Management and the veterinary trade: The place are the ladies?-dvm360

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A recent story on NPR about Erika James, PhD, the first woman of color to become the dean of an Ivy League business school (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania). One of your comments during the interview impressed me. “Women are more reluctant to take on new roles unless all selves are dotted and ts crossed,” she said.1 The interviewer and James continued to discuss other topics, but they made the point: professional men are more likely to apply for the jobs, that they want, while working women are more likely to apply for jobs for which they are overqualified

Leading sources like Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and Stanford University have long noted this about the trend. The veterinary industry is not immune. In my role as Chief Medical Officer for the Family Vet Group, I have worked with countless practice owners and industry partners and noticed a worrying trend towards similar demographics across the field.

A surprising revelation

Earlier this year, at the Western Veterinary Conference, my group’s president and I met with a variety of industry executives, from distributors to pharmaceutical companies to vendors with emerging technology platforms. From morning to evening over several days, we took part in successive meetings. Even so, I was the only woman in one of the meetings even when I was 30 weeks pregnant.

I left the conference thinking, where are the women? Where is our executive level representation in our industry? Can we blame generational differences for the number of men in these leadership positions?

We know that veterinary schools 30 years ago had a higher percentage of male veterinarians graduating, and that those in the baby boomer generation are more likely to be practice owners than younger veterinarians.3 But let’s evaluate leadership roles in this area outside of practice ownership. Companies have emerged across the industry in the past few decades, and the number of new conglomerates has increased over the past decade. As younger companies follow demographic trends across the veterinary industry, more people should identify as women and the diversity in these organizations should increase.

As of September 2020, senior white men have dominated leadership roles in 10 leading veterinary companies (3 distributors, 4 pharmaceutical companies, and 3 young tech companies) based on I data collected from company websites. Overall, 36% of the management teams were women, only 16% of the senior executives were women. Subordinate managers (below the C-suite) were more likely to be women at 49%.

According to the latest American Veterinary Medical Association census data, nearly 62% of veterinarians identify as female4, but there is a clear lack of equal representation in leadership positions across the veterinary industry. It is noteworthy that at Zoetis, 75% of executives (outside the board members) are women.

Time to break the rules

Some important lessons emerge from this data. Women are severely underrepresented in leadership positions across the veterinary field, both in practice and in leadership positions within the industry. One possible hypothesis for this discrepancy is that women are less likely to apply for management positions. It has been proven that women feel the need to have exceptional qualifications for a job before they apply, while men are more likely to apply for a job they want, even if they are nowhere near the qualifications required

To increase the representation of women in the upper echelons of the industry, women need to approach the hiring process for these positions differently than they have in the past. We need to see the process as an opportunity to shape our own expertise in a way that enhances the specific skills and experience required in the job description. We also have to be ready to be vulnerable – we have to be ready to fail. Likewise, we mustn’t be afraid of our own success. Research shows that women are much less likely to apply for top positions than men for fear of failure

Men dominate in management positions in the veterinary industry:

Veterinary sector Male executive Male executives from C-suites Overall male leadership
Company (n = 160) 45% 84% 58%
Dealer (n = 43) 68% 79% 74%
Pharmaceutical company (n = 57) 59% 85% 68%
Tech companies (n = 14) 50% 100% 86%
Average (n = 274) 51% 84% 64%

Finally, the same reports also showed that women often fail to apply for top positions because they follow guidelines on who should apply. We will only succeed if we approach these positions as our best lawyers and see the hiring process less as a meritocracy and more as an opportunity to demonstrate our personal strengths. We have to break the rules, ladies.

Kathryn Kraft, DVM, is a leader in the veterinary industry and is committed to improving the field and working conditions for all veterinarians, especially women and mothers. She is currently Chief Medical Officer at the Family Vet Group. She and her husband live in Fort Worth, Texas with their two young children.


  1. Shapiro A. New Wharton Business Dean says lack of diversity is due to lack of prioritization. NPR. July 23, 2020. Accessed October 9, 2020. Sections / Live-Updates-Protests-for-Racial Justice / 2020/07/23/894655206 / New-Wharton-Business-Dean -says-lack-of-diversity-arises-from-a-lack of prioritization
  2. Mohr TS. Why women don’t apply for jobs if they’re not 100% qualified. Harvard Business Review. August 25, 2014. Accessed October 9, 2020. Why-women-don’t-apply-for-jobs-unless-they-are-100-qualified
  3. Taber J. Trends owned by veterinary practices. DVM Insider. June 10th,
    2019. Accessed October 9, 2020. Veterinary-Practice-Ownership-Trends /
  4. Burns K. Veterinarian Census Finds Trends with Bottlenecks, Practice Ownership. American Veterinary Medical Association. June 26, 2019. Access to October 9, 2020. 2019-07-15 / census-veterinarians-finds-trends-bottlenecks-practice-owner ship? 9NUmOGV_E
  5. Studies suggest that women are more afraid of success than men. Bent Business Marketing and Advertising. Accessed October 9, 2020. https: // www. suggests women are more afraid of success than men /