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The gender pay gap – does it exist in a female-dominated profession?

The veterinary profession has been increasingly female-dominated for many years now, with a marked predominance of women over men graduating veterinary college. So, when the phrase ‘gender pay gap’ is bandied around, where male workers are paid significantly higher salaries than their female counterparts, the assumption would be that it doesn’t apply to the veterinary world. However, that may not be the case.

Various surveys have been done

As recently as June of last year, The Guardian featured an article in which it discussed the gender pay gap of university graduates. The Guardian highlighted the veterinary profession as one where women experienced the widest gap, earning as much as 50% less than their male counterparts. The article also found the pay gap varied with the institution: male graduates from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) were typically earning around £3000 per year more than their female counterparts five years after graduating. Less extreme yet still markedly present, five years after graduating from Bristol Veterinary School the gap was around £200 per year. These findings are largely supported by a study from the Society of Practising Veterinarians whose published results in 2014 showed nearly an 11% gender pay gap, an improvement on the previous year’s 15% but still higher than the overall gap across all professions in the UK.

But why should a gap exist at all?

The answer remains unclear. It may be attributable to a number of factors. The results may be skewed because of the number of women who work on a part-time basis, compared with their male counterparts. It could also be a cultural issue? Are women simply not comfortable asking for a pay rise and therefore less likely to do so, compared with men? Could the gap be a result of more men working as Locums, or out of hours shifts and therefore earning the higher rates usually associated with Locum work or unsocial hours? Perhaps, as, ‘in the old days’, more men than women were graduating as vets, it stands to reason many more men work in management roles compared with women. They would, therefore, be remunerated according to their seniority and years of experience, whilst the majority of female vets are still working their way up the chain and gaining that well of knowledge in order to be able to command that salary.

The answer as to why the gender pay gap exists in a largely female-dominated profession is complex and probably incorporates all of the factors mentioned in the previous paragraph and a myriad of others. However, with the number of women driving this profession forward, closing the gender pay gap should be entirely achievable. Let’s get the hammer out and nail the door shut on gender pay discrimination.

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