According to 2013 figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 60.6% of 224,000 employed physical therapists are women (as are 55.5% of physical therapy program directors), yet there remains a dearth of women in private practice ownership, managerial, or administrative positions.

Case in point: for the first time in roughly 50 years, the next president of the APTA will be a woman. Fifty years, folks. That’s just unacceptable, especially for an organization that represents more than 90,000 physical therapy professionals and students—68.1% of whom are women. In the early 1990s, this same organization appointed a task force dedicated to women’s issues and united behind a goal to improve the status of women in PT. Though the APTA has a history of recognizing distinguished women leaders in PT, it took nearly 25 years from the formation of that task force for a woman to actually take charge of the Association.

Why?

It’s certainly not due to lack of skill. In fact, according to a study conducted by leadership consultancy firm Zenger Folkman, women are actually more effective leaders than men. So, what’s the hold-up? A recent study from Rock Health indicates lack of mentorship as a limiting factor in women’s career development.

The PT Patient’s Guide to Understanding Insurance - Regular BannerThe PT Patient’s Guide to Understanding Insurance - Small Banner

We Didn’t Start the Fire—But We Can Put it Out

The lack of women leadership in PT means there are very few mentors to show other women that they, too, can take on leadership positions. When women look around their industry and fail to see leaders who look like them, they’re less likely to see themselves in leadership positions.

In a study of 919 physical therapy students, researchers discovered that “Men showed statistically significantly higher odds than women of expecting to own a private practice, to become a faculty member, to become a physical therapist manager or administrator, to publish articles in professional journals, and to have a higher income in the first year of employment.” Before our young women DPTs even enter the workforce, their career expectations are limited—a fact that makes mentorship all the more urgent.

What’s in a Name

I’ve had many opportunities to mentor and be mentored—in ways both large and small—and that has made a huge impact on my career and my life. In fact, mentorship is such a powerful tool that 70% of major companies offer some type of mentorship program, yet our industry has yet to embrace this concept. So, I set out on a mission to change that. Through inspiration from Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, I created PropelHer.

The PropelHer initiative is all about advancement in physical therapy—moving our industry, as well as our women DPTs and students, forward toward gender equality and equal representation in leadership. PropelHer exists to encourage young women DPTs and students to question their industry’s biases, to take action against discrimination, and to ask for leadership guidance. It also strives to motivate current women leaders to share their leadership experiences and wisdom, to offer counsel and support, and to show young women DPTs and students that they can “have it all” without sacrificing leadership opportunities.

I understand that being a role model can be a bit scary. There’s a lot of pressure to live up to expectations of what being a role model means. Despite my own experiences with mentorship, I’ve never seen myself as a mentor or role model, but it’s time that changed. Leaders in the PT space must embrace mentorship and the responsibilities that come with it—myself included.


This drought of women leaders in PT (which, by the way, most likely contributes to the large gender salary gap for PT professionals as well) persists to the detriment of the whole industry—one largely composed of women, yet dominated by men. While the issue of gender equality in top management positions isn’t unique to physical therapy, it is our responsibility as PT professionals to correct the problem. Some great first steps toward that objective: Join the discussion on Twitter using #womeninpt, seek and offer mentorship, and take a stand.

  • Founder Letter: The 8 Toughest Things You'll Have to Do as the Boss Image

    articleJul 7, 2016 | 9 min. read

    Founder Letter: The 8 Toughest Things You'll Have to Do as the Boss

    Whether you manage one or two employees, or sit at the helm of a multi-clinic chain, being the boss is challenging. And based on what I’ve learned in my own experience as both a clinic director and a tech executive, being a good boss is as much about leaning into the tough situations as it is letting go of what we can’t control. So, what difficult scenarios have I had to lean into—and let go of? Here …

  • How to Attract Top Talent to Your Practice Image

    articleJan 22, 2016 | 2 min. read

    How to Attract Top Talent to Your Practice

    Every practice owner wants to hire the crème de la crème. Here’s how to get quality job candidates knocking on your door. Wouldn’t it be great to get the highest-quality job candidates lining up to work at your practice? Well, with a few tweaks to your strategy, that dream might not be that far from reality. It all has to do with curb appeal—that is, how you present your practice to potential candidates. Most companies offer competitive …

  • 8 Pitfalls for Startup PT Practices Image

    articleJan 11, 2019 | 8 min. read

    8 Pitfalls for Startup PT Practices

    When I was growing up, I used to love watching Indiana Jones reruns with my dad. Whenever one of us found good ole’ Indy playing on TV, we’d plop down and watch the rest of the movie, regardless of how many times we’d seen it. I especially loved watching Indiana duck, dodge, and outsmart every booby trap he encountered during his adventures (the giant rolling boulder was always my personal favorite). While founding a startup practice may …

  • 7 Things to Know Before Buying a PT Practice Image

    articleFeb 15, 2019 | 7 min. read

    7 Things to Know Before Buying a PT Practice

    Many physical therapists dream of owning their own practice one day. While some clinicians wait until they’ve been working for years before they take the plunge, more and more new graduates are opting for clinic ownership right out of school. Regardless of when the timing feels right, one of the biggest decisions facing an aspiring clinic owner is whether to buy an existing PT practice or start one from scratch . Many folks wind up purchasing existing …

  • Cultivating Company Culture in Your Practice Image

    webinarJan 30, 2014

    Cultivating Company Culture in Your Practice

    “Culture” is fast becoming a buzzword in the business world. Not only does it help top companies hire—and retain—quality talent, but also it’s emerging as one of the best indicators of and reasons for success. In this month’s webinar, find out: Why culture is such a big deal for businesses How you can establish and maintain the right one for your practice How to hire for cultural fit Ways to demonstrate your culture online and in your …

  • 5 Reasons Not to Set Productivity Goals Image

    articleJan 24, 2019 | 7 min. read

    5 Reasons Not to Set Productivity Goals

    “Productivity” is one of the most controversial terms in the physical therapy world these days. The vast majority of staff therapists are judged, to some extent, by their productivity numbers—and many are held to unrealistic standards that allow no margin of error to account for bathroom breaks, patient refusals, or even conferring with other medical team members regarding a patient’s care plan. Because productivity is based on the time we spend performing tasks that can be billed …

  • Your Patients, Your Practice, and Your Business: The Case for Aligning Payment with Outcomes Image

    articleMay 10, 2018 | 7 min. read

    Your Patients, Your Practice, and Your Business: The Case for Aligning Payment with Outcomes

    Do therapists work , or do they practice ? It is not an insignificant question, and the answer speaks volumes about how we think about ourselves as professionals. Why is it that so few of us use the word practice to describe what we do? How does this affect the ability to: empower therapists to treat patients independently, and compensate them for their productivity and the quality of the services they deliver to patients? Before we dive …

  • 8 Signs Your Company Culture Isn’t Up to Snuff Image

    articleJan 15, 2014 | 5 min. read

    8 Signs Your Company Culture Isn’t Up to Snuff

    Company culture impacts your employees’ happiness and thus your bottom line , and as this article points out, poor company culture leads to carelessness, neglect, sunken morale, and ultimately, a lack of growth. If that’s not motivation enough to take a long, hard look at your own practice—your business—I don’t know what is. To help facilitate this introspection, we’ve assembled some red flags to watch out for. Here are eight signs that your company culture isn’t up …

  • The No-Stress Formula to Successful Hiring Image

    articleJan 25, 2016 | 2 min. read

    The No-Stress Formula to Successful Hiring

    Does the pressure of filling an open job position have you sweating bullets? Matching a candidate’s skills and abilities to a particular role is no easy feat, but my hiring process strategy can help you shed some of the stress. Physical therapists have a process for just about everything—except hiring. And not having a comprehensive hiring process can be costly for your practice—not only in terms of money, but also with respect to morale. After all, there’s …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.