F

ile this under “doggone it!”

Seeking to help new veterinary graduates with their job hunt, the American Veterinary Medical Association last week distributed a starting salary calculator that instructed women to automatically deduct nearly $2,407 off the top.

But the move backfired. Some members criticized the decision to include the deduction and interpreted it as a sign that the AVMA was, effectively, endorsing disparities in pay between men and women, since there was no explanation given for the deduction. In an email, one vet wrote to others that the calculator may reflect real-world data, but that was “not a reason” to use it as a guide for recent grads on starting their salary talks.

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The grousing put AVMA officials on the defensive.

On Monday, Dr. Joseph Kinnarney, the association president, sought to dispel concerns by sending an email to AVMA members to explain the calculator does, indeed, reflect actual data, but is not a “value statement on what should be.” He added that “we absolutely agree there is no valid reason for this gender salary bias — and it is inherently unfair.”

He went on to argue the AVMA has, for the past three years, attempted to highlight the gender gap and, by inserting the data into the calculator, he believes the organization is alerting vets to the issue. “If we are going to work on solutions, we must first openly acknowledge the problem exists,” he wrote. He added the AVMA is taking steps to equip students and new grads to deal with the problems by providing seminars on negotiating skills.

“Illuminating this gender disparity in our Salary Calculator is an example of how, by highlighting an issue that is plaguing the profession, we are providing an opportunity to engage our membership and seek potential solutions,” he wrote. The association maintains that removing the gender factor from its calculator would not help identify or address the problem.

However, there was no mention in his email of any steps the AVMA may be taking to influence those who do the hiring and convince them to close the gender pay gap. But an AVMA spokeswoman says the association sends reports to members that include information on salary gaps. She also noted that in instances when AVMA identified gender pay gaps, such female vets own their practices but typically make less than their male counterparts.

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