Following on from her ground-breaking work on veterinary women and practice ownership last year, Kerrie Hedley, Chief Operating Officer at XLVets, is once again looking for female vets to share their thoughts on both ownership and the wider aspects of leadership, in a series of focus groups and interviews conducted using video conferencing. The research is scheduled to take place in early August and both business owners and non-business owners are encouraged to take part by emailing Kerrie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kerrie has also talked about her findings to date in more detail in a podcast currently hosted on the Veterinary Women website.
Kerrie has been summarising some of her previous findings to help guide the future focus within the XLVets community. She has identified that there are both barriers and enablers to leadership and XLVets practices have been working to ensure that barriers are removed or lowered and enablers encouraged so that the path to leadership can be opened up. Enablers to ownership, include finding the right practice – smaller practices with flexible approaches to partnership encouraged women to see that ownership was a possibility. Another enabler is being able to access CPD about ownership and leadership and the ability to develop self-awareness and leadership skills. This is an area that is very much encouraged within XLVets practices, with specific courses and programmes available to leaders at all stages of their career.
Around one in five of XLVets practice owners are women and leadership programmes at entry level are almost completely booked by women, suggesting that the network of independent practices is having some success in moving their leadership profile to more closely reflect the profession’s demographics.
The research also revealed that perceptions of leadership were different for female non-owners compared to owners, with non-owners fearing additional or unmanageable workloads but owners appreciating the flexibility the leadership role offers.
Kerrie says women face many challenges around taking on leadership roles, “We know that having a supportive partner with flexible work, or parental support, are enablers to practice ownership. Our research showed that being ‘caring’ could even be a barrier to leadership, while showing ambition and determination could be an enabler. Yet, those who care about people and animals could prove to be exactly the types of leaders we really need for a modern age. While there is a lot that we can do as a profession – such as creating pathways to leadership, lowering financial barriers to ownership and providing access to specific CPD, it’s clear that there are still some systemic issues that act as barriers to female leadership, their aspirations and indeed their general career development. This new wave of research will look at the whole picture more closely and help us to develop models for change.”
Kerrie says she wants to ensure she hears a wide variety of viewpoints, “If women are averse to leadership or doubtful about the benefits of leadership, they should be heard too. There’s a great deal of support and momentum behind this project within the XLVets community and it’s something we all think is hugely important for the future of the profession. We had a tremendous response to our last call for participants and I’m looking forward to gaining more insight into this important topic and helping to develop innovative solutions.”