anonymous asked:

came for the fantasy biology, stayed for everything else. Happy International Women's Day! Do you think the feminisation of veterinarian field is contributing to lower wages? In Eastern Europe, where the entire medical profession is seen as "women's work", medical doctors are paid very low wages, similar to teachers. It seems that the more women enter a field, the more it becomes undervalued and lower wages results. In the west, where medicine is male dominated, there are good wages.

Yes I do think the increasing percentage of women in veterinary medicine has contributed to the profession’s relatively low wage/ I was going to write this as a part 2 for the original post, but since you asked I’ll put in here.

Consider this Feminization of the Veterinary Industry, part 2.

As a society, we unfortunately have a tendency to perceive ‘women’s work’ as being less important. This is bollocks, but it’s a perception that exists. It’s pervasive and insidious. As society views women’s work as less valuable, it inevitably ends up viewing work done mostly by women as, by definition, ‘women’s work’. As a result work done by female vets seems to be valued less, and eventually so does the work of our entire profession.

I still see this directly sometimes. A price or estimate for a procedure given by myself is more likely to be disputed, sometimes quite aggressively, but the same arguments is not raised against estimates given by male coworkers.

There’s been a pretty good study called ‘Effect of gender on ownership and income in veterinary practice’. If you have access to the Australian Veterinary Journal you cal look up the paper directly. The data could be summaries as follows:

  • All age groups of vets are averaging more than full time hours
  • Men achieve practice ownership sooner, independent of geographical location
  • While new graduates are starting on similar wages despite gender ( median 39k for men and 36k for women)
  • While 10-20 years after graduation men are working more hours than women on average, this is still above full time hours for both groups.
  • 20 years after graduation, when men and women are averaging 50 and 49 hours per week respectively, the average incomes are 81k and 51k respectively.

That’s female vets with the same years of experience earning 62 cents in the dollar compared to their male counterparts, for those playing at home. You might wonder whether that’s because male vets are working more hours, or because more of them are practice owners. The study wondered this too. Here are their results.

According to these results, even when female vets are working more than full time, they are still earning less than their male counterparts. Female vets that own practices are earning similar incomes to male vets who are only employed. This is disappointing when the pay scales were so equal at the early stages of the career.

There was also a study I’ve read, but cannot for the life of me find (but will offer cookies for anyone that does locate it) that collected historical wage data for veterinarians, dentists and general practitioners from around 1970 onward to compare this data to the percent of women in that field.

 At great surprise to nobody, wages were pretty similar for the three professions when all three were male dominated. But the data showed that while dentist and GP wages increased roughly with inflation, veterinarian wages increased at a lower rate, resulting in the average vet wage in the modern day being approximately half that of the other two professions.

The wage gap for new graduate veterinarians is pretty little. This is probably explained by the phenomenon of ‘poaching’ male new grad vets.

In short, male new grads are a rarity. They’re outnumbered by female graduates by 4 or 5 to one. Vet clinics that really want a male new grad, often because male practice owners see something of themselves in the new grad. Male new grads seem more likely to have job offers before graduation, often from clinics they’ve done work experience at. This is what we called ‘poaching’, because these male new grads didn’t even have to hit the job market for their first job.

The wage gap for practice owners is more concerning, and I don’t have a likely reason for why this would be so, or why it would be so marked. The most likely scenario I can think of is chronic undervaluing of services and their own work.

The chronic lower income of female veterinarians, which means the majority of the vet workforce has a lower income, may have contributed to the rise of the corporate vet practice chain.

Traditionally, a practice owner who wanted to retire would sell their practice, their life’s work, to their younger associate. If your younger associate has earned less than she perhaps would have for the previous 10-20 years, suddenly the younger associate isn’t in a position to buy the business. The practice owner needs to sell their business to retire, but their protege can’t afford it. Consequently, more and more of these practices are being bought up by different corporate chains when the owner wants to retire, but doesn’t have a buyer of their own.

I don’t know anyone who sold to a corporate as their first choice. Mostly this happens because there wasn’t another buyer who could match that price. The industry in general was very resistant and hesitant about these corporate practices, but they have now secured themselves in the industry and are here to stay. Once a corporate owns a practice, they rarely if ever sell. They are more likely to close the practice and transfer the client base than to sell it.

The old style of vet clinic, the small or family business where the owner is working alongside everyone else, is slowly vanishing. It makes me profoundly uncomfortable, because I don’t believe corporate medicine is the way it should be.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am female, and work more than full time hours across two jobs. One is in a locally owned small business, and the other is in a corporate emergency center. There is so much paperwork, customer service training and difficulty getting paid at the corporate clinic, it really is a huge amount of wank. But the corporate chains are the only enterprising willing to run them.

I can get away with not doing a lot of the stupid things the corporate wants me to do because of my years of experience and knowing just how fundamentally useful I am to them, I can call their bluff. A new graduate in my position wouldn’t be able to, and that worries me.

So what can the vet industry do?

I’d like to point out that at the tie of the study referenced above, the average wage in Australia would have been around $42k per year, according to taxation records. So the wages for many of us were proving to be very, very average.

If we’re going to stem the corporate takeover of the veterinary industry, then we need to be able to pay our employed vets better. They are working in their job to eventually buy their job, if you continually underpay them they wont ever be able to buy their way up, and for women this barely seems worth doing.

The veterinary industry needs the general public to be more willing to invest in animal health and care. This likely needs greater uptake of pet insurance policies, and that industry needs to get itself organized too.

Legacy planning should be considered earlier for vets who intend to sell their practice when they retire, i.e. most of them. This should be mentioned early as a potential future, or smaller percentage buy-ins over time rather then one lump sum.

This is just one of the issues the veterinary industry is currently facing, but the chronic undervaluing of women’s labor can’t be dismissed as a factor.

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