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Outrage over Massey chancellor's comments about female vets |


Outrage over Massey chancellor's comments about female vets


Last updated 19:46, December 13 2016

Massey University chancellor Chris Kelly has apologised for his comments about female vets.

Massey University's chancellor has come under fire for making comments about female vet graduates being worth just "two-fifths" of a fulltime equivalent vet.

Wellington businessman Chris Kelly, who became Massey chancellor in 2013, discussed changes for students studying farming and vet work in their courses from 2019 with a rural publication this month.

He has since apologised.


Veterinarians are distancing themselves from the remarks by Massey University's Chancellor Chris Kelly that are being labelled as sexist.

Kelly told Rural News that 75 to 85 per cent of vet students were women and in the first year when there was a high 'cull', it was the female students who continued because the work was largely academic.

"That's because women mature earlier than men, work hard and pass," he told Rural News. "Whereas men find out about booze and all sorts of crazy things during their first year."


Massey University chancellor Chris Kelly.

Kelly then went on to imply that a high fallout rate in the vet profession was the result of the life choices made by female graduates.

"When I went through vet school, many years ago, it was dominated by men; today it's dominated by women. That's fine, but the problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a fulltime equivalent vet throughout her life because she gets married and has a family, which is normal. So, though we're graduating a lot of vets, we're getting a high fallout rate later on."

Veterinary Council of New Zealand chairman Nick Twyford told Radio New Zealand the comments had sparked a discussion on gender equality and balance in the profession.

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"I think that's a good thing because it raises people's awareness about this and the discussion that follows can help to break down some of the myths that might exist out there."

Kelly's comments had raised the question of whether female vets were as able to work in farm practices with farm animals because of their physical size - there was no basis for that, Twyford said.

Half of the vets in the country were female, and they were well represented in the practices serving farms, he said.

The inference in Kelly's comments that the selection process at Massey preferentially selected women was incorrect, he said. The proportion accepted was the same as that of the proportion of both sexes applying and there was nothing to back up Kelly's comments that male students may be too unfocused or immature to get into the school.

The suggestion female vets were worth "two-fifths" of a male vet, was "clearly ludicrous", Twyford said.

"Females make terrific vets, there's absolutely no way of criticising the work that female veterinarians are doing. Clearly what he was doing was pointing to the fact that they don't necessarily work for their full career as compared with a man traditionally."

But that was also not borne out in the facts, he said. For their first 10 years students were in the workforce, work hours between males and females were split equally. After the age of 30, there was a slight drop-off in the hours women were working per week - for women the hours were between 35-40 a week, and for men, 40-45 hours a week.

"To suggest female veterinarians are only working 40 per cent of the time male veterinarians are working is clearly not correct."

Courtney Tarttelin, who recently completed a bachelor of vet science at Massey, said many students were fired up about the comments.

"He is sexist to both genders. It's just completely ridiculous."

Kelly's comments implied that women were more capable of working with small animals than large animals, she said.

"He's assuming that women want to play with fluffy kittens and dogs."

Tarttelin had just started a vet job working mainly with dairy cattle and sheep.

Comments like this coming from the university's chancellor could prevent students from enrolling, she said.

"It would be intimidating and it would make women feel unwanted or it could make them more determined to succeed."

Massey veterinary science graduate Jack Newton-Jackson said Kelly's comments were degrading.

"Kelly's article has severely dented the pride I have in my Massey degree as I begin work in a new country."

Newton-Jackson graduated in 2016 and worked in a vet clinic in the United Kingdom with mostly small animals.

"Out of all professions, the veterinary profession should be understanding of the miracle of childbirth and the importance of raising the next generation," he said.

"Not all women want to necessarily have kids and many males would be happy to share the child-rearing responsibility."

Vet and Palmerston North City councillor Lorna Johnson said Kelly's views were outdated.

"It was like a throwback. It's not what I want to see for women vets.

"It implies that parents aren't co-parenting. It's a lack of understanding of modern upbringing," she said.

"It's also insulting for male vets as it implies that all they want to do is booze."

Kelly  released an apology on Twitter, conceding the information he gave was incorrect.

The Chancellor has apologised and conceded the information he gave in the article was incorrect.

— Massey University (@MasseyUni) December 13, 2016

"I sincerely apologise for the remarks reported in a recent Rural News article.

"It does not reflect my personal view of Massey or its courses. It was certainly not my intention to offend anyone but I concede I have done so.

"I was trying to explain changes Massey University has made over a number of years in the veterinary science programme in response to industry needs, and also concede that the information was not factual."

Recent veterinary graduate Julia Zhu said she understood what Kelly was trying to say, but believed he just worded it wrong.

From her practical work, she had noticed more female vets on part-time contracts than male, while also noticing it was often men who who owned their own veterinary clinics.

Kelly's comments were met with consternation by a number of academics, politicians and students, who expressed their outrage in online posts.

Yes, I am only worth 40% of a male vet according to Chris Kelly. Here's the original link. []

— Lorna Johnson (@lornaajohnson) December 12, 2016

As an employee, I can face serious consequences if I bring the university into disrepute. []

— Deborah Russell (@BeeFaerie) December 12, 2016
A statement from Massey University said the correct information was as follows:

- More women apply for vet pre-selection in comparison to men. Of the about 340 applicants each year, the ratio is about 75-25, and the same ratio get into the programme. The programme had an intake of 122 this year.

- The hours of work reported by male and females vets in the industry is the same up until age 30. Over all ages, women working as vets report working an average of 37 hours a week and men report working an average of 45 hours a week.

- During the past 15 years, the programme has undergone significant review and as a result the newly developed programme has a more applied approach.

- With Government support, the number of places in the veterinary programme was recently increased to meet the industry demand.

The spokesman also said the university was confident all of its graduates, irrespective of gender, were more than adequately prepared for all areas of the veterinary work force on completion of their examinations.

 - Stuff

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