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The sexual politics of vet school classroom populations

Posted Mar 21 2011 7:00am
While reading the most recent edition of DVM Newsmagazine today, I came across an interesting statistic nestled within the cover article on the abundance of women in the veterinary profession. Get this: After a certain percentage of women enter a given profession (about 25 percent, as I recall), the number of males who pursue it drops off precipitously.
 

Sad, right? Although there are many reasons behind the female revolution in veterinary medicine, this stat might well explain the rapid shift that occurred in the late eighties and early nineties: Women flocked to join the vet ranks in droves. Hence, men ran screaming for the hills — or more likely, to law schools.

The intimidation factor is doubtless responsible for some of it. Why else would a man enter a classroom chock full of women and confess to feeling uncomfortable? (Numerous studies have demonstrated this.)

Plus, most men simply prefer the company of other males in a camaraderie-intensive environment; it's the whole buddy thing. There is safety in numbers. This is something most successful women have learned to live without.

These reasons make sense. But is it also possible that men see women enter a profession and no longer consider it as competitive? As marketable? As reputable?

I think that's a lot of it, too. Seeing all those women take top marks is one thing. And doing without your buds must hurt. But fewer men seem able to get past the feeling that comes when they recognize that the career path they’ve chosen is rapidly beginning to resemble a pink collar profession.

Worse, yet, is that the most manly jobs in the vet profession are now being hard won by the sharpest women in the group. No longer can a middling male student apply to a residency program and expect to get selected. The competition is just too stiff.

In fact, in my year at the University of Pennsylvania, I believe the only students to go on to surgical residencies (the manliest and most competitive of them all) were women. But then, I think only one of the top ten students in my class was a guy.

Now, let me be clear: I by no means believe that men entering the veterinary profession are in any way at a disadvantage. I'm only stating the obvious: that it apparently takes a more exceptional male to embrace the veterinary profession now that so many women have called it home. (And kudos to them!)

This is very sad. In an ideal world, modern students would seek out professions based on their love of the work and leave the cultural biases of the nineteen-fifties back where they belong: outside of our professional lives.
 
 

Dr. Patty Khuly
 
 
Pic of the day: Vet Class by Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M

 
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