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Scholarship with preference for male vet students gets Australian vet school in hot water

“The barriers that prevent men from entering vet science are not the same barriers that prevent women from entering every single other academic area”

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If a veterinary school offers a scholarship that favors men, is that sexism?

It’s a debate the University of Sydney is finding itself in after they sent out a notification about their $20,000 Professor Marsh Edwards AO Scholarship. According to the website Stuff, this scholarship was offered to postgraduate veterinary medicine students for the first time in 2017, but there were certain preferences. Specifically for applicants from rural regions, interested in large animal practice and, of course, male.

“I was really surprised. I really thought that it was a mistake — some sort of clerical error. Sexism exists in our society but I thought the uni held itself to a higher standard,” a DVM student told Stuff. “Female graduates of vet school are still paid less, from day one. I just think it shows very little thought into the causative agents of under-representation of women in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths]. The barriers that prevent men from entering vet science are not the same barriers that prevent women from entering every single other academic area.”

Female veterinarians outnumber male veterinarians, but still aren’t paid the same as their male colleagues. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently got in trouble for creating a salary calculator that asked female veterinarians to dock $2,406.97 from their calculations without explaining their reasoning. After some uproar, the AVMA released a statement of apology and then said:

“The inclusion of gender as a factor affecting starting salary is NOT an indication that it is acceptable for female veterinarians to be compensated less for the same work. In fact, the AVMA firmly believes in—and will continue to advocate for—equal pay for equal work. The reality is that gender was identified by analyzing data collected from senior veterinary students over the past 15 years as one factor that is statistically significant in predicting the starting salaries of new graduates. All such statistically significant factors are included in the calculator.”

Imogen Grant, an officer on the Students’ Representative Council at the university, said female students were horrified by scholarship’s preferences. While offering scholarships to certain groups — such as women-only and indigenous-only scholarships — isn’t unusual, this is different, Grant said. “What distinguishes those scholarships is they are in place to procure benefits for people who face structural barriers to receiving an education,” she told said to Stuff. “To have male-only scholarships is to continue male privilege within society.”

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For its part, the University of Sydney stands by its decision. “The inclusion of males as one of a number of preferences by the donor is to address the current under-representation of males in the student cohort,” a spokeswoman told Stuff. “As such, it is consistent with the university’s support of actions to address diversity and the underrepresentation of males or females in certain disciplines or professions.”

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