International Women’s Day Panel Discussion: Celebrating the feminine voice

08 Mar 2024


It's been two decades since men have been the majority in the veterinary profession. So why do we still need to talk about gender equality? On Thursday evening, the AVA presented a panel discussion as part of International Women’s Day. With the theme #InspireInclusion for 2024, the webinar was facilitated by Dr Kate Toyer and featured Professor Jacqui Norris, Dr Jodie Wilson, Dr Nahiid Stephens, Dr Dhash Jayakody-Perera and student Bindee Davis. 

The discussion began by going straight to the heart of recent frustrations – the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Gender Pay Gap data. The WGEA data showed, in vet businesses with more than 100 employees, the average pay gap was between 35-45%. It was also noted by the panel there were no female CEOs of large veterinary organisations, with around 70% of senior management male identifying. “I’m not surprised” was Jodie’s succinct answer when asked her initial response to the data. Dhash, an early career veterinarian, said they felt the data was “shocking, unacceptable and divisive”. 

Reflecting on the data in an industry (and student cohort) now majority female, the conversation naturally turned to a discussion around quotas or enforceable legislation. The panel strongly affirmed the importance of meritocratic advancement yet noted the playing level was not level and support systems were needed to get women into these leadership positions, and then ongoing. 

Jodie articulated that it was time to “make some hard choices, and we’re going to need to be curious about what we can do and be willing to be really uncomfortable with the discussions that we have because that discomfort tells us that we’re moving into change and that change is what we need.”  Jodie also raised the idea of privilege and the duty to mentor and support those who might not have the same benefits. This led the panel to reflect on veterinary leaders such as Dr Helen Jones Fairnie AM, Dr Mandy O’Hara, Dr Helen Chapman and Dr Linda Bradbury, who along with host Dr Kate Toyer, were nominated as influential mentors for our panel members.  

A highly engaging topic for the panel and audience arose from a discussion around the flexibility that is essential in our veterinary workplaces to support working parents. The need for flexibility to be more diverse in how it can be extended to all employees – regardless of their family situation – was widely applauded. Examples given included flexibility to reduce hours for postgraduate study or support aging parents. As Nahiid said, “We're not going to have equality until it's for all.” 

A recording of the webinar can be viewed here.