Massey Chancellor: women graduates only worth 40% of a real veterinarian

Theoretically final update: Chris Kelly has now resigned.

Note: Chris Kelly has now apologised for his comments and stated they were “not factual“.

Note note: Massey have deleted the apology from their Facebook and Twitter pages. Unfortunately for them The Internet Never Forgets.

If anyone still questions whether there’s a lot of demeaning, retrograde attitudes held against women in scientific fields, may I refer you to recent comments by Massey University Chancellor Chris Kelly about changes being made to their flagship veterinary courses.

Chancellor Chris Kelly told Rural News that practical studies will start in students’ first year of vet and ag degree courses.

The move on the vet degree course responds to the vet industry saying that though new vets are well qualified academically they lack practical skills, especially for rural practice.

The vet course will change a lot, says Kelly. Until now first year studies have been general and academic, emphasising chemistry, physics and biology. But in the revised course students will start learning the real ag and vet stuff in the first year.

Well that all seems very logical. You’ve got to adapt to what the industry wants, in terms of skills and requirements, giving graduates the preparation they need to hit the ground running.

But then …

Kelly says 75-85% of vet students are women and in the first year when there is a high ‘cull’ it’s the women who keep on because the work is then mainly academic.

“That’s because women mature earlier than men, work hard and pass. Whereas men find out about booze and all sorts of crazy things during their first year.

“When I went through vet school, many years ago, it was dominated by men; today it’s dominated by woman. That’s fine, but the problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a full-time 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.”

I’m sorry, what?

the problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a full-time equivalent vet throughout her life …

nina garcia disappointed

because she gets married and has a family, which is normal.”

cersei eyeroll

Does this actually need unpacking? Are we actually on the cusp of 2017 and I have to spell out why it’s so insulting, small-minded and frankly bizarre to be write off women’s professional abilities and value because they might have babies?

What about women who don’t want to have kids? What about women who enjoy more practical study than theoretical? What about women who don’t just go into veterinary science because (as implied further on in that godawful article) they love puppies and kittens and ickle babby wabbits?

I mean, I don’t want to blow Chris Kelly’s mind or anything, but even Google Image Search knows that women can be large animal vets:


Of course, this is the great lie of “meritocracy”. Whenever someone talks about the lack of representation for women in politics, on boards, in senior management positions, the answer is always “oh but we must appoint on merit.” If something is dominated by men (like, say, the leadership of our universities), if men are being paid more, that’s just how it is.

As soon as young men were being academically outpaced by women, panic sets in. The course must not be structured properly! We have to stop this plague of women dominating our industry! They’re just going to throw all those skills away and turn into baby factories once they hit 27 anyway!

And men? You should be appalled too. Because the Chancellor of Massey University thinks you’re a bunch of meatheads who can’t handle academic study:

.. men find out about booze and all sorts of crazy things during their first year.

What the hell are y’all getting up to at Massey these days?


That’s right, dudes. You just want to go off and get pissed! You don’t care about having kids, and if you do you certainly won’t want to spend any time with them! You definitely won’t ever explore flexible working options or want to change careers. You’re a good little productive economic unit, aren’t you?

I get that this is how some people think the world works. Men get to live whatever lives they like, and women only play supporting roles based around home and care. But it’s never been true, and it sure as hell isn’t how the world works in 2017. If men aren’t succeeding academically, maybe you patriarchs might want to have a word with yourselves about whether your ingrained sexist bullshit assumptions have something to do with it.

parks and rec go to the corner

And maybe, as the Chancellor of Massey University, Chris Kelly should focus on what his institution is meant to do – deliver good tertiary education – instead of making himself look a damned fool who just got transported here by a wormhole from the 1800s.

16 Replies to “Massey Chancellor: women graduates only worth 40% of a real veterinarian”

  1. I had a visiting equine vet ask what my internmate and my professional and finacial plans are for the future because we’ll obviously only be working part time, if at all, due to the demands of our husbands and children. Wtf!?!

  2. While Chris Kelley’s comments may well have been inappropriate and sexist, there are some real issues here which are similar in most professions.
    Assume 100 men and simply estimate working hours over their working life and you will probably need somewhere between 120 and 150 women to reach the same number of working hours over a lifetime. This has nothing to do with competence – women on average generally outperform men on almost every academic test – but most women do take time our of the workforce. This may range from less than a year to ten years to raise a family.
    Ignoring these basic facts will lead to problems with availability of sufficient university places resulting in a shortage of qualified professionals as we move to more women taking up more of those positions formerly considered “male” roles. This is not sexist, simply a matter of fact and essential for planning!

    1. If your “basic facts” and “planning” are based on gendered assumptions about who raises children, who does well in different professions, and who provides the most “value” to a job, you are indeed being sexist, Peter.

      1. [Comments which are nothing but a set of snide personal insults aren’t welcome here.]

  3. I really don’t think you read this well, by picking out the bolded statement and ignoring the last sentence. There was no reference to any inability on the part of women to be vets, but if Massey is anything like where I work, it will have some knowledge of where its graduates go. Maybe it is a fact that there is a “high fallout rate” later on, of female vets leaving the profession (saying it is to have babies is undoubtedly a bit naff, I agree) or taking time out at a higher rate than men? .

  4. I’m a 37yr old woman who is well and truly done making babies, and would love to study for a degree in veterinary science and I have a few questions. If his statements were based in fact what are the actual statistics, and how does anybody know people are leaving to raise children? Isn’t this supposed to be the age of re-training and people having multiple careers? How come mature students of both sexes are so poorly represented in his statistics? What evidence does he have that anyone is falling behind academically due to “finding out about booze”, and what is their pastoral care like in terms of prevention and support for substance abuse issues? It sounds like a really bad way to represent Massey in the media however you look at it, and surely positive publicity is part of his job.

  5. His comments were factually incorrect.
    1) The admissions has changed to get more large animal focused not necessarily men as plenty of women do large animal work. The content of the course has changed in past five years to produce more rounded vets.

    2) Massey did research to work out how many vets we need into the future, and yes it showed women worked less hours at certain stages but it was closer to 0.8 not 0.4. It did not show women drop out more than men. Furthermore nobody can say what the future will be as men take on more of parenting and people decided that they want more work life balance than the past.

    So given this he was expressing outdated views. It would have been great had he used his opportunity to challenge the profession to think about how to change to accomodate a changing workforce.

    1. Well said Naomi. However, my understanding was that the vet school were changing the selection criteria to improve communication skills in all graduates, rather than try to address the problem of retaining large animal vets in the workforce.

      My vet is female, about 5 foot 2 and can calve a cow or do a Caesarian just as competently and efficiently as any male vet. In fact, I would say she’s better, because she’s patient and relies on technique rather than brute strength – hence my cows recover quickly and without complications.

      1. They are changing in enrolment were about communications and other ‘softer’ skilles. As I understood it aimed did also to get students with affinity to rural work. But I may be mistaken that maybe linked to a seperate initiative. There have been so many great ichanges in last five years aimed at how the veterinarians I lost touch have now I have no undergrad teaching into the degree.

  6. I met my husband through work in Emergency Vet Med. 13 years ago. I’m still working in clinic and he has become frustrated in the industry and moved into academia with far better hours and salary. Oh and did I mention his job offers far wonderful perks and leave entitlements and he currently is using his primary carers leave to care for our son.

  7. His comments may have been crassly put and sexist, but his maths does raise a valid point.
    If in the past training 100 vets produced 6,720,000 working hours over their working lifetimes (35 years 40 hours a week 48 weeks a year – 67,200 hours per vet.) but now with 25% of those vets choosing to work an average of 30 hours a week for 30 years the total number of working hours drops to 6,120,000 a shortfall 600,000 hours so just over nine vets. So more vets need to be trained if time out and part time work is a choice. Many careers (medicine, law etc) that were mainly male forty years ago have found this to be the case.
    Personally I’m all in favour of part time work – I took several years off to be a house dad. Incidentally I had an interview for nursing college 22 years ago. There was a three women interview panel – one of the questions was ‘where did I see my career in ten years.’ I answered that I expected to be working part time and looking after my kids. They didn’t like that answer and told me so. I hope they’ve changed their views in the decades since.

    [Chris Kelly already acknowledged that his statements were not factual.]

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