Veterinary Woman is urging the profession to support flexible and part-time working to improve opportunities for women in the veterinary industry. The call to action comes after a readership survey revealed that over one third of respondents stated a need for flexible working conditions to make the profession more accessible to those with childcare responsibilities.

The survey, released in October 2021, attracted 187 responses to the open-ended question: How could the veterinary industry improve opportunities for women in the profession? Over 33 per cent of answers specifically stated that flexible working and part-time hours would allow more women, as well as men, greater opportunity to work and contribute their skillset within their field.

One respondent said: “Change from, ‘The only way we can do things, is the way we’ve always done them’, to one where we embrace change, make full use of technology, innovative ways of working and flexible working arrangements. Only then will we start to see genuine equality of opportunity.”

Fellow respondents echoed similar conclusions:

  • “Few childcare providers work until after 7pm – this makes covering evening surgeries very difficult as clients prefer later appointments.”
  • “[Offer] more flexible working, good maternity leave, and more encouragement for men in the industry to take paternity leave.”
  • “Support working mothers. There is not enough government support between ages 1-3 years and some women have no choice but to take a career break.”
  • “Acknowledge and accept the need for part-time roles. Value part-time employees. Part-time work is the same job, same passion, same commitment but just in less hours. Value parenthood.”

Many respondents referred to a perceived stigma of flexible working, as well as a fear of outright discrimination should they choose to have children:

  • “Make flexible working seen as acceptable for everyone (including men and women without kids). I think there is still a huge stigma around this, and I know of amazing women vets too afraid to justify part-time hours because they did not have children.”
  • “Encourage flexible working for all team members, not just women with families, to try and reduce the stigma it creates against women.”
  • “There’s a lot of work to do to improve equality of opportunity to drive change and not just pay lip service to it … I don’t think it’s been an even playing field in my career simply due to the risk I could have children.”
  • “A lot of vets are written-off the minute they have kids, this needs to stop.”

Responding to the survey answers, Claire Newton-Ransom, editor of Veterinary Woman, said: “The message is loud and clear – the industry needs to evolve to attract and retain talent. Practices all over the country are struggling to recruit team members and our survey revealed genuine conflict between traditional working conditions and the demands of modern life.

The results from our survey offer industry leaders a valuable insight into the personal challenges of today’s veterinary team. We urge those in management roles to facilitate flexible and part-time working options – not just for the benefit of working parents, but to increase employment uptake.”

You may also be interested in: Sustainable Flexible Working in an ‘Always-On’ World

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