The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has announced its hot topic session for BVA Congress at this year’s London Vet Show (LVS) to be “Setting the A-Gender: women as leaders and entrepreneurs”.

Vets in clinical practice are now more frequently female than male.

According to the association, the discussion will tackle the challenges and opportunities for a veterinary profession increasingly dominated by women.

For the first time, said the BVA, more than half of respondents to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS) Survey of the Veterinary Profession were women, with respondents working in clinical practice recorded as 60% female and 40% male.

Plus, figures from the association’s own Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey panel have revealed pronounced gender differences on a number of issues.

For example, out of the respondents who said they would not be a vet in five years’ time, 85% of males said they would be retired as opposed to 45% of females, while five times as many women as men said they would leave the profession to pursue a different career.

Also, female vets who had not followed their intended career path were also more likely than average to cite better working conditions (cited by 34% of female vets as opposed to 30% on average) or compatibility with family life (cited by 33% of female vets as opposed to 25% on average) as reasons.

Plus, while 61% of vets in general rated job-related stress as “not very good” or “terrible”, this rises to 67% for female vets.

Speaking in the debate, RCVS past-president Jacqui Molyneux will draw on her experience as president in a year when no women stood for council elections. Turning this around, Ms Molyneux – who was the sixth female president – saw a record number of women stand the following year.

“Even in today’s society, women are led to believe they ‘can’t have it all’ – I believe we can but we need to plan well and be flexible,” she said. “Women need to be encouraged to realise they have a very important role to play in shaping the future of the profession and that their voices are valued.”

Colette Henry, editor of the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship and chair of business and Enterprise at the Royal Veterinary College from 2009-2012, will join Ms Molyneux to argue corporatisation could open up more career opportunities and flexible leadership roles for women and men.

“This BVA debate is particularly timely, and offers a fantastic opportunity to begin serious discussion around both the challenges and opportunities facing the increasingly feminised veterinary profession,” said Prof Henry. “Yes, we need more women to take up leadership roles in existing veterinary practices, and yes, we need more women to start new practices, but there is also considerable scope for innovative and entrepreneurial development beyond veterinary practice.

“If we do nothing, embedded masculinised stereotypes may well prevail, preventing women from taking up roles as veterinary small business leaders and entrepreneurs. This would undoubtedly have a very negative impact on the profession.”

All LVS delegates are invited to join the debate on November 21 at 12.45pm in the BVA Congress stream at London’s Olympia.

For more information and the show’s full agenda, visit the LVS website.

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