The BVA has published the interim results of a new study which seems to provide the best evidence yet that the veterinary profession still discriminates against female veterinary surgeons.

The study also found that those who believe that gender discrimination is a thing of the past are also most likely to discriminate against women, regardless of their own sex. 

For the study, which was designed by Dr Chris Begeny and Professor Michelle Ryan at the University of Exeter, 260 UK-based veterinary employers, partners, and managers were asked whether they thought women in the profession still face discrimination. They were also invited to review a recent performance evaluation of a vet. For half of the participants, the performance evaluation was labelled as being about a vet called "Mark". For the other half, the report was labelled as being about "Elizabeth".

Guess what. 

(You know what's coming now, don't you)

44% of the respondents said they think gender discrimination is a thing of the past, and yet when asked: "If Elizabeth/Mark was employed in your practice, what salary do you think would be fitting for her/him?", the very same people offered "Mark" a significantly higher salary than "Elizabeth", ranging from £1,100 to £3,300 more (av. £2438.50). Strikingly, the more strongly respondents believed that gender discrimination is a thing of the past, the more they discriminated.

Interestingly, whilst the pay disparity was most pronounced amongst those who think gender discrimination is no longer a problem, even those who were generally indifferent or uncertain about the issue tended to pay "Mark" more than "Elizabeth".

A belief that gender discrimination is no longer a problem was associated with a number of other discriminatory traits. 

The 44% also rated "Mark" as significantly more competent than "Elizabeth". Specifically, that they would be more likely to let "Mark" take on more managerial responsibilities, more strongly encourage him to pursue promotions and be more likely to advise other vets to look to "Mark" as a valuable source of knowledge.

By comparison, those who said they believe gender discrimination still exists also showed little to no difference in how they perceived or treated "Mark" versus "Elizabeth."

Candice Buchanan BVMS GPCert SAM&ENDO MRCVS resigned from her position at a large corporate just last week after discovering a seemingly gender-based disparity in pay. She said: "I think this study shows that it's more complacency than conspiracy that leads to men being offered better salaries than women. As a profession, we aspire to practice evidence-based medicine and that means reflecting on current practices and making a conscious effort to challenge habits and behaviours that are outdated. We must now look at the way we recruit and develop staff in the same critical way."

British Veterinary Association President Simon Doherty said: "We have been aware for some time that a stubborn pay gap exists between men and women in the profession but there has been a pervasive feeling that this will rectify itself as the large number of young female vets progress further in their careers. This report shows that this will not happen automatically. It is unacceptable that in 2018, when everything about two vets is equal, their gender can still have a significant impact on how they are perceived, treated, and paid."

There seems to be a very clear message coming out of this study. It is this: if you think gender discrimination is not happening, then you're not just wrong, you're very likely part of the problem. It also presents a strong argument for greater transparency over pay, one of the reasons VetNurse Jobs encourages veterinary employers to advertise either a pay range or a minimum offer.

A full copy of the report is available at: https://www.bva.co.uk/news-campaigns-and-policy/policy/future-of-the-profession/workforce-issues-and-careers-support/