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Sociology Professor’s Research Provides Valuable Answers About Veterinarian Diversity

Adilia James
Adilia James, an Endicott College assistant professor of sociology, has been researching the lack of veterinarian diversity. Her research provides a window into why this is happening.
The veterinarian profession has seen dramatic changes in gender over the years, evolving from a male-dominated workplace to having mostly female vets. But the same can’t be said for ethnic demographics.

And Endicott College Assistant Professor of Sociology, Dr. Adilia James, is on a mission to find out why.

James recently spoke with us about her intriguing research, which you can read about below.

What sparked your interest in this research topic?
For my dissertation at the University of Chicago, I was interested in the gender pay gap. When I looked at the sociological research, I realized we were talking a lot of discrimination on the part of employers or different habits between men and women as it came to their participation in the labor market. But I realized we weren’t really talking about client bias as it relates to professions. … So for that study I interviewed clients of three professions—social work, law, and veterinary medicine, which is a profession that went from very men-dominated to women-dominated around the ’80s and ’90s. I finished up that project and I looked at the gender demographics of all these professions but not racial, ethnic demographics.

I was really surprised to see that veterinary medicine was about 90 percent white and had been that way for a very long time. I saw this increase in gender—but not race—and thought the numbers must be wrong. So I looked for other resources, and in the course of that, saw a number of opinion pieces where veterinary medicine professions were talking about how this is a problem. I emailed and talked to the head of diversity for the organization of veterinary medicine professionals and I realized this is something they have been talking about for a while. There are conferences around it, there are all these diversity initiatives that they try to put in schools, but still we are not seeing any budging in these numbers. So I thought it was time to talk to professionals to see what’s going on.

What is the latest for this research?
Right now, I’m collecting interviews, and I’m mostly done. But I want to talk to more vets of color, which is really hard to find when there are less than 10 percent in the profession. I will be presenting preliminary results at the Eastern Sociological Society Meeting in March.

Do you have pets? Have you seen this firsthand?
The funny thing is, I have pets, and most of the time, just by chance, my vets happen to be women of color. Almost all the vets of color I talked to had people of color role models. That was key for them. It wasn’t just that they had a pet and they took them to the vet. It was the fact that they took them to a black vet, and that was the first time they saw a black vet anywhere and it made them realize that was something they could do. In terms of emerging themes, I’m definitely seeing that role model aspect, and I can definitely relate with my own experiences of taking my pets to a vet.

What are some things you can share about what you’ve found out?
There seems to be a lack of communication with the public about what vets do, and in particular in urban areas where perhaps people of color or low income households might not have pets at all or might have pets but can’t afford to take them to the vet. What I noticed is a lot of the diversity initiatives coming out of the professional veterinary organizations and coming out of the vet schools are focusing on recruitment in terms of applying to vet schools. But a lot of the vets I’m talking to, both vets of color and white vets, have said that’s too late. We need to be going out and giving presentations in elementary school and in middle school.

What is your ultimate goal for this research?
My goals are to contribute to my own discipline and also give a summary of my findings to help the veterinary profession.

Learn more about Endicott College’s sociology minor and School of Arts & Sciences at