AAEP Business Coverage: Closing the Gender Wage Gap Among Equine Veterinarians 

At the 2023 AAEP Convention, Dr. Amy Grice presented on a survey that demonstrated a distinct gender wage gap in equine practice.
Male and female equine veterinarian, might be experiencing gender wage gap.
A survey revealed a distinct gender wage gap in equine practice, with female practitioners earning less than male practitioners. | Getty Images

The AAEP Commission for Equine Veterinary Sustainability’s Compensation Subcommittee produced a survey in fall 2022, and the results demonstrated distinct differences in compensation between genders. Amy Grice, VMD, MBA, presented the survey results at the 2023 AAEP Annual Convention to highlight the disparity in wages. 

Gender Wage Gap in the U.S.

Grice reported that, according to the recent Gender Wage Gap study by the Pew Research Center, women working full time in the United States in 2022 typically earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. Educational achievements have led to economic progress, but the gender wage gap still exists for women who have the same education as men. Even when adjusting the gender wage gap for education, college major, and occupation, women still earn 92 cents for every dollar men earn. 

Gender Wage Gap in Veterinary Medicine

Not surprisingly, veterinary medicine also has a gender wage gap, which primarily affects recent graduates and the top half of earners, according to research out of the Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine. For the top quarter of earners, the annual difference is approximately $100,000.  

“Similar to what’s been found in the human medicine world, we found the wage gap was more prominent in the beginning of their careers but dissipates after about 25 years,” said Clinton Neill, PhD, senior author on the paper. “This has large implications for lifetime wealth and earnings, as men will consequently have a larger sum of wealth at the end of their careers because of this.”  

Compensation Subcommittee Survey

The Compensation Subcommittee’s survey had 1,378 respondents who provided their 2021 W-2 income from employment as a veterinarian. Practice owners provided only their earnings for their veterinary work and did not include ownership-related distributions or return on investment. The subcommittee evaluated the results by graduation year, practice type, location, revenue production, average number of hours worked, and gender. They used five- and 10-year graduation year cohorts to report the results. Because 2021 graduates were students for half the year, their W-2 wages only accounted for six months. Because many 2022 graduates were interns for half the year, they only earned an associate wage for six months. Consequently, the subcommittee removed both 2021 graduate and 2020 intern data from the analysis.   

Across all respondents and graduation years, female income had a negative disparity compared to male income. The disparity is less during the entry-level decade compared to nearly all middle and later decades. In exploring the reasons behind these differences in income, Grice advised considering the gross production revenue veterinarians earn personally, because in much of equine veterinary medicine, compensation is tightly linked to the revenue individuals produce for the practice. The data showed that during the first five years of employment as an equine veterinarian, females had about 20% lower revenue production than males. This disparity continued and worsened over graduation years in the study.   

Potential Explanations for the Gender Wage Gap in Veterinary Medicine

Grice queried whether a different number of hours worked by men and women could explain the findings. The data showed that when examining the average number of hours each graduation cohort worked each week during the busiest and least busy quarters, male and female veterinarians work similar hours, with the exception of early-career males, who worked about 6-12 hours per week more than entry-level females. Over 50 weeks, this difference adds up to about 50 extra days of production, which could explain disparities in revenue production for these graduation year cohorts, but not those of the other cohorts.  

Determining the reasons for these disparities was not possible in this study, Grice stated. Hypotheses subcommittee members generated to explain the difference in revenue produced per hour included: 

  • Communication style differences between genders. 
  • Increased time spent by female veterinarians to create complete medical records. 
  • Increased prevalence among females for enjoyment of the connections and relationships with clients. 
  • Female practitioners’ decreased confidence in their value/worth, creating a reluctance to charge robustly for their time. 

In addition, the subcommittee suggested that unconscious biases might exist among more senior veterinarians that cause them to prioritize mentoring and sharing of more lucrative work with male associates over female, if they have both genders in the practice.  

Final Thoughts

In closing, Grice shared the amazing news from the AVMA Senior Survey, a study that asks graduating seniors about the compensation they were offered for the position they accepted post-graduation. For the 37 graduates accepting offers for equine associate positions in private practice (not including internships), females received an average offer of $94,647, and males received an average offer of $93,286, she reported. She suggested the gender wage gap might be diminishing as demand for equine practitioners has grown, but she cautioned that further efforts in compensation equity might be needed. 

Disclaimer from sponsor: This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit (collectively, “Synchrony”), make no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in this article are the sole opinions of the author and roundtable participants. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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