When brothers Joshua and Jonathan Kobuszewski graduated in 2006, it was two-thirds women. The brothers, who have joined their father Mike in the Indian Creek Veterinary Clinic north of Topeka, bucked the trend.
Now the school is 75 percent women and some schools in the country are 80 percent women.
The reasons are as varied as the women who want to become veterinarians and the men who don’t.
When Litfin moved to Topeka 24 years ago she joined the small animal practice of Doug Jernigan, who had graduated from K-State in the early 1970s. His class was the first to have a female, Litfin said.
Ronnie Elmore, associate dean of the K-State vet college, said some theories that attempt to explain the trend can be dismissed.
For example, he said some people assume that women veterinarians go into small animal practices. But that isn’t true. A number of women vets go into large animal practices.
He said the key to handling large animals, such as cows and horses is to have the proper equipment and to know how to use it correctly. He said it is no easier for a 200-pound man to push around a big animal than it is for a 110-pound woman.
Discrimination likely was a factor in women not going into the field prior to 40 years ago, he added. As society opened to the idea of women being capable of doing most things men can do, women began moving into formerly male-dominated fields.
And then there are some psychological differences between men and women. Women may be going into the vet business simply because of their love of animals; whereas men may be seeking careers that pay better.
“Women tend to make decisions more with their hearts,” Elmore said.
Litfin agreed that women tend to have more emotional attachment to animals than men.
But economics are a big part of the trend, Litfin believes. Forty years ago veterinarians weren’t really paid very well in relation to the work involved in getting the degree — often earning starting salaries of $30,000 to $40,000 a year. That has improved, but Litfin makes the argument that veterinarians still aren’t paid generously considering the school debts they often have to pay off in the early years of their careers.
Men likely gravitated to other fields of study where the odds of higher income appeared more promising.
Jonathan Kobuszewski agreed in general with the arguments of Elmore and Litfin, but emphasized the need to recognize differences in individuals. He said he and his brother and a number of other males have the passion for treating animals and their owners and that is why they bucked the trend.
He agreed that, statistically, a higher percentage of male students may pick fields that produce higher income sooner. But he said his father often quotes something his father had told him, “Work hard and the money will come.”
“It isn’t one of those professions where you are going to go out and make six figures right away,” he said.
If it is true some males are forsaking veterinary medicine to make more money in some other field, Kobuszewski sees that as a good thing.
“It’s going to be good for the veterinary profession overall. You are going to have people there who really want to be there,” he said.
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