020 – Is the Sex Disparity in Occupational Therapy all Bad?

Gender Sex Occupational Therapy

Today’s discussion stemmed from a number of observations of late. Seemed like too much of a coincidence that the topic came up multiple times in a very short space of time so I decided to put together my thoughts. I’m very aware that for some people this topic is quite sensitive. I do encourage you to have a listen with an open mind as I am simply trying to highlight an idea that I haven’t seen spoken about in the literature. That idea is that changing the demographics of Occupational Therapy will change the profession fundamentally. I definitely don’t have a definitive answer to any of these raised concerns but the (well rounded) discussion needs to happen.


I compare some of the reported experiences from the literature to my personal experience. My belief is that the experiences are legitimate but my interpretation of the cause of these experiences seems to differ greatly from those presented in the articles that I have read. I’ve seen a lot of very heated discussion on the topic of sex disparity.

My concern is that the views being taken into these discussions are not conducive to effective discussion. When the chat gets heated, this is stilting the ability for clinicians to have a well-rounded view. Another question I wanted to pose is if this is an issue from the perspective of men as my personal experience has never highlighted it as an issue but also I’ve not read any papers on the topic that have included men as authors….. so if you know of some shoot them through to me because I’d love to read.

Reference to the article discussed:

Beagan, B., & Fredricks, E. (2018). What about the men? Gender parity in occupational therapy. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 85(2) 137-145. doi: 10.1177/0008417417728524





10 thoughts on “020 – Is the Sex Disparity in Occupational Therapy all Bad?

  1. Hello Brock, as an male O.T. graduation student i can say some of what i feel about the issue. First, i don’t think we, as a profession, should enforce or take actions to desperately bring men to ou schools or anything like that, what we should do is make Occupational Therapy more recognized! And that is a value i’ll always try to work for. That way ppl will choose for theirselves, no need to do gender apeals.
    What i was surprised by, was te fact that ot grads usually say passionate stuff like “we care for minorities”, but not when you are a christian conservative male student in the university (wich is like 15~20% of the whole university tops, the only one in O.T. department for sure), they just assume you are priviliged, and will be for the rest of your life. (Like they know even a lil of my life).
    When i was talking about how lonely and sometimes hard it was to be a man in an almost 90% women profession i heard “That is rather surprising, we were actually talking how we feel men are priviliged by the teachers” – i was mesmerized, i really feel that everything i got and am is from a lot of effort. Just as you i did and do a lot of extra stuff to be the best i can. It’s complicated to have your effort minimized and put in “check” cuz they think it’s because “you are privileged”.
    There is no need of a gender battle in the profession, let’s just understand that we all *can* achieve the same, and do a great as O.T’s, let’s unite the best of men and women differences and make the profession grow, thats’s what we all should care about, the profession as a whole, the profession we love and should be trying to make recognized as much as possible, as great profession that impact lives for the better and has a deep understanding of care and attention.

    • Thankyou so much for your insights André! It’s a story I’ve heard before from various people and like you said I think it very much misses the point. We are a great profession and we got there by being made up how we are currently made up. food for thought for all.

      • That is bro! That was something i’ve never stopped to think about, we got here, we are who we are “by being made up how we are currently made up”. It’s pretty much an exercise of honoring our history and keep worrying about what’s really important, at least that’s how i see ^^
        Tanks for the reflections and to bring the topic up!
        Have a great day

  2. I think the “battle” perspective is what clouds the water and raises hackles, but for me it isn’t that. It’s more to do with representation and having common frames of reference with our clients. And it’s not only gender but age, ethnicity and economic background. As a mature male OT who had a complete career change looking for meaningful work, I was acutely aware of the makeup of my profession. Indeed I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said, although sometimes being a big male in a dangerous situation only made matters worse as it was then a “challenge”…! However, I`ve never been disadvantaged (nor indeed promoted) because I`m a male, but because of my experience and skillset and like you I`ve had plenty of female bosses. What I have seen repeatedly though is gendered interventions (a spectacular one on youtube iirc was when a male patient exploded about a cupcakes intervention) which do not match the client, but again that’s not necessarily gender that’s age, confidence and experience. Also recruitment is targeted at traditional recruitment bases. Given competition for recruits, time available and limited resources why would you enter arenas where traditionally you have not been? Far safer to stick to what you know and recruit from there. Then there’s gender clustering in work which is a complicated cultural dynamic despite removal of barriers and recruitment campaigns. However it’s definitely noticeable that there are no campaigns from the UK based professional body RCOT. So are we representative of the patients we treat? Hardly. But that’s the same for age and ethnicity; I think black males in the UK are rarer than unicorn poo, so it’s clearly not just lack of males in the profession. Indeed, because we are a “quiet” profession and don’t carry the gravitas of the other professions perhaps we don’t shout as loud and perhaps we’re not taken seriously–are we just a big girl’s club like the WI (women’s institute)…? From the outside it might appear so, but other professions with the flipped disparity are certainly a lot more pro-active in doing something–certainly from social media people lose their minds over this in other fields. Would OT be better with more mix? Possibly. Does it reflect society shifts? No, but neither do other professions. Is it quieter? Yes. Will things be any different by the time I retire? I highly doubt it. I think that when it all boils down to it, it’s a good career for anybody, but in this case men just aren’t on the whole interested in it, and the profession is in no great hurry to change that.

    • Thank-you so much for your comment Dan! and you are 100% correct. I think the gendered interventions is a bigger issue than the gender makeup of the profession IMO, but this comes down to clinicians (male or female) not feeling comfortable or confident enough to explore occupations they are not personally familiar with…..possibly a topic for another podcast lol

  3. Hey Brock, I enjoyed your podcast. I do sometimes feel that I am a male minority in my job, but that’s not generally negative. I have always had a female boss as an OT, but they’ve always been more understanding than my male bosses as a labourer. I have been asked to take on risky male clients, because I am a male who can defend himself. I’ve never had any advantages or disadvantages over my female peer OTs. I do think that Occupational Therapy is marketed poorly and there are definitely awesome female marketers in the world (eg. Google and Facebook), so this problem is not caused by an OT gender disparity, it is caused by poor marketing skills. My question is, are we afraid to properly market OT, because the profession is still doubtful about its identity? I don’t believe the profession needs to be doubtful, as all experienced OTs can easily explain what OT is and what occupation means! Maybe we need to stop teaching OT students that Occupational Therapy is hard to explain and improve marketing; then maybe gender equality will occur naturally over time.



  4. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing your perspective Brock, and thankyou Andre and Dan for posting your thoughts! When I graduated a couple of decades ago, we had 6 or 7 men in our cohort of 96 and they certainly didn’t seem to get much in the way of preferential treatment although everyone listened when they spoke (just so nice to hear a deeper voice for a change). I do love having men in OT because men and women do think and behave differently (wow, that feels like a really controversial comment to make right now) and diversity is precious, but do I feel like we need more men?Hmmm, a loaded question when I’m a woman – Not really… From my perspective, for a couple of reasons: I don’t think the profession loses out for not having as many men in it as women, just like I don’t think that Engineering loses by not having as many women as men. Every person regardless of gender brings their own particular art to their profession and the blend of individuals both men and women have who have chosen OT as their vocation have made it a beautiful profession to belong to. Just as you have all said, OT is OT because of who we are and where we have come from. The men in OT just like the women, come to the profession hopefully because they want to make a difference in the lives of people who are vulnerable, disadvantaged or for whatever reason, cannot do what they want to do or need to do in their lives. Often people will join OT because they have known an OT or had to see an OT or have been told, if you can’t do Physio you can always do OT. You have all made statements about raising the profile of Occupational Therapy and yes we can do better there. Certainly I would not want to see a gender biased recruitment strategy because every OT ought to be someone who wants to be an OT and will at least enjoy the work they are doing and value the people they are working with for as long as they do it.
    By the way, I’m expecting us to see a real difference in the profile of OT with the full rollout of the NDIS across the nation. A far greater proportion of Occupational Therapists will become business owners or at least employed in private practice with a vested interest in raising the profile of what they are doing and the difference that it can make. This may, more than anything else see a change in our demographic.
    Thankyou for sharing your perspectives Brock and thanks Andre and Dan for adding to the conversation. It’s very cool to share the OT world with guys such as yourselves.

    • Long time no see! Thanks for your super valued perspective. It’s great to have the discussion and seeing so many amazing and constructive opinions coming out 🙂 hope to catch up soon

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