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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Women in AVMA's 2014 House of Delegates, with some Government Comparisons

By Donald F. Smith, Cornell University and Julie Kumble, Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts

In April 2013, we reported on the gender makeup of the AVMA’s House of Delegates (HOD).[i]  We thought readers might be interested in seeing an update of the current composition of this important legislative body of the veterinary profession in as they meet for their semi-annual HOD meeting this week in Denver.[ii]

Graph 1 below shows that 22 (31.4%) of the 70 HOD delegates are women.[iii]  This is a higher proportion than we reported last year when women comprised 25% of the HOD delegates. The percentage of female delegates representing the 52 states (including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia) is  26.9% and the percentage representing the allied organizations is 44.4%.

Graph 1. Percentage of women and men in current HOD (July 1, 2014) showing total percentage, and also segmented by those who represent states and those who represent affiliated organizations.
(Data from AVMA,, July 1, 2014)

The proportion of women in the HOD does not represent the full story with respect to voting power, however. This is because the voting power for delegates representing state associations (including Puerto Rica and the District of Columbia) is weighted proportionate to the number of AVMA members in each particular state.

For example, delegates from the ten states with the most AVMA members carry approximately half of the total votes apportioned to all states. Because eight of these ten delegates are men (including the delegates from the five largest states), the weighting of male votes is disproportionately high compared to the total number of delegates.

Though the female representation of the allied organizations is higher (44%), the impact of their aggregate voting power is not realized proportionate to their numerical presence in the HOD because these organizations carry only two votes each.  Therefore, in the aggregate, the affiliated organizations provide less than 10% of the total weighted voting power of the HOD, with the other 90% coming from delegates representing state associations.

This is not to diminish the substantial progress that has been made in women’s representation in the House during the past year. Not only has the proportion of women delegates increased substantially, as noted above, but the gender ratio of the alternate delegates for the 10 largest states is now 50%. If some of these alternate delegates become delegates in the next few years, this by itself will have a substantial impact on the weighted vote of the body.

As we did in our story in 2013, we again match our HOD gender profile with data from the US Congress. We also added governors for one additional point of comparison. (See graph 2, below.)

Graph 2. Percentage of women and men delegates in current HOD (July 1, 2014) and of three governing bodies (US Senate and House of Representatives; and State Governors).
(Data from AVMA,, July 1, 2014, and other sources.)

Scholars generally recommend a minimum of 30% women in leadership positions to achieve a critical mass where they effectively influence policy and decision-making.  Unlike in the US Congress and governorships, we have reached that 30% point in the HOD.  Though we have not yet reached the threshold in weighted voting power within the House, we are optimistic considering the progress over the past year and the impact that the Women's Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative also may be having to increase awareness for the importance in achieving more women in leadership positions.  This is a favorable sign in a profession that is now well over 50% women.   

The authors extend thanks to Nathan Watson '17 for his assistance in preparing this story.

Dr. Smith invites comments at

[i] Smith, Donald F. and Julie Kumble. Women’s Leadership in the U.S. Congress and the AVMA’s House of Delegates: Exploring Parallels and Looking Forward. Perspectives in Veterinary Medicine, April 28, 2013.
[ii] The House of Delegates meets just prior to the AVMA Convention (July 24-25, 2014).
[iii] This includes on delegates, not alternate delegates (delegates are non voting). The proportion of women among alternates is currently 34.1%.