Study finds shortage of women in leadership positions


Although a majority of veterinary professionals are women, there is a lack of women in veterinary leadership roles

Mary Long /

Mary Long /

Veterinary medicine is one of the few STEM fields that is dominated by women and incoming students are mostly women. However, even though women dominate the field, they are actually underrepresented in leadership positions within the industry and higher education. A new study published in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education1 found that more than 90% of veterinary students are women in some countries around the world. This study is the first to show that there's a gender imbalance in leadership roles in most veterinary schools globally, and it looks at the regional patterns. The research also highlights economic factors linked to gender equality in these settings.

To study this underrepresentation, researchers gathered data from 720 veterinary schools in 118 countries using an online search of each school's webpage to retrieve information on executive-level leaders and their gender representation. The data showed that out of 2263 executive leaders included, 784 (34.6%) were inferred to be women. Of 733 top executives—deans or their equivalents— shown on university websites, 187 (25.5%) were inferred to be women.1

The study also found that wealthier nations and those with higher overall gender equity tended to have a higher representation of women in these leadership roles.1,2

"The veterinary profession and the education system supporting it have been expanding rapidly worldwide," said Neil Vezeau, research project coordinator, in a release. “It’s only natural that we have efforts to monitor gender composition in a field undergoing substantial demographic shifts.”2

The proportion of women at the executive level in education revealed to be a bit higher in the Scandinavia region, Russia, and Australia. The proportion was a bit lower in Mexico, Central America, and South Asia. The United States had a proportion level of 0.5, meaning that half of the leadership positions for veterinary education were held by women.2 Most countries did not have an equal proportion.

"We've been able to build a picture of how far we've come regarding gender equity, but also how far we have to go. Our results serve as an indicator for what might be occurring in other fields as well," said Julia Silva Seixas, a member of the research team.

The full study and data can be found in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education.1


  1. Women are underrepresented in veterinary education leadership. News release. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. February 27, 2024. Accessed March 4, 2024.
  2. Vezeau N, Kemelmakher H, Silva Sexas J, et al. Characterizing global gender representation in veterinary executive leadership. J Vet Med Ed. 2024;50(7).
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