13 Dec 2016

Uni boss sorry for female vet remarks

4:28 pm on 13 December 2016

Massey University Chancellor Chris Kelly has apologised after saying that one woman veterinary graduate is worth two fifths of a full-time vet.

A vet and a farmer examine a calf on a dairy farm

The Veterinary Association says many vets around the country - "male or female, married or single" - choose to work part-time (file photo). Photo: 123RF

Mr Kelly told Rural News that vet school used to be dominated by men but was now dominated by women.

He said in the interview, published last week, that up to 85 percent of vet students were women and, after the first year, the women continued because the work was then mainly academic.

Mr Kelly said women students worked hard and passed, whereas men "find out about booze and all sorts of crazy things during their first year".

"When I went through vet school, many years ago, it was dominated by men; today it's dominated by women," Mr Kelly told the publication.

"That's fine, but the problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two fifths of a full-time equivalent vet throughout her life because she gets married and has a family, which is normal. So, though we're graduating a lot of vets, we're getting a high fall-out rate later on."

Mr Kelly declined to be interviewed by RNZ but in a statement he apologised for causing offence and said the information he gave in the article was incorrect.

He said the facts were that more women applied for vet pre-selection in comparison to men. Of the approximately 340 candidates each year, the ratio was about 75-25 - and the same ratio got into the programme, which had an intake of 122 this year.

Male and female vets worked the same hours in the industry until age 30, the statement said.

"Over all ages women working as vets report working an average of 37 hours a week and men report working an average of 45 hours a week."

The chancellor's statement went on to say that the university was confident all of its graduates, irrespective of gender, were "more than adequately prepared for all areas of the veterinary workforce on completion of their examinations".

Veterinary Association chief executive Julie Hood said Mr Kelly's comments had sparked a lot of debate.

She said the female-male imbalance was an "international phenomenon", not just in the vet profession.

"It isn't about whether a vet's male, female, works full-time, part-time, is an introvert or extrovert, got red hair or black hair. It's actually the role that the vet plays that's important and [that they] are appropriately trained and ready to do the job, and that the workplace environments are supporting that."

She said both men and women in the profession wanted to have work-life balance and many practices around the country now employed vets "male or female, married or single" on four days a week.

Ms Hood said Massey University was New Zealand's only veterinary school and it was more important to focus on training and retaining top talent.

An article in Massey University's student magazine, Massive, in September said past and current vet students had criticised the industry for sexism and bias.

It said male graduates were more likely to be offered long-term full-time work and were told that they were the preferred candidates over their female counterparts.

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