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Friday, December 3, 2010

Why So Many Women?

There was a recent article describing why women choose certain professions, especially in medicine.  The study described that one of the biggest determining factors was not an inherent love of the field, but its low cost to families.  The professions that allowed the best balance of work and family are the ones that women are choosing to go into.  And yes, veterinary medicine is one of those fields.  Here's a quote from the article.

Among professions with the fastest-growing proportions of women are veterinary medicine. Because of growth in veterinary hospitals and emergency clinics, vets increasingly have been able to eliminate on-call, night and weekend hours, and to work part-time, Goldin says. The proportion of female grads in vet medicine has soared to almost 80%, from 10% in 1970. In other examples, pharmacy grads are now 60% female, up from 30% in the mid-1970s, Goldin says. And optometry is about 60% female.

The article mentions a second discussion (linked above) that gives the following quote.

Drawing from data on Harvard graduates and on University of Chicago MBA grads, Goldin contrasted MBAs to veterinarians. Fifteen years after college, among those women who have kids, 23% of MBAs weren’t working, versus 3% of MDs and 14% of lawyers. “The MBA lure for women is large; incomes are substantial even though they are lower than those of their male peers. But some women with children find the inflexibility of work insurmountable and leave or become self employed,” she said.
“If women are ‘fleeing’ the corporate and financial sectors, they have been flocking to professions in the health field, particularly veterinary medicine,” she said. “Why? The demands of professional training have not changed. But the practice setting has. Small animal clinics open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., six days a week, with no evening and no emergency hours have proliferated. Being a veterinarian has prestige, equivalent to that of a physician. Like some physicians there is considerable room for part-time and flexible work. The training period is less than that for doctors. Veterinarians work lower hours than MBAs and engage in more part-time work sooner in their professional lives.”

Anyone in this field knows that women now dominate the profession.  A man like myself is increasingly becoming a rare find, and this will be even more noticeable as time goes on.  Frankly I don't mind, as I've never really felt like medicine should be in the hands of one gender or another.  But as more women enter veterinary medicine it changes more than the look of a veterinary office.  As the articles mentioned, women want a better work/family balance, and this is resulting in changes in how veterinarians are employed and how practices are run.  This isn't a bad thing, just different.  And I've sometimes wondered why this gender switch is happening, so it's interesting to me to see a likely reason.

Speaking of females entering the profession, I'd like to welcome one to the blogosphere.  There is a new blog by a veterinary student (a woman, of course!) called Vogue Vet that exemplifies these differences.  You certainly will not find me discussing the fashionable accessories of a veterinarian!


  1. I saw the article, too, and it's probably part of the explanation, though it doesn't explain me: I'm childless by choice and a solo equine veterinarian besides.

    Consider first that many female veterinarians are married to high-earning men: physicians, attorneys, MBAs, etc. It's easy to follow your dreams then work part-time when your husband makes a pile of money (this is also true for a few of the male veterinarians I know, BTW).

    Also consider that women today, vs. 1-2 generations ago, tend to have careers outside the home - sometimes just to make ends meet. In contrast, how many older male practice owners "employed" their wives as receptionist/technician? Younger male (and female) veterinarians are much less likely to tap that talented labor pool. This phenomenon probably also partially explains young veterinarians' diminished interest in owning a practice (paying a non-family member a living wage = $$$).

    It's a complex issue.

  2. Haha, thank you for the shout out! I agree with the previous comment about the changes in female careers in general terms. I also believe that for women it may be more feasible to become a veterinarian for the same money issues; men may feel a pressure to be the breadwinner and therefore will forego veterinary medicine for a more lucrative career path. Women don't seem to have this same pressure.

  3. A question I too have often tried to answer. The article probably speaks as directly to a general answer as I've ever heard anywhere else. Though, I too agree with Outrider, there are those that perhaps no study will ever figure out why we are doing what we are!

    I've been in mixed animal private practice since graduating in 2008. I am a wife and mother of a 16month son, as well as the primary income earner for the family. Part time work was NEVER a thought that crossed my mind when I was in school. I'm now a practice owner (partner), take ER call every third week, and sometimes spend more time at the clinic than at home. Not a good work life balance I know, but we make it work!

    I'm a veterinarian because it's what I feel a natural tendency towards and allows me to make a good living for my family. But why I initially went into this field . . . I can't say really!


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