Male Vets Make More Than Their Female Colleagues

Patty Khuly, DVM
August 09, 2006
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Why do men make more money in any job or profession (except lap dancing, of course)? To address these basic inequities thoroughly is a total tail-chaser—and not my job. Gender inequality in the workplace is a contemporary truism—unfortunately—and it often sucks. That’s as far as I can responsibly go—in general. I can, however discuss the specifics of my profession with candid glee:

Concepts that must be grasped before I can safely climb on my soapbox:

1-Vets don’t make a lot of money given our level of education (and student loan debt).

2-Women now make up more than half of vet school graduates but men still make up a larger percentage of total vet professionals.

3-Men still own more practices.

4-The average age—and level of experience—among male vets in higher.

An alarming study came to my attention recently: male vets average $95,000 a year while female vets average $63,000—these numbers are reportedly corrected for years of experience and number of work hours per year. The study also reports that staring salaries for males are higher than for female vets ($41K vs. $38K).

These results are alarming, especially to veterinarians, women, and anyone involved in a profession where females make up an increasing percentage of the work force.

I’ll be the first to admit I beat the average by a reasonable percentage—which is one reason I’m skeptical of the study’s results. I’m not sure I can imagine spending as much as I did on my education so I could break even by the time I hit retirement age. This is what an average female vet’s income effectively means. She’d better marry well or take on a second job if she ever plans to drive a Volvo and live in the 'burbs.

Sadly, while I’m not convinced of the actual values (the study looks a little cheesy to the statistical me), the anecdotal me believes it to a certain extent. I see women in my profession offered starting salaries significantly lower than those of men, especially at the associate level (non-practice owners).

Even more disturbing, the study points out that income disparities are greatest among practice owners. So even if we, as women, take on the traditional male roles in veterinary medicine, assume the risk of a business venture, and bust our butts in the grueling entrepreneurial fray, we make even less, relative to men.

Where’s the justice? Better yet—if we take the study at face value—what’s our problem?

In the discussion section of the paper, further study on this precise issue is recommended. Within the profession, however, it is widely believed that there are three reasons why women make less money. I’ll discuss these tomorrow.