The Femalization of Veterinary Medicine and Why it Matters

MVMFemalization

Some dogs see a veterinarian as an extra pair of hands to pet them, and some of course see them as imminent needles and nothing but bad news. However, in my experience, some dogs are sensitive to their veterinarian’s gender.

At the veterinary hospital, we frequently received calls from new clients stating that their dog preferred a female doctor over a male doctor.

Fortunately for these dogs, a female veterinarian is not too hard to find. In my three years working in veterinary medicine, I worked with 8 female veterinarians and 2 males veterinarians. The same was true in my Animal Science courses at UC Davis which were dominated by the female gender. My question has always been, why the trend?

According to Veterinary Practice News, as of 2010, women hold 78% of veterinary school seats. Additionally, as of 2009 female veterinarians exceeded male veterinarians for the first time.

femalevets

Photo courtesy of the AVMA.org

Why such a dramatic shift?

The theories are varied.

Many credit this long term change to the Title IX legislation of 1972 which eradicated gender discrimination in federally funded education (Veterinary Practice).

Many studies state that women are simply attending college at a higher rate than men. Since 2000, 57% of enrolled college students have been female. Additionally, females are dominating education at the graduate level (Veterinary Practice).

The next, and probably most depressing, theory is that veterinary medicine does not provide a large enough salary to attract men to the field (Veterinary Practice). My own personal choice for not attending veterinary school did relate to the very high debt:salary ratio of veterinarians, so I understand the decision making process from my (apparently male) point of view.

Lastly, some attribute the increase in female veterinarians to the caring nature of veterinarians portrayed on TV and in movies (NCBI).

An Australian study of veterinary students and recent graduates analyzed the factors that males and females used to determine their veterinary career path.

Male Decision Making Factors:

1) Desire for independence and a lack of supervision in the veterinary field.

2) Financial attractiveness (debt:salary ratios may differ in Australia, but remain high here in the U.S.)

Female Decision Making Factors:

1) Love of animals

2) Image of veterinarians portrayed on television

3) Interest as a child in living things

4) Scientific study of disease

The reason I chose to pursue an Animal Science degree, and the reasons I almost become a veterinarian included a combination of numbers 1, 3 and 4. However, my decision NOT to attend veterinary school was partially due to financial unattractiveness of the veterinary profession.

Are there any issues with the femalization of the Veterinary profession?

Interestingly enough, Food Animal Veterinarians are still 82.5% male (Veterinary Practice). Which means, that many people are concerned about the ability of female dominated veterinary schools producing the necessary number of male veterinarians needed to keep up this trend.

Sadly, some studies have concluded that female veterinary salaries are, and have been, lower than male veterinary salaries. Further, this lack of increase in female veterinary salaries mixed with the femalization of the field has led to a decrease in the  profession’s salary overall (NCBI).

Lastly, studies concluded that females have less of an interest in owning a practice which may lead to a decrease in veterinary practices in the future (NCBI). Truthfully, two of the practices I worked for were owned by the only male veterinarian that worked at the practice. That being said, one of the practices I worked for was co-owned by two women, a decision they made that give themselves the flexibility to raise their children, and be practice owners.

What is the solution for the future?

We need to encourage female veterinarians to be practice owners. How do we do that? Professor Colette Henry argues that veterinary schools need to integrate business education into their curriculum. When I was working toward veterinary school, I only wanted to be a veterinarian if I was going to a be a practice owner. However, only a handful of veterinary universities offered an integrated DVM/MBA program. I wholeheartedly agree with Colette, that in order for femalization of the veterinary profession to be a positive effect, which I KNOW it can be, we have to set women up for success from the get go.

Personally, as a female in business school, I am confident that the lack of female interest in practice ownership we see today, will not be what we observe in the future. More women are owning businesses, and slowly but surely, we are making strides in the corporate world. I truly believe that veterinary medicine won’t be far behind. The femalization of veterinary medicine will continue, and mark my words, it will be beneficial to the field.

So now that we have determined that females are indeed dominating the veterinary field, the question is, how does this affect your dog?

An article written by VetStreet, gathered some information that dogs prefer women in general, due to a variety of factors.

1) Women tend to be the primary caretaker of a dog in the home.

2) Dogs prefer people with soft voices and more calming body language, which women in general innately possess.

3) Women dominate the field of veterinary medicine.

Therefore, can a correlation be observed that dogs prefer female veterinarians because they are simply the norm in small animal medicine?

MedicineVsMom

Carol from Fidose of Reality provides more information to this question in her Mom perspective of this topic, please click here.

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23 Comment

  1. Reply
    Carol Bryant
    March 9, 2015 at 3:41 am

    Such a profound and interesting topic, and one I am so glad we tackled.
    Carol Bryant recently posted…Does Gender Matter at the VeterinarianMy Profile

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 9, 2015 at 8:51 am

      Carol, I totally agree! I had a lot of fun writing this post! So honored to be working with you once again!

  2. Reply
    Robin
    March 9, 2015 at 11:53 am

    I think that a lot of male/female ratios are starting to shift. In the last 30-40 years there has been a lot more women pursuing higher education as well as traditionally male dominated careers. I do hope that more women step up to own their own practices in coming years Somehow I think they will though. It might just be that women wait until they are a little older before they become owners due to having children. My cats don’t seem to have a gender preference when it comes to their veterinarian.
    Robin recently posted…Holistic Nutrition Consult Worldwide GiveawayMy Profile

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 20, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Robin, thank you so much for your thoughts. I agree, I think women are gaining traction not only in veterinary medicine, but in other business markets as well. I look forward to this in the future 🙂

  3. Reply
    John
    March 9, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Interesting post. We have three Vet Practices in town of which only one is Female. All three are single Vet. Practices. I have heard from friends that attend her practice that she is very good with animals. I have been using the same Vet for the past 20 years and I see no reason to change now.

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 20, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      John, thank you for stopping by. I agree, no need to change if things work!

  4. Reply
    Jana Rade
    March 9, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Ugh. Two people doing the same job should get the same pay. Mindbogling that it still isn’t automatically so.
    Jana Rade recently posted…Bladder Stone Diagnosis and RemovalMy Profile

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Jana, I couldn’t agree more!

  5. Reply
    The Island Cats
    March 9, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    We prefer a female vet. Probably because we’re around our mom so much. Not that we’re not around the dad-guy. But it’s the mom that takes care of us most of the time.
    The Island Cats recently posted…A Mancat PetBox Review & GiveawayMy Profile

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Rooney is a bit of a mama’s boy too!

  6. Reply
    Michelle Wolff
    March 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Such thought provoking information!
    Michelle Wolff recently posted…Self-care? What self-care? Self-care for Advocates series part 1My Profile

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      Thank you Michelle!

  7. One of the practices that I go to is woman owned and woman run. Not a guy in the group.

    –Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats
    Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats recently posted…The Last Snow of the SeasonMy Profile

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 20, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      That has been the majority of my experience!

  8. Reply
    Abby Chesnut
    March 9, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    My girls have only seen male vets, and now that I am thinking about it, the majority of the vet practices over here owned by male vets. Hmm. Interesting
    Abby Chesnut recently posted…Review: Caru Natural Stews for DogsMy Profile

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 20, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      Very interesting. May I ask, where are you located?

  9. Reply
    MyDogLikes
    March 9, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Awesome collaboration! Have you read “Lean In”? Sounds like we need to encourage women to lean in and drive the salaries of these highly trained medical providers. I absolutely love our veterinarian, who is a female. When we go there, she makes us feel like she loves our boys as much as I do.
    MyDogLikes recently posted…Finding the #PerfectWeightMy Profile

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 20, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      That is awesome! I have read Lean In and I loved it! I felt so motivated and happy to be a woman. I am reading #Girlboss right now. Have you read that? Very motivating

  10. Reply
    dogvills
    March 10, 2015 at 3:32 am

    I think it is important to have male and female in each profession. It helps balancing things
    dogvills recently posted…How to Choose the Best Hypoallergenic Dog FoodMy Profile

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 25, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      I couldn’t agree more!

  11. Reply
    Cathy Armato
    March 10, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Excellent post about a really interesting topic! I’m disheartened to hear that salary inequity between women and men exists in Veterinary medicine, why are women so often being paid less in so many fields!? Grrrr! I think some form of business education is important for Veterinary students. Many people don’t realize that practicing medicine, although noble, is also a business. The practitioner still needs to earn a living, as well as pay oftentimes huge educational loans and mal-practice insurance!
    Cathy Armato recently posted…Your Dog Can Be Your Best Travel BuddyMy Profile

    1. Reply
      Rachel
      March 25, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      Cathy, I couldn’t agree with you more! It is vital to a veterinarian’s success to have great business sense. Thank you for stopping by!

  12. Reply
    A Bissett-Strhal
    March 27, 2016 at 5:54 am

    I am a veterinarian who retired after 30 years in the business. I ran my own practice (s) for 27 of those years I worked about 60 hours per week including weekend, evenings and for the first 10 years. Before there was a local emergency clinic, I did all my own after hours emergencies. The last 2 weeks before that clinic opened I took 97 out of hours “emergency” calls of which exactly 1 was truly an emergency that had to be seen immediately. By the time I had retired my working hours had dropped to about 25 per week seeing patients and about 10 doing practice management. I was generating about 200K net before tax income, however I worked for negative income for the first 5 years, so in the grand scheme of things it balanced out to the average associates income. There was a catch. after 30 years in the business I realized that there are very very few women I could hire as vets. I had 14 employees at one point, and the 4 veterinary femalesI hired in that time were a disgrace. They took time off casually without notice for the thinnest of excuses. They did not, nor could not, appear to understand that they had to generate overhead as well as their own incomes. Initially they gave away my stuff as if it was free, and then when they decided that wasn’t going to work, they decided that each client should be treated as their own personal bank account to generate as much gross income as possible, but completely failed to realize that running multiple unjustifiable lab tests was a poor net income generator, and merely reduced repeat business. They were lazy and as dumb as dirt, and one of the major stressors in my life, At the end I just decided to work as a solo practitioner and be happy. Most women are not cut out to run businesses. Not sure why, it is just the way it is. We need more men, and more logic, balanced approaches to income generation and fairness to clients, and dedication which means not being able to skip out on the work every time a kid sneezes or they need personal down time. Most of them have husbands who work, they don’t need their income, and so have very little incentive to maximize quantity or quality of work.

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