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Women in veterinary leadership positions: their motivations and enablers


Background Despite now having higher numbers of women than men within the veterinary profession, there are substantially less women in leadership roles. Research, primarily in other professions, has focussed on barriers to leadership and sometimes overlooked facilitators and motivators. This study aimed to explore the motivating factors for female veterinary surgeons to become leaders, to identify potential strategies to increase female leadership.

Methods Sixteen female leaders from academia, professional bodies, industry and clinical practice took part in semistructured interviews. Interviews were analysed using a thematic analysis approach.

Results Two themes were developed: ‘Potential for positive influence’ and ‘Requirement of external enablers’. Participants wanted to influence change for themselves, including work-life balance and developing their role, and for others through a position of influence. They wanted to inspire and mentor the future generation of leaders. External enablers allowed this transition to occur, including formal mentors and informal support systems, opportunities for growth and increased responsibility, and leadership training.

Conclusion Potential strategies to increase female leaders include the promotion of female role models, increasing awareness of training and increasing work flexibility. The profession could improve its support of the next generation of leaders and celebrate the successful female leaders we already possess.

  • female
  • women in the veterinary profession
  • leadership
  • qualitative research
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