Having kids perceived as ‘hinderance’ by many women in zoology

In a ACZM survey, 85 per cent of female respondents without kids said they felt having children would have negatively affected their careers

Many women who specialize in zoological medicine feel having children could hinder the success of their career, reports the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM). Photo 128546995 © James Kirkikis | Dreamstime.com
Photo 128546995 © James Kirkikis | Dreamstime.com

Many women who specialize in zoological medicine feel having children could hinder the success of their career.

This is according to a recent survey conducted by the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM). As part of a study investigating the salary rates of those working in the field, researcher Tara Harrison, DVM, MPVM, Dipl. ACZM, Dipl. ACVPM, associate professor of zoological medicine at North Carolina State University (NC State), sent a 127-item online survey to 201 ACZM diplomates (106 females and 95 males).

“There aren’t a lot of ACZM diplomates in the world—fewer than 300—but there aren’t that many zoos either, so it is a very competitive field,” she says.

The survey contained questions regarding career type, job title, annual income, benefits, gender, race and ethnicity, job location, whether respondents had children, whether respondents had chosen to delay having children, whether having children had affected respondents’ career, and whether respondents felt gender had affected their career. Responses were anonymous.

“We did this, first of all, because of the perception that diplomates are highly trained, but that their salaries don’t compare with those of other specialties,” Dr. Harrison says. “Samantha Morello, associate professor at the Cornell Center for Veterinary Business and Entrepreneurship, had done a similar study in veterinarians, so we partnered to repeat the study on this population.”

The findings revealed that, while other veterinary specialists earn an average of US$130,000 per year, ACZM diplomates have a mean salary of US$105,000 per year (higher for those in academia and lower for those working in zoos and aquariums). There were no determined differences in incomes between male and female respondents, Harrison notes, nor significant differences in income between males and females with or without children.

When asked about having a family, however, respondents’ perception of its effect differed by gender, with 76 per cent of females stating they delayed having children because of their career (compared to 47 per cent of males).

Additionally, 65 per cent of female respondents with children felt having kids had a negative effect on their career (compared to 16 per cent of males with children). Likewise, 85 per cent of females without children said they felt having children would have negatively affected their careers (compared to 44 per cent of males without children).

“It is startling how many women thought kids would have an effect or felt they did have an effect on career,” Harrison says. “Perhaps this is due to the competitive nature of the field—the respondents believe availability and the ability to move to where the jobs are can be affected by having children.”

“I hope diplomates—particularly women, since this concept affects them disproportionately—aren’t feeling pressure not to have families because they feel they can’t have one and do the career properly,” she adds.

The findings have been published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.