Podcast: Women, Wages, & a Look at Gender Equality

VideoAudioMay 2024ListenSponsored
Print/View PDF


Welcome to the Veterinary Breakroom! In the breakroom, Alyssa Watson, DVM, and Beth Molleson, DVM, discuss the important, relevant topics affecting veterinarians today. With women veterinarians outnumbering men since 2009, we asked: Is this one field where women have achieved gender equality? Tune in as we discuss how salary, specialty credentials, and practice ownership stack up for women in the veterinary workforce.


Episode Transcript

This podcast recording represents the opinions of Dr. Watson and Dr. Molleson. Content, including the transcript, is presented for discussion purposes and should not be taken as medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast. The transcript—which was prepared with the assistance of artificial intelligence—is provided as a service to our audience.

Dr. Beth [00:00:10] Hi, I'm Dr. Beth Molleson.

Dr. Alyssa [00:00:13] And, I'm Dr. Alyssa Watson.

Dr. Beth [00:00:15] And, thank you all for joining us here in the Veterinary Breakroom. In the Breakroom, we like to chat informally about relevant topics in veterinary medicine, and today, we are going to talk all about women, women in veterinary medicine. This topic came to mind when we saw an article from AAHA titled The State of Women in Vet Med, and they really highlighted a lot of great data about women in veterinary medicine. And it really got us, got us thinking about women in vet med these days. So, Dr. Alyssa, I wanted to start this episode with a bit of a pop quiz question for you if you're up for it.

Dr. Alyssa [00:00:54] I am up for a pop quiz question. What's your question?

Dr. Beth [00:00:56] Okay, well, just thinking about women in vet med, it got me wondering when the first woman veterinarian in the US was. So, I was curious if you had to guess a year, what year would you say?

Dr. Alyssa [00:01:09] Okay, so I don't know the answer to this question. And, oftentimes, you know, when we're getting ready to talk about these things, we make some notes, and I really wanted to look up the answer to look really, really smart. But, you know, and then I thought, like, am I embarrassed that I don't know the answer to this question? Like, as a woman, should I absolutely know when, when the first woman veterinarian was? So that's a whole other, like, rabbit hole that I went down. But I have a pop question for you first. Okay?

Dr. Beth [00:01:43] Are you allowed to do that?

Dr. Alyssa [00:01:43] Yes. Well, this is how I'm going to deduce my answer. So, do you know when the first, like, class of veterinarians was graduated? Like, like when did the profession start out and graduate the first class of veterinarians?

Dr. Beth [00:02:05] Oh, wait, so when did they first... Are you saying women or just in general?

Dr. Alyssa [00:02:10] No, just just in general. Because that's how I was going to figure out how the first woman graduated.

Dr. Beth [00:02:15] Like when was the first like vet school and actual graduating class? Oh my gosh, I'm going to say 1870.

Dr. Alyssa [00:02:27] Oh, you're so close.

Dr. Beth [00:02:29] Am I?

Dr. Alyssa [00:02:30] Actually, you probably are right. So, this is, you know, I went to Iowa State. And so there, you know, one of our claims of fame is that we were the first like, you know, state vet school, you know, it was a land grant college. There were some private, you know, veterinary medical programs before, but none of them have remained. They have all, you know, closed. And I think we've even talked about this before. But Iowa State graduated their first class in 1879. So pretty close.

Dr. Beth [00:03:00] Yeah. To be fair, I was able to know the answer to my question and extrapolate from there. Otherwise, I'm honestly not sure what year I would have guessed. But anyway...

Dr. Alyssa [00:03:10] Oh. That's funny. I wonder when you when you extrapolated. So I was going to say I was going to say, okay, if the first class was, you know, 1879, 1880, it had to be at least I would say at least 20 years before a woman, you know, graduated. But then I was like, maybe I'm being too conservative there. Maybe it was even longer. So let's say, let's say I'm going to say the first woman graduated in like 1920s or 1930.

Dr. Beth [00:03:41] Okay, that was pretty close. I think it was more like 1910.

Dr. Alyssa [00:03:46] Oh? See! That was earlier!

Dr. Beth [00:03:47] I think your your thought process there was was spot on. So, I found a little bit of varying, what should I say... Data on who the varying reports on who exactly was the first woman. But I think it's largely, largely appreciated that Dr. Eleanor McGrath, who was born in 1888, graduated around 1910 from Chicago Veterinary College, was the first woman. So, honestly, as I'm thinking through women in vet med, to me, well, another really interesting statistic that I think you probably know the answer to Dr. Alyssa, but maybe you can tell our audience. When what was the year where the genders flip flopped, meaning one did it go from majority men as vets to majority women?

Dr. Alyssa [00:04:32] I do know that because, you know, it's in the article that we, you know, kind of used when we were thinking about this topic, and that was 2009, which honestly surprised me. And, and it just surprises me because I'm perpetually living like in the early 2000s. I graduated in 2003. And that's where kind of like time stopped for me. I feel like I still I still am there. I know, I know, and so, you know, I was thinking it was later than that. I was thinking that it was I knew by that point, by the time I had graduated that, you know, enrollment had been changing, you know, for, for a few decades and that we were going to have this, this flip flop, this massive flip. But I, I guess I was thinking it was later than 2009, and I was thinking...

Dr. Beth [00:05:23] Really? I was thinking it was earlier. So I graduated from Ohio State in 2011. And, you know, my class was, I want to say, 85% female. And so in my mind, I guess the entire profession was already 85% female, when in reality, of course, you know, all those vets that graduated before me, a lot of whom were male, were still practicing. So that's funny, I guess we'll average out and say 2009 sounds about right then.

Dr. Alyssa [00:05:51] Yeah, yeah, that is funny. That is really funny. Yeah. So that was was 2009. And certainly like we said, you know, vet schools have been enrolling more women than men for for decades. And that trend has continued. So there, you know, just some more statistics for people. In 2025, more than 80% of, you know, the class of graduating veterinarians will be female. But one of the things that they highlighted is that even though there is more, there are more women vets now and there are more women vet students, there's also more women technicians, which I think is also just another, you know, kind of important thing to put out there that this profession truly is female dominated in the workforce, not just at the level of the veterinarian, but also with technicians. And so but leadership, especially in large organizations and at universities, is still very male-dominated. So 75% of veterinary school executives are male. So how do you feel about that?

Dr. Beth [00:07:03] Yeah, absolutely. I know, it's interesting because, you know, when we think about careers in STEM, so many of them there is just not the female representation. And obviously like we just discussed, that is not true in veterinary medicine. We have such a, you know, such, such huge representation these days. But the dichotomous statistic is how few, like you said, how few executives and leadership roles are held by women. And, you know, I think it is a bit disheartening. And to me, I think it gets into to broader issues. You know, I as a mom and I don't want to make this about moms, it's about all women. But I think as a mom, to me, it has been highlighted in the last six years, how different the societal expectations are and what it means to be a woman and have a career versus what it means to be a man and have a career. And I think this article gets into it a little bit, but, it talks about, you know, where does this discrepancy come from? Does it come from a bias? And those deciding the leaders? Does it come from these societal biases? Does it come from different goals that women have from careers because of societal pressures? And I think that was that's kind of my viewpoint is, you know, at least from a personal perspective, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I also wanted to have kids. And I have always envisioned myself being able to do both. And for me, that meant not always prioritizing my career. So, you know, for years I have worked part-time because I wanted to kind of have that balance, and I think that certainly ways into it. But what was your impression when you first heard about these that discrepancy that leadership statistic?

Dr. Alyssa [00:08:55] Yeah, I think it was discouraging. It's discouraging to hear that, and all of the things that you just said also went through my mind because while it would be nice to be able to pick these things apart and look at them all individually, I don't think that's possible. Like, I don't think it's possible to divorce being a woman from, you know, and being a professional woman from the fact that women bear children. And so and, you know, a lot of people have looked at that as, as, you know, a cause for things like the gender wage gap, you know, which this article talks about and which we can talk a little bit about. And, you know, it made me kind of think about it. A lot of people talk about the fact that those childbearing years, you know, and as a mother as well, there's definitely a finite amount of time that you have to bear children. Believe me, I had my my second child in my late 30s. The term advanced maternal age was thrown around like like nothing. And I did not feel like I was an advanced age. But, you know, that time is is limited. And when you look at the time away from the workforce, I mean, the data is very clear that that affects wages for the rest of your life. And so and it's it's not surprising, right? Time is a resource. We talk about this with, you know, things like compound interest, you know, and and trying to express the, you know, how important it is to start saving at a, at a young age. You know, it's one of the things I'm teaching my own kids right now, like, you have time on your hands, and that is a resource that you will never get back. And so it really isn't surprising, you know, that if you take that time out in the early part of your career or in the middle of your career, that it's really hard to catch up the same way that if you don't start saving in your IRA, you know, in your 20s, it's really hard to catch up in your 50s.

Dr. Beth [00:11:12] Yeah, certainly all of what you said makes sense. And as I was reading into, you know, this is a little bit of a side tangent, but as I was reading about, you know, that motherhood penalty as they like to call it, I thought it was interesting one of the solutions they talked about, which isn't rocket science, but I still found it fascinating, was the idea of emphasis needing to be placed on parental leave rather than maternal leave, which would force, so to speak, fathers to take that same sort of leave, which would cut down on hiring bias. You know, if you know, every person of childbearing age is at risk for taking that leave, and it's not just women, you kind of cancel out that bias. You cancel out, you know, those months missed at work or whatever the case might be. I still don't think that, of course, factors into women who might choose to stay home for a few years, whereas the man might be back after a few months. But I just thought that was an interesting way to look at things. And another, another vote for, you know, increasing parental leave. And of course, you know, it's not just these this leadership gap. They also there also are discrepancies in wages for veterinarians. So I think the statistic was men on average male vets earn an average of $130,000 female vets roughly $100,000. Those are kind of rough numbers. And a lot of that has been distributed are attributed to men being more likely to be practice owners. But trying to tease out some of that data, I think the conclusion is that that's not the entire story. And one thing I found really interesting was that they say the wage gap is actually, I'll see what you think about this, Alyssa, because I couldn't quite make sense of it in my mind, but said the wage gap is actually larger at the beginning of a veterinarian's career between men and women, which really surprised me, because to me, that means it's not all about this practice ownership. But did you find that odd?

Dr. Alyssa [00:13:16] Yeah, I was a little confused by that as well. I would have thought that, you know, especially with some of those other factors that we just talked about. You know, women are a little bit more likely to step away for a period, you know, during their early career or something that, that they would that that gap, you know, would grow.

Ad Break [00:13:34] Looking to protect your canine patients against parasites? Look no further than Simparica TRIO, Sarolaner, Moxidectin, and Pyrantel chewable tablets, the first chewable to offer triple protection from heartworm disease, ticks and fleas, and roundworms and hookworms. It's also FDA-approved to block infections that may cause Lyme disease by killing deer ticks. Use with caution in dogs with a history of seizures. Sarolaner belongs to the isoxazoline class, which has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions, the most common side effects were vomiting and diarrhea. Visit https://www.simparicatriodvm.com/ for full prescribing information.

Dr. Alyssa [00:14:04] One thing, just to step back just for just for a second because it also talked about, you know, biases. And it made me think about just personal biases too. Like what what we were talking about with parental leave in my own family, I'm going to call out my husband a little bit here. And he is he's a fantastic, wonderful person. He's a teacher. And when we had our first child, I remember that there was this we had different expectations about, you know, who would be the person that was primarily responsible for, for, you know, staying home or covering if the child was sick. And so, yeah, we had that day where we woke up and I was like, oh, you know, the baby has a fever. We're not going to be able to take him to daycare. You need to call in. And he was like, well, I can't call in. It's too late to get a sub. You need to call in. And I'm like, there's no way I can get a relief vet right, if you know. And my mind had been. Had gone straight to financial things. Because again, we're in a, and it's, it's a little bit different, you know, especially in, in a corporate setting or someplace that offers some sick leave. But I have never been at a practice that really offered sick leave. I had vacation days. But even then, on a pro sal model, you can you can debate whether or not you're actually paid for vacation. We've had that discussion before. And so if I don't work, I don't get paid. Whereas if my husband takes the day off, he has sick days, and he has lots of them that he has accrued over his career. And so to me, this was a no brainer. I'm like, you stay home and you get paid. Why would I stay home? And so and he did come back with, well, you're the mom. And I was like, we're gonna stop this conversation right now.

Dr. Beth [00:16:09] Nip that in the bud early, yeah.

Dr. Alyssa [00:16:10] So, so. But but it just brings to mind that these biases aren't even just in the workforce. They're sometimes in our own relationships and families, and they have been cultivated over generations. And so I think these problems are or and yeah, maybe problems is too strong of a word. But but like I said, a lot of this data made me discouraged. So I'm going to just these are my opinions. I'm going to just tell you my opinion. I was discouraged and I think there are some problems. And I think we need to look at globally, you know, how we we view gender in the workforce and to solve these problems. So sorry about that tangent.

Dr. Beth [00:16:56] No, I, I, I think the personal experience is always so fascinating because I do think so much of this gets back to just the different societal expectations. Again, not only from others, but societal expectations of ourselves. I mean, my husband and I had a somewhat similar conversation. I remember him saying he always loved that his mom was home when he got home from school, and I had planned to work part-time when we first had kids, which I did for a while. And I think he really liked the idea that, you know, his kids moms were going to be around and home a lot of the time with the kids, and then I decided that I wanted to start working more because that's just the lifestyle I preferred. And I do feel like there was a little bit of, you know, I don't want to say tension, but just different expectations than what we had discussed. Again, because of just that woman, the mom being around the the career taking maybe more of a backseat for women. And I just think that's so pervasive in our culture. And I do think it's changing. But it is it's interesting to hear us reflect on that in our own lives. And, you know, I think another thing that gets brought up a lot, not just in the veterinary world, but in women's careers in general, is that this wage gap is due to women being less likely to ask for raises and less likely to fight for higher salaries. Which there are have been a lot of studies looking at that. And I think that kind of gets back to that societal expectation because I have read how that simply isn't the full story that women indeed, studies have shown that women indeed are penalized more frequently when they ask for a raise than when men do. Men are more perceived as that being expected behavior, that being even positive behavior, whereas women that is seen, you know, I'm kind of paraphrasing, but being seen as being pushier, and you're less likely to get that raise, which is fascinating, and I'm sure may contribute to some degree to the wage gap in veterinary medicine as well.

Dr. Alyssa [00:19:10] Yeah, absolutely. Certainly, I have seen multiple things that suggest that assertiveness is deemed a good or a positive quality in a man. And oftentimes assertiveness is deemed a negative quality in a woman. And so, you know, this was not in the article. You know, and I don't think anybody studied this, but I also wonder with that when we're talking about pay gap, just in my own, you know, experience again, I also wonder, especially, like we said, a lot of veterinarians are paid on a pro sal model. And so your your salary what you bring in depends on whether or not, clients take your recommendations, okay. And which clients you're scheduled. And a lot of that is out, you know, out of your control. And so I've always kind of wonder, too, about whether or not just clients taking the recommendations of a woman versus a man veterinarian can, can contribute to that wage gap, and I have no idea if it does. It's just something that has always kind of been in the back of my mind. And I've wondered a little bit about.

Dr. Beth [00:20:32] Yeah, I think that's a really interesting point. When I first read that, Alyssa, I didn't even think of it in that manner. I just thought of it more as a difference in maybe the way people were practicing. I've never thought of it to reflect and wonder if it was because of the client perception of those recommendations. I feel like there's a whole research study that could be could be done there. So you need to get on that.

Dr. Alyssa [00:20:57] Well, yeah. What kind of pushed me in that direction was there was there was a little bit of a discussion about how a lot of, you know, and again, we're not just talking about veterinary medicine, but how in society in general, a lot of these, you know, workforce, you know, the, the time that you work, the, the place that you work, how you work was set up in a male-dominated society. And so there were it was set up for male needs. And so that's kind of what sparked it in my mind, you know, especially with with how veterinary medicine is, our compensation is calculated.

Dr. Beth [00:21:35] Absolutely.

Dr. Alyssa [00:21:37] You're right, I think we should study it.

Dr. Beth [00:21:38] We should study it. And I do think, you know so much of this I think when you ask veterinarians about the salary gap, I think so many people point to the practice ownership as being kind of the full story, that men because of all the, the reasons that we keep going into are more likely to own practices. And I think this article cited that by the year 2028, females are actually projected to own more private practices than males. So I thought that was very interesting.

Dr. Alyssa [00:22:10] I saw that, I saw that, and that was the one statistic that I was that I was really excited about. Because, you know, again, if you have a profession that's dominated by females, it makes sense to me that more females would be practice owners, too. And so however, I will say that I'm concerned about the timing of all of this, especially with, you know, the timing of we do see just less sole practitioners or private practice ownership in general. And so even though women are climbing as as practice owners, practice ownership in general is on the decline. Because, you know, a completely different topic. And maybe we can sit down and have this conversation if we're brave enough one day about corporate and private equity and everything in veterinary medicine. So, so I was a little bit, that statistic, while encouraging, I'm a little bit worried about even that, too.

Dr. Beth [00:23:13] So. Yeah, absolutely. You know, it's interesting because I do feel like as our... I don't want to say as, as basically as, as we get fewer and fewer male vets because of course, we know that the vet students right now are what like 87% female. So our male vet population is going to continue to get smaller. It makes me wonder if just the model of female ownership will change as well. I know there are already some companies who have a hybrid model is probably not the right word, but almost more of that individual buy-in into a practice. It's still under a corporate umbrella that keeps women, as we discussed a lot of women don't want to commit to those 60-80 hours a week or whatever it takes to be a practice owner that can kind of almost bridge that. So it makes me wonder how, you know, will the model of veterinary medicine continue to change and be more structured to female goals? And, and, you know, our societal expectations of females. So, so much interesting stuff. We will link some of the articles that we read that got our wheels turning for this episode for anyone that's interested in this topic to read more. But great conversation with you, Alyssa. I think we could talk about this for hours more. But, I think that brings us to our win of the week wrap up. Do you have any wins to share this week?

Dr. Alyssa [00:24:38] Do I? Yes. Yeah. You know, I'm going to keep my win very, very personal this week. So not related to any... I haven't been in clinic for a little while now. I actually have a shift coming up on Saturday, so I'm excited because I do love clinic and I want to get back in clinic. But just personally, you know, you know, I love my, my Disney cruises. And so I have been counting down to my next Disney cruise, and it, it fell to under under triple digits. So we're in double digits on my next.

Dr. Beth [00:25:15] Do you have a do you keep a calendar?

Dr. Alyssa [00:25:17] I have, oh there's a little calendar on, I have the Disney Cruise line has an app you can log in every day and it spins and it tells you how many days.

Dr. Beth [00:25:25] Something tells me there's so much about Disney people that I don't even know about. I might have to see this counter. Well, that that is exciting.

Dr. Alyssa [00:25:34] It is. I'm so excited.

[00:25:36] I'm going to live vicariously through you because that sounds fun. My win, incidentally, is also I'm going to follow suit. Mine is also about travel. And that is that I survived my family vacation. Which is secretly, anyone that listens knows that I secretly want to do complaint of the week versus win of the week. So this is secretly a complaint of the week disguised as a win. And that is so I don't travel a lot with my children because I feel like it's just, you know, they're three and six. It's chaotic. It's so much work. It's slightly painful. Someone's always sick. It's just like a whole thing. But I was like, you know, I'm going to be fun mom. I'm going to plan a trip. Plan a trip for the whole family. I planned it like nine months ago so we could really look forward to it. Two days before the trip, one child woke up with influenza A, but because I'm such an optimist, I was like, you know, not going to get us down. We're going to put the family on Tamiflu. We're gonna power through. We leave tomorrow. Morning of the trip, the three year old woke up vomiting, not with influenza A, with a different illness. So we still went on the trip simply because the entire car was packed, and I was maintaining my optimism. And I won't go into too many details, but actually, the influenza A, only the one child got, the stomach bug however... Oh, my husband got shingles about halfway through the week. His shingles started flaring up. My daughter got like a viral myositis post flu, so there was one day where she couldn't really use her legs. And then by the time we were all heading home, we all had the stomach bug. Well, the first child had recovered, so there were people vomiting in the car in the Airbnb. So it was it was a rough week and I have never been happier to see my home. And my win is going to be that nothing truly tragic happened. We are all alive and well to tell the story. But I can't say you'll be hearing about any more trips coming up for me. So that is why I'm going to live vicariously through you on your Disney cruise, Alyssa.

Dr. Alyssa [00:27:49] You know, we had kept in touch during your vacation, and every time you'd text with an update, I was just cringing. So I'm so glad you're all home finally.

Dr. Beth [00:27:59] There were not many great updates from that trip. But, it also rained a lot. But you know, not a complainer, so I won't even bring up the weather. Oh, but anyway. Well Alyssa, again, thanks for having this conversation with me. And to our audience, thanks for listening in, and we will catch you all next episode.

Dr. Alyssa [00:28:18] Thanks, everyone.



  • podcast@vetmedux.com

Where To Find Us:

The Team:

  • Alyssa Watson, DVM - Host

  • Beth Molleson, DVM - Host

  • Alexis Ussery - Producer & Multimedia Specialist

Disclaimer: This podcast recording represents the opinions of Dr. Alyssa Watson and Dr. Beth Molleson. Content is presented for discussion purposes and should not be taken as medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.