Women: Half of associates want ownership stake


CLEVELAND-Almost half of women associates surveyed cite an interest in practice ownership/partnership despite speculative fear that the next generation will avoid the management headaches.

CLEVELAND—Almost half of women associates surveyed cite an interest in practice ownership/partnership despite speculative fear that the next generation will avoid the management headaches.

The findings were part of an exclusive DVM Newsmagazine survey that was mailed to 2,500 veterinarians and posted 844 useable responses. The survey achieved a 34-percent response rate. (See "Practice characteristics", p. 35.)

Associates respond

The results come in the wake of projections by the American Veterinary Medical Association-sponsored KPMG mega study that projected 2004 as the landmark year that women take the majority in veterinary medicine. The trend itself poses some significant professional issues. While most women are opting for small animal practice, the demographic changes have placed significant pressure on a profession that has its direct roots in agriculture. As a result, organized food animal groups are funding studies to determine the long-term impact as reported in DVM Newsmagazine

Table 2 Plans 3-5 years from now?

In small animal medicine, the anecdotal fear that women will not pick up the torch for small animal practice ownership has been a cry echoing among practice owners for more than a decade.

The DVM Newsmagazine survey sought to answer this question as well as gauge the professional and personal wants of men and women when it comes to balancing the question of practice ownership, work-life balance, compensation and volunteerism in organized veterinary medicine.

Table 3 importance of understanding business

Ownership bandwagon

According to the survey, about one-quarter of the respondents cited a need to either own the practice or become a partner in the existing practice when asked about their career plans in the next three to five years.

When the data were analyzed by responding associate veterinarians, some interesting differences emerge in the ownership category (Table 1, p. 1). Of those responding female associates (171), 21 percent say they would like to own their own practice, while another 30 percent would like to move into partnership positions. Of the male associates responding to the survey (69), 23 percent would like to become owners, and 44 percent have partnership aspirations.

Table 4 Importance of understanding business for female Associates

Dr. Marsha Heinke of Marsha L. Heinke, CPA of Grafton, Ohio, says: "I don't know that there has been factual information one way or another. Historically, all you have been able to do is point to anecdotal evidence or in 'my humble opinion' commentary. It appears women are very interested in owning practices, but my impression is they have a different style for doing it, and they have a different timeline for accomplishing it."

Heinke says the generation of veterinarians from the mid-70s started the pendulum swinging toward more women in veterinary schools.

"This whole generation was the one determined to have it all; they were going to have a family and a career," Heinke explains. "Remember, it was the generation of women's liberation.

Table 5 Enjoy the most about your work

"What I see today is women are buying practices in their 40s. So, in my opinion women approach this a little more cautiously. They have a different style in terms of seeing how teams work together, and they have multiple focuses on what the priorities are. Family has traditionally been a big priority for a lot of women, but they are still career veterinarians."

Any discussion of women's attitudes about practice ownership, including work/life balance, should include one on generational differences, she says.

"There is so much more interest these days on aptitudes for veterinarians and attributes that make for successful practitioners," Heinke says.

Table 6 Enjoy the most about your work

One long-standing theory about the impact of a female-dominated workforce is that it will turn into a part-time profession. This survey suggests that while women do prefer to work fewer hours (so do men), they still have ownership aspirations (See Tables 1 and 2, pages 1 and 32.)

Of the total respondents citing practice ownership and partnerships as an aspiration, 24.3 percent of the respondents were still in their 30s; another 30 percent of the wnership/partnership wannabes were their 40s.

Male practitioners with less than 10 years of experience want an equity stake in practice; 32 percent say they want to own, while another 44 percent are looking to buy into a partnership. As might be expected, the overall numbers drop off dramatically as age increases, likely because they already have attained ownership positions.

Table 7 Importance of Issues for success

Understanding business

Both sexes understand that business is an important component to success. Men rated it higher overall. About 80 percent of men ranked it in the "very important" category. In comparison, 53 percent of the women surveyed believe it is very important.

As might be expected, owners/partners believe business acumen is of greater importance compared to associate veterinarians.

Respondents in higher income brackets, over 40 years of age or those in practice greater than 11 years all emphasized the importance of having business skills.

Table 8 Veterinarian again?

However, when the survey asked respondents about areas that would help secure success in practice: training, working relationship with staff, hiring and compensation all ranked in the top categories. Issues like accounting/financial, marketing, public relations or legal issues were not as important to success, the veterinarians say. The same trend held true when the results were cross-tabulated by gender. Women gave staffing issues a slightly higher priority when compared to men (See Tables 5 and 6.)

Associate veterinarians also ranked an understanding of business highly. About 40 percent ranked it as "very important", and another 40 percent ranked it in the "important" category. Likewise, 60 percent of male associates ranked business knowledge as very important, and 31 percent said it was important.

Practice characteristics methodology

Love it, hate it

Respondents were asked what they enjoyed most about work. About one-half of the women respondents say they enjoy "medical work-ups", while about one-half of male veterinarians say they prefer "interacting with clients."

Even though there is a gender gap, age is most likely an influencer. The perception is that less experienced veterinarians are far more focused on improving medical skills. As his or her career progresses, client interaction and management topics take on greater importance.

Because there are more women at younger ages currently, it could follow that medical work-ups take a higher priority at this point in the veterinarian's career stage.

This survey documents that the numbers of female veterinarians citing "interaction with clients" as the most enjoyable aspect of work actually increases with age.

For example, only 24 percent of women under 40 say working with clients is most enjoyable. About 28 percent of women between age 40-49 rank it as such, while the statistic rises to 43 percent for women age 50 and older. The exact opposite trend is noted when comparing answers with medical work-ups. Professional enjoyment from medical work-ups declines slightly with age.

For women citing medical work-ups as the most enjoyable aspect of practice:

  • Ages 40 and under: 53 percent

  • 40-49: 48 percent

  • 50+: 38 percent.

Although men ranked "interacting with clients" higher than women, the same age trend holds true.

Almost half of male respondents ranked interaction with clients as what they enjoy most about work (47 percent).

The age breakdowns include:

  • Under age 40: 36 percent

  • 40-49: 40 percent

  • 50+: 53.2 percent

Men ranked medical-work-ups as what they enjoy most about work overall at 29 percent. Other stats include:

  • Under age 40: 36 percent

  • 40-49: 35.4 percent

  • 50+: 24 percent.

Veterinarians were uniform in their disdain for practice management. In fact, 55 percent of the respondents say it is the area of practice they enjoy the least. There was no statistical difference noted between men and women.

When respondents were asked about his or her personal interests in practice management topics, some differences also emerge. For example, importance of "working relationships" was the top answer for women. Men ranked "maximizing personal compensation" tops.

When asked, "If you could start all over, would you choose to be a veterinarian again?" About 84 percent of respondents report they would choose veterinary medicine. Absolutely no differences in gender, position, age, community or compensation were noted in the survey.

Related Videos
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.