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New AAAP Women’s Network opening doors in poultry industry

A new group within the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP) aims to provide a forum for the growing number of women who are joining the avian veterinary profession.

Sarah Reichelt, DVM, an associate poultry veterinarian at Aviagen, who serves on the steering committee for the AAAP Women’s Network, talked with Poultry Health Today about the group’s objectives.

More than 30 years ago, women accounted for only 17% of the poultry veterinary profession, according to AAAP. That number is now at 65% and it’s expected to exceed 75% in the near future.

“We wanted to make sure we had a group that could support incoming women, as well as embrace them during their journey in poultry medicine,” she said.

Culture change

Industries that have been male dominated for a long time — like the avian veterinary profession — are adapting to become more inclusive, and that is the purpose of the AAAP Women’s Network. Women need to be prepared to have difficult conversations, and the Women’s Network will help them learn how to elevate the conversation rather than escalate it, Reichelt said.

“One of the goals [of the network] is to provide a forum for open and comfortable conversation on difficult topics,” she said. The group also wants to encourage women to embrace leadership positions and will support their efforts, whether within the AAAP or throughout the industry.

“We want to honestly improve the leadership pool for the whole industry…by helping the women in the industry gain leadership skill sets,” she said.

Reichelt has always been passionate about animals, and she said the poultry industry was “incredibly welcoming.” Her mentors at North Carolina State University encouraged her to become involved in everything she could, and she took the advice to heart. We wants other women to have a similarly positive experience.

“You know, it’s a small industry. Everyone kind of knows everyone, and I really like that aspect of it,” she said.

Open doors

Many longstanding members within AAAP have already helped welcome women, “because they opened the door for difficult conversations, which was wonderful,” Reichelt said. “A lot of [poultry] companies have a culture, or help foster a culture, that makes it supportive for women in the industry.”

A presentation especially for women is planned for the AAAP annual meeting in August, and Reichelt is excited about it. It will focus on how women can embrace leadership in a male-dominated industry, with emphasis on tangible skills and tips.

While still in its infancy, the AAAP Women’s Network welcomes present members as well as students. “We’ve invited [student members] to these events, and they’re part of a Facebook group where we have open discussion and talk about different opportunities,” Reichelt said. She believes there are endless opportunities for young women entering the avian veterinary profession, with many members ready and willing to serve as mentors.

In conjunction with the association’s annual conference, the AAAP Women’s Network is hosting a reception on Saturday, Aug. 3. The guest speaker will be Martha Maznevski, PhD, professor of organizational behavior and faculty director for executive education at Ivey. She will talk with the group about leadership styles and working in a male-dominated industry.

For more information on the AAAP Women’s Network, click here.

The network also has a closed Facebook group to facilitate communication and discussion among female members of AAAP. Click here to request to join the page.

Posted on July 25, 2019

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