Why veterinary medicine is a female dominated field

Sociologists have long been interested in why certain career fields are dominated by men or women. A recent article in Social Forces examines why veterinary medicine is dominated by women:

More women than men are applying for veterinary school—making up as much as 80 percent of applicants at some schools. That’s not because men are avoiding perceived lower wages in veterinary medicine, says one researcher. It’s because male applicants are avoiding fields filled with women.

That’s the conclusion of Anne Lincoln, an assistant sociology professor at Southern Methodist University, whose study of the changing face of veterinary medicine is the first to look at gender in college applications from 1975 to 1995. Lincoln used decades of surveys and application information shared by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges in her recently published study, “The Shifting Supply of Men and Women to Occupations: Feminization in Veterinary Education,” in the journal Social Forces.

In addition to men’s “preemptive flight” from female-dominated colleges, Lincoln also attributes veterinary medicine’s gender shift to women’s higher graduation rates from college as well as the landmark 1972 federal amendment that prohibited discrimination by gender in college applications. Women have been enrolling in college in greater numbers since 1972, according to Lincoln.

I would like to hear more about this argument and the idea of “preemptive flight”: so men who are interested in veterinary medicine go to class or the department, see it is dominated by women, and then choose another field. How did this happen in the first place in this particular field – was there an important tipping point? What fields do the men who wanted to go into this field then go into because of the surplus of women in veterinary medicine?

It is also interesting that Lincoln suggests the trends in this field are likely to occur several decades down the road in the fields of law and medicine. If this idea of “preemptive flight” is pervasive in any field dominated by women, what happens when there are fewer and fewer careers where men can flee to?