Gender-based wage gaps widen


Washington - A recent American Veterinary Medical Association study reports huge gaps in the earned salaries of equally positioned male and female veterinarians.

WASHINGTON — A recent American Veterinary Medical Association study reports huge gaps in the earned salaries of equally positioned male and female veterinarians.

The genders are separated by a 6-percent salary difference at the start of their veterinary careers. But that distance grows with time, eventually leading to a 30-percent, or $36,600, average annual salary gap between male and female veterinarians overall.

The discrepancies are outlined in the 2007 AVMA Report on Veterinary Compensation. Compiled from the 2006 AVMA Biennial Economic Survey of Veterinarians, numbers show female DVMs earn less in almost every reported field of veterinary medicine.

Inside private practice

Male veterinarians in private practice, on average, earned almost $42,000 more annually than their female counterparts in all seven private practice categories in the study, including large animal exclusive, large animal predominant, mixed animal, small animal predominant, small animal exclusive, equine and other. The greatest gender disparity of $77,345, or 49 percent, exists in equine practice, while only 28 percent separates large animal predominant male and female practitioners.

Specialists report a 43-percent difference separating the annual salaries of male and female board-certified small-animal practitioners.

Questioning the results

While the numbers might appear dismal when considering equality, Dr. Debra Nickelson, chairwoman of the Association for Women Veterinarians Foundation, contends the results fail to tell the entire story. The report, she says, doesn't consider key elements such as age, benefits, continuing education and pay related to geographic region when comparing genders.

"It is a lot of work and expensive to really drill down, getting practice size, practice profit margins and how long the veterinarians have been practicing," she says. "But in order to make a valid comparison about salaries of men and women, you have to be specific. If you compare women and men, all other variables have to be the same. In general, women are going to report making less than men because there are more recent female graduates."

Gender caveats

Yet the report does show that financial inequality has a catch. Female private practitioners typically work fewer hours. Male private practice owners average 53.7 work hours weekly, while women log 47.8 hours. This translates to an annual difference of 306 hours, the equivalent of two-and-one-half 40-hour workweeks. By comparison, women associates work 47.5 hours weekly while their male counterparts work nearly four hours longer.

Despite the number of hours worked, men typically enjoy an immediate jump in salary, with report data showing male private-practice owners commanding $56.38 hourly while females earn $11.55 less. The gap shrinks with associates, but women in this category still earn $2.90 less per hour than men, the research states.

Working more for less pay

That trend continues beyond private practice, where annual wage inequities reduce among veterinarians in public or corporate sectors, but a 27-percent average pay gap still exists between the genders, the report says.

Although less than a $10,000 disparity exists between the genders employed by federal government entities, veterinarians in academia report greater wage discrepancies.

According to the study, university-affiliated male veterinarians earn an average $42,730 more annually than their female colleagues. Such a pay imbalance is aggravated by data showing women log, on average, nearly four more hours per week than their male counterparts but still earn roughly 40-percent less.

But the report does not specify the ages of the male and female employees, making it impossible to analyze whether or not more tenured men are employed on staff than women.

The college and university sector accounts for the widest pay gaps across all facets of public and corporate employment, the study shows. In total, female veterinarians average nearly an hour more worked per week than men in their positions, yet they earn $13.20 less an hour to do so.

Growing issue?

Wage disparities widen between the genders as experience and years in private practice increase. However, female DVMs in public and corporate positions are leveling the earning gaps, the report reveals.

Veterinarian owners in mixed-animal and small-animal predominant and exclusive sectors all show significant increases in gender wage gaps from their first two years in practice to 25 years-plus post graduation. Small-animal exclusive DVMs report women initially earn almost 1-percent more annually than male counterparts, but after 25 years of experience, men earn 32-percent more than women. Female associates start with the same advantage as practice owners, but their salaries can't keep up with their counterparts, amounting to women earning 8-percent less than male associates after 25 years.

While equine owners close the gap by 5 percent from initial years in practice to more than 20 years of experience, equine associates report less progress. Female DVMs begin earning 30-percent less than males, and after more than 15 years of experience, the gap grows to 66 percent.

Public and corporate industry salary numbers reveal the opposite trend, with wage differences shrinking as experience increases. Female DVMs even surpassed average male salaries in uniformed service and industry areas, although the gap averaged less than 10 percent, nowhere near the salary edge typically reported for men, according to the report.

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