It is widely reported that the veterinary profession is becoming increasingly female-dominated, but there are concerns that this is not represented in positions of leadership. Although there are well-documented data describing the under-representation of women in various senior veterinary positions (academic deans, practice owners, positions on professional councils and corporate boards), it is less clear why this occurs. Although likely multifactorial, the relative contributions from a gender divide in intent to pursue leadership positions, women being dissuaded from considering senior roles, or differences in success rate (e.g. in leadership appointments), are unknown. This study was performed to investigate whether there is a gender divide among veterinary students in intent to pursue a leadership role and also to explore other influencing factors in career aspiration in veterinary students. Students from five UK veterinary schools were surveyed using an electronically distributed questionnaire. Career aspiration and leadership ambition were identified as being influenced by gender, with a greater proportion of male students (83 per cent) than female students (73 per cent) indicating they aspired to owning a practice. Career aspiration was also positively influenced by self-esteem, confidence and previously holding a position in the students’ union or other club or society; however, all of these were also more apparent in male students than female students. Career aspiration also appeared to be influenced by year of study, with a decline seen at each increasing student year group, and this was unrelated to gender or self-esteem.