‘Veterinarians | Data USA.’ https://datausa.io/profile/soc/veterinarians. Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.
10- ‘Women get a raw deal and it’s bad for business and the economy ….’ 21 Feb. 2020, https://veterinary-practice.com/article/women-get-a-raw-deal-and-its-bad-for-business-and-the-economy. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.
11- ‘The Economic Impact of Equal Pay by State – Women in the States.’ https://statusofwomendata.org/featured/the-economic-impact-of-equal-pay-by-state/. Accessed 26 Apr. 2021.
12- ‘The Impact of Wages on Employee Productivity – Forbes.’ 12 Sept. 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbooksauthors/2019/09/12/the-impact-of-wages-on-employee-productivity/. Accessed 27 Apr. 2021.
13- ‘The 2019 survey of the veterinary profession – RCVS.’ https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/publications/the-2019-survey-of-the-veterinary-profession/. Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.
14- ‘The 2019 survey of the veterinary profession – RCVS.’ https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/publications/the-2019-survey-of-the-veterinary-profession/. Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.
15- ‘Burnout and health promotion in veterinary medicine – NCBI – NIH.’ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3711171/. Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.
16- ‘Investigation of burnout syndrome and job-related risk factors in ….’ 16 Dec. 2019, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31840933/. Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.