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If you have been on the internet in the last few days then you’ve seen Emma Watson’s inspiring and poignant speech in her new role as a goodwill ambassador for UN women. In her speech she calls out for men to take up their end of the bargain in the fight for female equality and empowerment. It’s an inspiring speech and if you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it [here]. After signing up to the #heforshe pledge I started thinking to myself what role sexism played in my life and I kept coming back to my place as a future veterinarian.
Anybody in vet school across the world can attest to the fact that more females are entering the profession than ever before. In my class alone, 85% of the students are female, and this is universal across western countries with a similar trend across the world. This is in stark contrast to the male-dominated profession that has been the norm historically. There are a whole assortment of theories as to why this is the case, and these range from increased academic commitment of females to more males pursuing high-income professions. In the end though the ‘why’ isn’t the important part, it’s how it’s approached which is the issue.
I remember that in my first years of vet school, on visits to clinics in regional Australia, that I was treated differently to the female student I conducted the visits with. It wasn’t every clinic, and it certainly wasn’t every vet, but it was enough to be noticed. Comments like ‘Geez it’s great to see some male vet students coming through’ were fine – we are definitely few and far between! It was comments like ‘you had better pull this calf instead’ (when my partner had grown up on a dairy farm and was definitely far better at pulling calves than I was -and still is) that really stuck out. When it REALLY got uncomfortable was when I heard numerous theories about the failure of the profession due to there being too many women unable to run businesses. As a young student I listened to these comments come from good vets, employers, pillars of their communities, and I found it more perplexing
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