Letter to dvm360: The AVMA isn't serious about the gender wage gap

August 16, 2016

A reader says she was brushed aside when she brought a guilty verdict of discrimination to the association's attention.

Unequal pay is still a problem in veterinary medicine. (Illustration Getty Images)The gender wage gap for female veterinarians has resurfaced as a result of the salary wage calculator. [Editor's note: See the first look at veterinarian starting salaries right here. See a response to criticism on the calculations right here.] Not only are women paid less starting their careers, but some sources claim the wage gap increases the longer women practice and may be as high as $30,000.

Just as important as the figures is the AVMA holding colleagues accountable who engage in discriminatory practices. I've had personal experience with this. In 1995, my suit-McMillan vs. the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Angell Animal Medical Center (click here to see it)-was a landmark victory for pay discrimination for female veterinarians, changed case law in Massachusetts and was deemed one of the most important employment discrimination cases of the 1990s.

If a verdict of discrimination in U.S. Federal District Court is not sufficient evidence for the AVMA to take action, then what is?

Our veterinary code of ethics states, "Veterinarians must be honest and fair in their relations with others and not engage in fraud, misrepresentation or deceit." When I filed a complaint with the AVMA Judicial Committee, it was dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence. I have waited 20 years for a response to my question: If a verdict of gender discrimination and violation of the Equal Pay Act in U.S. Federal District Court is not sufficient evidence for the AVMA to take action, then what is?

I have yet to receive an answer. As long as the AVMA refuses to have criteria of sufficient evidence for gender discrimination and pay inequity, it is only giving lip service to treating women veterinarians equally.

Marjorie McMillan, DVM, ACVR, CCRP

Windhover Veterinary Center

Walpole, Massachusetts