Several weeks ago, women equality in the field of physical therapy became quite the hot topic on Twitter. We even hosted a #DPTstudent chat on the topic. The essence of several of the online conversations was that in a profession made up mostly women and started by women, there is a higher percentage of men who “make it to the top” / “own clinics” / “are CEOs and entrepreneurs”. Many of the conversations focused on the potential reasons on why this was happening in our profession. The next few paragraphs are my response, as woman in this profession, to those conversations.
First thing is first. The issue of women equality in the workforce is not unique to physical therapy. In fact, it is most all industries. In some fields it is worse than others. My husband works in IT Network Security and he has no female coworkers. Physical therapy comes in high on Forbe’s list of “Best Paying Jobs for Women in 2014” stating that women earn 89% what their male counterpart earns. Not perfect, but certainly not nearly as bad as real estate agents where women are said to earn only 60% of what a man would earn. Woman earning equal pay to male counterparts has been a long debated topic and there continues to be a push for women equality in many fields. Physical therapy still has some work to do to reach full equality, but I am happy to know we are at a better starting point than most other professions.
It is important to recognize that men and women are different. We should be seen as equals, for sure, but women and men tend to be very different creatures. We are wired differently and I’m not just talking about our anatomical parts. Well, I guess in some ways I am. If a couple wants to start a biological family, the woman is the one with the parts to bear the child. Many women volunteer to leave the workforce to raise a family and if she chooses to enter the workforce at a later time, she will earn less money due to her time away. Women have more decisions to make regarding their family and career balance than a man does. This can be mitigated by being with a partner who equally shares responsibility for house hold chores and child care.
I am passionate about women equality. I want to know that I would be offered the same exact salary as my male equivalent. I also recognize that men and women potentially have different needs, requirements and dreams. Maybe her dream is to raise a family. Maybe she wants to own a company. Maybe she wants all of that. That is okay and we as a profession and society have to recognize and be supportive of that. I’m not sure there is a hard and fast solution to women equality in any field but having conversations and raising awareness can only help the issue. So far, the only issue I have encountered from being a woman in this profession is the lack of stylish shoes that still have enough arch support to allow me to stand on my feet all day without pain. I know that the hardest part is yet to come but with recognition of this issue, mentors of both the female and male variety, and a husband who is willing to vacuum, I am set for success to overcome obstacles.
As mentioned before, I’m not sure there is a quick fix or even a planned solution for woman equality in the workforce but the first step is recognizing the issue and starting a conversation about it. Some women involved in the discussion have proposed that we continue this conversation. One such examlpe of this is the PropelHer initiative. Heidi Jannenga, who generated the idea thinks that PropelHer can provide a platform for on campus conversation between faculty and students as a way to explore this issue further. Keep your eyes out for the launch of PropelHer soon!
But in the meantime…perhaps we need to take the dancing approach to talk about women equality. (Super funny Jimmy Fallon clip!)