Students for Women’s Leadership in Veterinary Medicine

Hello VetJobs Canada!

My name is Rebecca Palmer. I am a fourth year vet student at the University of Glasgow, originally from Northern Ontario. When I’m not at school, you can likely find me hiking on the nearest dog-friendly trail and spending time with my friends – often at the same time! In my time at Glasgow I’ve been involved in multiple student societies and sports teams. They’ve all managed to enrich my student experience, either by introducing me to new friends, helping me develop as a professional, or giving me a break from my studies.

In the Fall of 2019, I was a recipient of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference (VLC) student scholarship. The scholarship is used to send students to the AVMA VLC in Chicago. One student per AVMA accredited school is selected by the scholarship committee based on the student’s leadership contributions in their veterinary school community. At this conference, students are able to network, meet with the representatives from other schools, and learn about leadership in the veterinary profession as a whole.

At the AVMA VLC I went to a brunch hosted by the Women in Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative (WVLDI), an organization I hadn’t heard of before. Only 10 minutes into brunch and listening to the guest speakers, I knew this organization was something I wanted to get involved in. I learned that day how the gender gap is still very much a problem in veterinary medicine. Studies have shown that women face a disproportionate amount of both institutional and psychological barriers in their careers. For example, in the United States women make up 55% of the veterinary community. This percentage will grow as 75% of veterinary students are female. Despite these numbers, less than 25% of leadership roles in the veterinary community (practice ownership, governance) are occupied by women. As a female veterinary student, these statistics scared me. It became increasingly clear to me that the veterinary community needed WVLDI.

WVLDI aims to be a resource for everyone interested in learning how they can empower women at any stage of their veterinary career, by providing the tools they need to help them develop professionally. If this will help female veterinarians in their future careers, it is something I want to share with my colleagues. Shortly after leaving the AVMA VLC I got started on creating a student chapter of WVDLI at Glasgow. I worked to build my passion project from the VLC and recruited a small executive team to help me grow the Glasgow WVLDI student chapter. Our team worked together effectively and within a week of being established we had reached over 100 members at the veterinary school. We focus our efforts on promoting female leadership through various events, such as a yoga classes to destress and guest lectures from established female veterinarians. Sticking to WVLDI’s values, our goal is to support our peers and promote high quality leadership to benefit the veterinary community.

It has been an honor watching WVLDI develop at Glasgow and I can’t wait to see what it can turn into. This organization is something I encourage everyone in the veterinary community to look into. As the future population of veterinary medicine becomes increasingly female, it is in all of our best interests to support female leadership.