Women in vet medicine, redux
Yep, it’s time again for the chronic vet industry debate I’ve hosted on this blog many times before. Again, it’s about us girls in white with the pet hair on our labcoats and the stethoscopes fashionably entwined ‘round our necks. And this time, no wringing of hands or gnashing of teeth—I promise.
As a friendly reminder, let me first point out that women now outnumber men in the veterinary profession. Furthermore, vet school student enrollments in the US are such that women take up almost three quarters of the available seats.
Yessss…we women rock! But wait…not on the hospital ledger books. There, we plummet—that is, relative to our male counterparts’ earned income.
Based on the latest study on this issue, the difference between the veterinary sexes is a staggering 30% in annual income. Even when adjusted for experience and practice ownership status (for which women still lag behind men), we’re still at a huge income disadvantage (according to study after study). This means than men (across all fields in vet medicine) on average make $42,000 more than us.
It seems fairly cut and dry, but as with other hot-button issues (think global warming), there are plenty of incentives for those who would benefit from disputing these findings to do so. And so we keep studying this issue—with no solutions posited, even as the signs point to further deterioration in women’s income.
Some critics of these stats counter that the evidence is multi-factorial and does not account for lower female work hours and the cumulative experience lost therein. Moreover, it doesn’t factor in the reality that fewer work hours per week means fewer dedicated clients due to more frequent unavailabilty…thus less value…thus less income.
I’d agree if it weren’t for the gender income disparity stats that exist across all vet disciplines and all professions—not to mention my personal findings. Sure, I’m a sample size of one, but that doesn’t mean my own experience counts for nothing.
Here’s a slice of my own life for your consideration:
I’ve seen vets back out on an ownership transfer deal (a practice buyout) more than once, only to acquiesce to a male’s offer at the same price. I’ve been subjected to cuts in work hours, in spite of my higher-than-theirs production stats (I infer that’s because of my female single-parent’s perceived unreliability relative to a man’s). Once, even, I was “laid off”…on the exact day I was due to deliver a baby. I was thus unable to collect my maternity leave income. Shall I go on?
Sure, who knows whether any of these were gender-related. I can make a story for their all having been sound business decisions. But their collective presence—and the anecdotes of my female colleagues—make me think otherwise.
Women in any field know they’re safer when they don’t make noise about these issues. And women vets are as silent as they come—yours truly included, were it not for this blog. After all, I sought no legal action, even on the maternity leave case. No whining is something we’re all taught to value highly in vet school.
In case you think this is just a veterinary issue, consider that women’s salaries, across the board, are almost as low, compared to men’s, as they were in 1971. Sure, there are a lot more women in the workforce, but the disparity is impressive, nonetheless.
That’s not hand-wringing or teeth-gnashing. That’s just plain thought-provoking.