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Gender isolation in the workplace

dvm360dvm360 July 2023
Volume 54
Issue 7
Pages: 70

What does a hospital manager do when a male staff member complains there are too many women and not enough men on the team?

Editor’s note: All names and businesses in this dilemma case are fictitious, but the scenario is based on real occurrences.

Monkey Business / stock.adobe.com

Monkey Business / stock.adobe.com

Cliff Animal Hospital is a busy suburban veterinary facility. The staff of 41 employees is composed of 7 veterinarians, 14 technicians, 4 administrators, 7 receptionists, 3 groomers, and 6 part-time staff. This is a busy practice with little employee turnover and excellent staff morale. For 2023, the staff demographics were not unusual for a veterinary facility. The employee roster consisted of 40 women and 1 man.

Recently, the sole male veterinarian on the staff, Dr French, stopped in to see the hospital manager. He told her that he missed the experience of having at least another male staff member or 2 with whom to bond. He made it clear that he was happy and had no issues with any of his existing coworkers. Nevertheless, he felt that to achieve diversity in the workplace, the clinic should take into consideration its gender demographics.

Initially, the hospital manager was at a loss. She always felt it was important to see that a diverse staff served the best interests of the clientele and their pets. It had never occurred to her that her sole male staff member would display feelings of gender isolation. This was the term that Dr French used to describe his situation. The hospital manager thought that the term was descriptive and adopted the use of the phrase. She now began to pursue a possible resolution for her staff member’s concerns.

She did not feel it was appropriate or ethical to consider an applicant’s gender when hiring an employee. In fact, her priority in hiring had always simply been to select the most qualified individual for the position. Diversity was, and is always, a consideration. When looking at your workforce, a roster of diverse staff members will result in a well-rounded staff with community perspective.

At the same time, she wanted to assist her lone male employee with his concerns. Several male veterinarians had retired in the past 3 years. She could arrange for her current staff member to reach out to these retirees. Dr French could speak to them “man to man” about veterinary issues and his feelings about gender isolation. The hospital manager felt this was a viable option for her male staff member. She also felt that the gender makeup of a professional workplace should not have become an issue. Professionals, working to assist the health and welfare of pets, should not have a problem with the gender of the medical personnel striving to accomplish a common goal.

Do you agree with the hospital manager? Should she have worked harder to assist her male staff member with his problem? We would like to know.

Rosenberg's response

I tend to agree with the hospital manager. The veterinary medical workplace mandates professional care and compassion. The goal is to assist animals in need. Whom it is you work with to assist these animals should not be influenced by gender, race, or religious beliefs. The hospital manager went above and beyond by offering an option for Dr French to speak to some male retirees from the practice. Also, I would have suggested to him that his thoughts about gender isolation change to ones of being gender-neutral when in the workplace.

Marc Rosenberg, VMD, is director of Voorhees Veterinary Center in Voorhees, New Jersey. Although many of the scenarios Rosenberg describes in his column are based on real-life events, the veterinary practices, doctors, and employees described are fictional.

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