Diversity in Animal Science

The single biggest diversity issue in Animal Science is the male to female ratio in undergraduates, graduates, and faculty members. For over 30 years, animal science has been a majority female profession. The undergraduate statistics, for Virginia Tech, show that APSC has 80% female students and 20% male students. This is pretty consistent with the national average for undergraduates. This would be fine, except that the majority of faculty members in APSC are still male. Additionally, a number of the male faculty members came in during a time where females were discouraged and rare in animal science. Therefore, they still exist under the “boys club mentality”.  This creates friction within the department as many of the faculty members prefer to deal with male students rather than females. For example, during my freshman year, an older male professor was advising a new, female student when she expressed her interest in becoming an equine veterinarian. This professor has a known distaste for equine animals and veterinary students, and told this freshman student, “You have nothing to offer to this department”.

In graduate school, the statistics between students are closer to 50/50 but clearly still a majority women. Currently, a number of us are in a professional development course that is taught by an older white gentleman. In this class, we have only read literature by, or heard from older white professors. Some of these papers have overtly sexist sections to them, and are being taught as fact and sheer wisdom.

The problem with all of this is that the faculty in Animal Science is not adequate to serve the needs of the students enrolled. The majority of the students are female and have access to very few role models and professors that have similar life struggles and experiences as they do. This puts female students at a disadvantage compared to the few male students, as they often have an easier time connecting with faculty and finding research and work opportunities. This difference should fix itself over time, as the older male professors retire and are replaced with majority female individuals. However, the students enrolled now, and those that will enroll before this change happens are going to have to struggle in a system that is not designed for them to succeed.

This link gives a few of the national statistics in Veterinarians. Take a look if you are interested!



One Reply to “Diversity in Animal Science”

  1. Interesting post. I know very little about the gender representation in your field nationally and the VT department, so this was helpful to learn about. Have you considered that if the faculty makeup, hiring, and research shared has historically been male that with greater reprsentation it will become more inclusive and/or shift to female? What I read is a system that creates benefits for men that have probably repeated itself. It’s hard to say if it is rooted in patriarchy, misogyny, or a gender system. Here is an article to explain the difference. https://medium.com/@aytchellis/patriarchy-misogyny-the-gender-system-44cfb00690e3

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