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Veterinary science no longer a ‘man’s world’ – women now a majority

December 11th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Rachel Kenley

LOGAN – Kylie De St. Jeor loves animals. An animal, dairy and veterinary sciences major with an emphasis on bioveterinary sciences, Kylie grew up riding her family’s two horses in Magna.

“I want to be a vet because I feel like [animals often] can’t help themselves when they’re in bad situations,” said Kylie, the granddaughter of an Idaho rancher. “I’ve always had a lot of empathy, and I just want to help.”

Dr. Lyle McNeal, a Carnegie professor of animal science in Utah State University’s College of Agriculture, said that this empathetic nature makes women, like Kylie, excellent veterinarians.

“I teach hands-on classes,” McNeal said, “and I’ve noticed that women tend to be more understanding in handling animals. They’re patient, they don’t harm the animals and they work hard. It goes back to the intrinsic nurturing and mothering skills they possess.”

According to the Veterinary Practice News, in 2009 female veterinarians outnumbered male practitioners for the first time in history. Nationally, the veterinary practice is shifting to be women-dominated, and the trend is apparent at USU as well.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of girls in our vet program here,” said Tami Spackman, USU College of Agriculture academic adviser. Spackman said when she started working for the university, enrollment in veterinary science programs was approximately 60 percent male and 40 percent female. Now, she reported, enrollment shows enrollment is 67.6 percent female. “The roles have flip-flopped,” she said.

Ashlee Diamond, a USU College of Agriculture peer adviser, said increased awareness might be contributing to the surge in women pursuing agricultural degrees. “Now more girls are taking ag classes and that has exposed them to a lot of opportunities.”

McNeal also credits social change for the increased numbers of women in agriculture. “When I was a student, women weren’t allowed to major in animal science, but in the late ’60s that started to change.”

One of these changes was the opening of membership in the FFA (formerly the Future Farmers of America) to females in 1969. Before this landmark event, girls were prohibited from participating in a complete agricultural education program, which includes education in the classroom, career exploration, hands-on learning, and leadership training. As of 2010, females made up 42 percent of the total FFA membership and held 47 percent of leadership positions at the state level, according to the National FFA Organization’s website.

Kylie said her classes seem to have an even balance of men and women, but if the trend continues, she’ll find that she has plenty of female colleagues – all of whom love animals and want to treat them humanely.

“My grandpa, who was a vet and a rancher, always used to tell me, ‘You take care of [your animals], Lyle, or they won’t take care of you,’” McNeal said. “Women get that. They’ve penetrated the ag industry and they make wonderful vets.”


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