In the UK, over 60% of Veterinarians are women and the majority of Veterinary students studying today are also female! Say goodbye to the old ‘James Herriot’ days and say hello to the new, more diverse side to the veterinary profession. In recent headlines, the presidential team currently leading the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) are all female. I feel that this is a very exciting milestone that needs to be celebrated and shouted from the rooftops! Wow! It was just over one hundred years ago that it became legal for women to join the Veterinary profession (Sex Disqualification Removal Act 1919) and just look at us now! This article will discuss the new all-female presidential team, the role of the RCVS and the significance of this historical event.
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What is the RCVS?
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, known as the ‘RCVS’ for short, is the organised regulatory governing body for Veterinary Surgeons in the UK. It was first set up and established in 1844. Its statutory duties are laid out in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.
The RCVS is governed by a Council who meet three times a year to discuss, plan and carry out statutory duties. The RCVS Council is made up of elected Veterinary Surgeons, individuals appointed by Vet Schools, independent lay persons and Veterinary Nurses (although there is also a separate Veterinary Nurses Council in the RCVS for the regulation of that profession). The Council then play a key role in electing the RCVS’ presidential team. The RCVS is also built upon several different committees, subcommittees and an operational board; each working together and having their own individual roles to perform, e.g. the education committee and the standards committee.
To practice as a Veterinary Surgeon in the UK, you must be a registered member of the RCVS.
What‘s the role of the RCVS?
The RCVS regulates and sets out the professional responsibilities of Veterinary Surgeons. The RCVS is composed of three distinct parts, the regulatory body, the Royal College and the RCVS Trust. When graduating as a Veterinarian in the UK, you must make a declaration ‘to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to your care.’ The RCVS ensures that this is fulfilled. They do this by ensuring Veterinary standards in both education and professional conduct. You may be familiar with the term ‘safeguarding’ which simply means to ‘protect from harm’. Furthermore, the RCVS regulatory bodies act to ‘safeguard’ the health of both Clients and their animals.
The following statement reveals the recent RCVS mission statement (2020-2024):
‘As a regulator, we set, uphold and advance Veterinary standards. As a Royal College, we promote, encourage and advance the study and practice the art of Veterinary surgery and medicine. We do all these things in the interests of animal health and welfare, and in the wider public interest.’
Please follow this website link to find out more information about the RCVS: https://www.rcvs.org.uk/home
What does the RCVS not do?
The RCVS is not a representative body of the profession. This means that it is not the responsibility or the role of the RCVS to represent members of the profession both individually and collectively. In principle, the RCVS protects the interests of animals and their owners, and the public; rather than those of individual Veterinary Surgeons.
What is the RCVS presidential team?
The RCVS presidential team is composed of the following three roles:
- The President
- The Senior Vice President
- Junior Vice President
At the RCVS’ annual general meeting (AGM) in July of this year, the RCVS Council elected an all-female leading presidential team with the President, Senior Vice President and Junior Vice President roles all being elected as women.
This is a real historic event as this is the very first time that the RCVS presidential team has been solely led by women.
This all-female presidential team are able to uphold these positions for a maximum of four years before the next presidential election is due. The role of the presidential team is to lead the way and run the RCVS.
Women in the Veterinary profession
Two years ago marked a whopping one hundred years since an act of parliament in 1919 allowed women to enter the Veterinary profession for the very first time and practice as Veterinary Surgeons. Three years following this, Aleen Cust became the first woman to graduate as a Veterinary Surgeon and achieved MRCVS status (Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons). This was an absolutely incredible and pioneering achievement and led the way for women entering the Veterinary profession even today.
Currently, women are dominating the Veterinary profession. The gender statistics show that women now account for approximately 60% of the practising Vets registered with the RCVS today.
The demographic change within the profession is fascinating. In a century we have progressed from the first female Veterinarian to a female majority!
The future is extremely exciting and I feel as though there are opportunities and bright days ahead for both men and women in the Veterinary profession. I work in a busy small animal practice that is predominantly women. And I am inspired daily by my female Colleagues who display strength, leadership and brilliance. A lot has been achieved since 1919 and it’s going to be very interesting to see what the next one hundred years will bring!