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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Women in the Workplace

Published July 12, 2013 3:29 PM by Lisa Mueller

I don't normally have a strong opinion about women in the workplace or women in business or women's rights or other similar topics. I think of men and women as equals and kind of leave it at that. I realize physical therapy is a female-dominated profession. Okay. However, a series of unrelated stories, or experiences over my career thus far have made me stop and think, "What are women doing?" lately, and I thought I'd share them here. Tell me what you think.

1. A friend of mine received a brochure to attend a course titled "Communication Skills for Women," which includes a course objective of training to "control your emotions."

2. The first day of my first physical therapy job, one of my supervisors (a woman, if it matters) took me on a tour of the hospital and asked me if I was married or single.

3. At a CE course last year, I ate lunch with a few other women and one man. We discussed our jobs and education until the man politely left the table and then the conversation shifted to our kids and dating. Perhaps it was simply the normal flow of the conversation and it would have remained that way even if the man was still standing there, but I found it interesting.

4. I interviewed for six positions when I made the transition from acute care to outpatient last year, and all six of those interviews were with male supervisors or managers. I was surprised that in this profession, there weren't more females in the administrative or management realm of physical therapy.

So here are my questions, or thoughts, if I may humor you. Are there courses for men about controlling their emotions? Are men asked on their first day at a job what their relationship status is? Do groups of men discuss their child custody schedule at professional courses? Or is this just a girl thing?

I know there are differences between men and women, and there always will be. I've had miscommunications in both my professional and personal lives and I'm sure they came down to my communication style more than my gender, but I can't help but wonder if the experiences are due to a difference in X and Y chromosomes. Is it occasionally easier for women to connect, and therefore build professional relationships, by discussing their personal lives instead of their career goals? Is it sometimes easier for men to move up the "corporate ladder" in some industries because they communicate about different topics than women?

What do you think? Have you noticed situations similar to mine? Does it matter? Are these simply differences in how people communicate and form contacts with colleagues?

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Both very good observations. I appeciate the input and agree, there is some overlap and certainly a grey area of contributing factors to anyone's professional choices and development. Haven't solved it yet!

Lisa Mueller July 16, 2013 6:50 PM

On point two maybe the person was making polite conversation.  Inappropriate, I agree, especially during the interview process.

On point three, people will discuss things of interest to them.  I have met men who will discuss their relationships, children, dating, etc if given a chance.  Other men are not so open but will discuss cars, other women, and sports.  

On point four it is like saying why aren't there more male nurses or female CEO's of large corporations.  I would agree with Dean on his assessment in that if women are out of the field to attend to family that will leave positions open for their male counterparts to take the leadership roles.  And why is physical therapy and nursing female dominated?  And what are the professions doing to change this?

Karen July 16, 2013 2:48 AM

Addressing each of your bullet points:

1. That course creator needs a course in cultural competency

2. Inappropriate, whether she was being nosey, hitting on you, or figuring out if you would be on maternity leave before long. Simply inappropriate.

3. I think there are a lot of young, professional women who are simply at the age where thinking about, and having kids, becomes of primary importance. This may be amplified by the fact that they have had their heads in books becoming DPTs for a good portion of the previous years. This happened to me at the last CE course I took but the sequence of events was slightly different. They started talking babies and I got up to walk away.

4. Purely anecdotal, but many of the women I graduated with became full-time mothers and left the profession. That left more men to rise to managerial roles. I've known some fantastic managers who were women, they tended to have finished the child rearing part of their lives  or had no children.

I think points three and four are related.

Just my observations.

Dean Metz July 15, 2013 10:29 PM

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