Gender wage gaps widen

Gender wage gaps widen

Women DVMs gaining momentum, but remain years behind in professional experience
Sep 01, 2007

NATIONAL REPORT — At face value, the figures are alarming.

Table 1: Salaries of veterinarians in private practice, 2005
Male and female veterinarians are separated by a 6 percent starting-salary difference at the beginning of their veterinary careers. But that distance grows with time, eventually leading to a 30 percent, or $36,600, average annual salary gap.

The reality might be different than what the numbers depict, argues Kerry Richard, former employment and labor attorney with Tobin, O'Connor, Ewing & Richard in Washington. The numbers potentially are flawed because they don't accurately reflect the state of the genders in the field: Men have higher levels of experience and practice ownership than women, who, in mass, are newer to the industry, Richard contends.

But even when numbers were adjusted to reflect Richard's suggested clarifications, previous American Veterinary Medical Association studies show wage gaps still exist, says marketing director Jim Flanigan, referring to the AVMA-Pfizer Business Practices Study, released in January 2005.

DVM Newsmagazine surveys also have documented this disparity.

Table 2: Salaries of veterinarians in public or corporate employment, 2005
Salary levels 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 every reported field of veterinary medicine.

Legally, employers are held to the standard of equal pay for equal work, says Desmond McIlwain, labor and employment-law attorney with Tobin, O'Connor, Ewing & Richard. Courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) look at education, training, physical and mental capabilities needed, job responsibility and authority, decision-making power and work conditions, among other areas, when deciding if jobs are equal. Almost every state also has its own laws regarding equal pay. Some are more stringent than federal requirements, McIlwain says.

Inside industry wages

Male veterinarians in private practice, on average, earned almost $42,000 more per year than their female counterparts across 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 — $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 between the annual salaries of male and female board-certified, small-animal practitioners.

Wage gaps continues beyond private practice, where annual inequities are less 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. That inequity is exacerbated by data showing women log, on average, nearly four more hours per week than their male counterparts but still earn roughly 40 percent less.

Information shortfalls?

The report does not specify the ages of the male and female employees, which could have an impact on overall wages in an industry where women are considered "latecomers," Richard says.