I have not blogged for the last few months. There are several reasons for that. Some of those reasons relate to this statue. I will explain…
We are in the midst of a house renovation/redecoration. While sifting through the clutter that is now my home, I found this. My mother gave the statue to me sometime around when I decided to become a veterinarian (think back to when we had no internet, and talking on a phone resembled being under house arrest, the dark ages basically), and when I actually became one (1992). Looking at it struck me that things have changed so much since Royal Doulton’s vision of a man in a lab coat represented my profession. If you were to think of a song that represented veterinary medicine in 1960 and prior, you might think “It’s Raining Men”. It you were to have a song represent the numbers of women graduating now, Helen Reddy would come to mind, belting out “I Am Woman”. No other profession has seen a gender shift such as this, and there are several reasons postulated for it.
Looking at the numbers, veterinary schools now enroll 70-80% female students, and women members of the AVMA, our practicing registry, were reported to outnumber men for the first time in 2009. In 1960, 98% were men. But, what may be more important is the applicant pool statistics. In 1985, 44% were men, and by 1999, 28% were men. Another telling survey shows us that there are less men because they are avoiding the profession altogether. Between 1976 and 1995, male applicants dropped by nearly 1/2, with women applicants nearly doubling.
So, what are the reasons for this shift, and what are the implications? This picture of my adorable new neighbor wearing her veterinarian Halloween costume hints at it.
Reasons for more women were suggested, such as the elimination of discrimination of gender biased applicant pools, the improvement in chemical restraint for animals, increased female role models in the profession, and the portrayal of vets on television and in books.
Reasons for less men applying include a reluctance to enter careers with low or stagnant incomes (ie. vet medicine, which is a sad but true statement), and a loss of autonomy due to the increased number of corporate owned practices. The most important reason of all may be the trend effect. Specifically, the more women in a field, the less men are drawn to it (think nursing).
This is the problem as we see it. There are wage inequalities based on gender in our field. It may be in part due to the fact that many women practice part time. More men veterinarians own practices than women veterinarians. More telling still is another study which showed that 38% of women practicing desired to be practice owners, compared to 61% of men. This is a trend that I have experienced my entire career.
Which leads me to my personal experience, and why it took me so long to blog.
This is me with two of my fabulous assistants, at a street fair. When we are not there we are working. And, we are tending to our children, PTA, paying our bills at home, shopping, cooking and feeding those families, and, sometimes having fun during the summer spending quality time with those families. I have at any given time, several balls in the air. With regards to the study about practice ownership, I was one of 64% of women veterinarians that did not desire to own my own practice. Yet, here I stand, corrected. What this picture says is so much. Here we are, 3 of the 4 women that make up our mobile vet practice, serving clients that are mainly women who work hard in the home and out of the home, with children, husbands and lives, just like us. We are all busy, and hence I have not written because of it. We all used to work for several practices, coincidentally owned by men. I am not here to bash male practice owners. I worked for, generally, male owned practices. They were a mixed breed of employers. In fact, the worst, cruelest practice owner I ever encountered was a woman. Therefore, clearly, I am not suggesting that women should only work with or for women. All I can do is speak for myself, my experiences. Additionally, I enjoy having young future veterinarians drive along with us to house calls. I am extra excited that my son’s friend, a boy, will join us shortly. I think that we need both men and women in the profession, balancing out the field, hormones, etc. I would hate to see an all female veterinary field.
I too graduated with a class of about 100, mainly women. So many of them, men and women, have gone on to stellar careers, and I admire them enormously for it. Patty, Don, Dara, Jenny, Howard, Lori, Lilly, Roy, to name a few. So many others have worked for others, or themselves, and are equally fabulous in my mind, and that of their clients, like Brad, Joanna,Pam, Stephanie, Dina, Marko,… the list goes on.
So, if there was a point that I intended to make when I started writing this blog, it would be this. My field has evolved over time. It has swayed in the public’s view, and it has changed sexes with time. I didn’t choose it because it was a woman’s field, and I don’t think that you select your veterinarian because he or she is male or female. I do it because I love it, and I sincerely hope that the veterinarian in your life makes you feel that he or she loves it as well, and that you have confidence in him or her.