In a previous blog, I alluded to the feminisation of the profession. Here, I speak very carefully to avoid confusion of this with feminism.
I’m not going to preach equal rights or pick holes in generalisations, but the facts are unavoidable: feminisation of the profession is happening and we need to find the best way to embrace this.
57% of practising vets in the UK are women[1.Source: http://vetfutures.org.uk/resource/vet-futures-literature-review/], and this balance looks set to tip even further in the female direction. However, I don’t feel this accurately reflects the male presence in veterinary education, which is significantly lower.
Less than a quarter of students embarking on their veterinary degree in 2012 were male and – upon discussion with other students – it is evident that some schools are worse than others.
So why is the gender imbalance significantly worse in education than in veterinary practice?
It has been shown that men are likely to stay in the profession for longer than women, with more women than men opting for part-time work, so the suggestion that males are being put off the degree because it is seen as a less “manly” career choice seems a bit absurd to me – especially as sexism is still extremely prevalent, despite the female shift.
In one of my interviews for veterinary school, it was suggested the reason males are declining in veterinary education is simply because females are outperforming them academically and so they just aren’t achieving the grades needed to make the offer for a place at vet school.
You can speculate as much as you want to try and discover the reasons why, but feminisation is happening and the profession is changing as a result. Corporate chains of veterinary practices are increasing in number, bringing with them rock bottom prices that individual James Herriot-esque practices can’t compete with. But is the attraction of part-time work and “normal” working hours that the corporates offer more attractive, especially to vets (particularly female, but also male) with children?
I think many of the fairytale illusions that some of us entered the veterinary world with are long gone. The profession is changing rapidly, and must continue to do so in order to accommodate for things like feminisation and increasing graduate numbers.
While corporate practices may be a short term aid, and potentially offer a better work-life balance, I don’t think they are the ultimate answer.