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Feminisation of the veterinary industry - one vet's thoughts

Posted in Our Community @ Oct 1st 2015 - By A (female) Vet
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With all the energy and concern that has been devoted to the “feminization of the profession”, it has made me wonder what is so great about the masculinized version?  Why are females perceived as a “threat” to the future of veterinary business?

What many need to realise that it isn’t the change in demographics that is the primary driver for change, but the generation itself, both male and female.  We are in the 21st century now!  People are still the same, but life has changed and this is not necessarily a bad thing.

There have been conferences, weekends and meetings of veterinarians in the higher echelons of industry and university with, I have no doubt, pages upon pages of notes written about the impact (with the implication of it being negative) of the feminization of the veterinary profession.

If the profession was honest with itself, it should really be devoting more time and energy to the impact (negative in my view) of the corporatisation of veterinary business, and how this will (adversely in my view) affect the relationship between pet owners and veterinarians. This is what will affect the profession far more than this “feminization” thing that everyone seems so hell bent on spending time discussing.

So what makes the “masculine” model of veterinary practice so much more advantageous than a flexible work structure aka a “feminized” one?

Why is “feminization” a threat to some, and why are so many threatened?  Many will protest that they are not – they will say “But I employ women in my business!” Some will say “But I am a woman, how can I be threatened?”

So what does a “masculinized” profession look like?  

I suppose it looks a little bit like the days of when James Herriot practiced:

  • The work hours are long, usually from 7-8 in the morning to late in the evening, with equally atrocious work conditions.
  • Support staff? Well that would be whomever you could grab.
  •  Lunch is non existant – a quick bite between surgeries
  • You must be on call most, if not every night.
  • You need to work the hours to get the experience you need
  • “That’s how it was done in my day, and that is how it is going to be done now”
  • Weekends?  What are they!
  • Family time?  That is what the wife is for.
  • (any suggestions for more?)

Well done if this is the model you really want to cling to and hold on tight!

We would be horrified if we practiced 20th century medicine now that we're in the 21st century, so why do we want to cling to 20th century business models?  

If I reflect on the way I have been treated over my past 25 years as a female vet, I can see why many colleagues (not just males) are concerned about the feminization of the profession.  There is an unspoken image of what females are and how they should behave. In the minds of many they do not belong in a business world, let alone a time consuming one like the veterinary profession. I won’t go into the details of the bullying, discrimination, and bitchiness that I, as a female vet (and then young mother) was subject to.

But I will talk about what females are….

  • Females are ambitious, focused to achieve and driven - many men are threatened by that.
  • Females with children to care for, do want to work - and are able to work.  They may need a structure which gives them routine time off – for morning tea, for lunch, for afternoon tea and knock off time.... you know, the standard stuff that occurs in many other job environments i.e flexibility
  • Females are hardworking, organised and know that it is the work within the hours that counts, not the hours worked.
  • Females are great entrepreneurs, with great entrepreneurial spirit

There are many successful veterinary businesses out there that recognise all of the above traits and who have incorporated them into their way of doing business. They are winning local and national business awards. So they do exist, and it is possible.

But here is a prediction for you – female veterinarians do want to work, and if your current business structure is incapable of changing to accommodate them, then they will find a way to work, and it will probably be in direct competition to your own business. 

So what do you think? Do you agree with A (female) Vet's viewpoint? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 



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