Massey chancellor accused of sexism over female vets comment

Chris Kelly said that a female vet was ‘equivalent to two-fifths’ of a male counterpart

December 13, 2016
Sheep family

A New Zealand university chancellor “appears to have apologised” for saying that a female vet was “equivalent to two-fifths” of a male counterpart because women take time off to have a family.

Chris Kelly, chancellor of Massey University, which has a focus on agriculture, has come under intense criticism and faced calls for his resignation after comments in an interview with Rural News.

He told the publication there would be changes to make the veterinary and agriculture course more practically focused from the first year. He said that 75 to 85 per cent of vet students are women and that in the first year, women are more likely to persist with their studies than men.

“That’s because women mature earlier than men, work hard and pass,” Mr Kelly said. “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 women.

“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.”

The BBC News website reported that Mr Kelly “appears to have apologised”.

It added: “Tweets and a Facebook post sent out by the university, purportedly including an apology by Mr Kelly, appear to have been deleted since. 

The New Zealand Herald reported that he wrote: ‘I was trying to explain changes Massey University has made over a number of years in the veterinary science programme in response to industry needs, and I also concede that the information was not factual’.”

The National Council of Women of New Zealand posted on Facebook: “If anyone is still wondering whether there's a prevalence of outdated and insulting attitudes held against women in scientific fields, check out the recent comments by Massey Uni Chancellor Chris Kelly about changes being made to their veterinary courses. #sexism”

The BBC website noted that “as well as taking on ceremonial duties, chancellors in New Zealand have a role in the governance of universities…From 2017, the vice-chancellor of Massey University will be Professor Jan Thomas, a woman who is a veterinarian and biochemist by training.”

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