BIRMINGHAM, Ala., At a time when there are glaring gender disparities in the healthcare workforce, Upstream Rehabilitation, the nation’s largest dedicated provider of outpatient physical therapy, has virtually no pay gap between male and female staff physical and occupational therapists. Indeed, the Alabama-based company is taking global measures to provide an equitable work culture for all employees.
Research by the World Economic Forum shows women make up 67 percent of the healthcare work force and earn nearly 25 percent less than their male counterparts. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed female physicians earn 21 to 24 percent less per hour than male physicians. On the rehabilitation front, a 2022 National Institute of Health study found female physical therapists earn approximately 10% less than their male counterparts.
Upstream Rehabilitation, with 1,200 physical and occupational clinics nationwide, is leading the industry in gender equity with an average salary difference of less than one percent between male and female physical therapists. Additionally, Upstream has created ‘Flex Time’ options for its therapists who have other commitments, like raising children, but want to remain in the professional workforce. And four years ago, the company created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, a group which is improving equity in four areas: Education/Training; Outreach/Recruiting; Documents/Compliance; and Social Media.
“Good intentions are nothing without concrete action,” says Upstream Rehabilitation CEO Ronald Kuerbitz, who has had made gender pay equity a priority and is taking steps to improve any gender disparity in the Upstream work environment. Kuerbitz has been deliberate about promoting and recruiting female leaders.
“We need to hear from all quarters in order to have a robust organization,” he admits. “To that end, we continue to hire women to fill positions of leadership. We recently promoted three women to clinical leader positions and hired a C-suite leader who oversees recruiting, sales, and other growth functions, and brings a unique voice to board and executive committee meetings.”
“By continuing to advance gender diversity at the executive level, the leadership at Upstream is helping eliminate bias when it comes to pay differentials,” says Lisa Dombro, Chief of Strategic Growth at Upstream. “Gender equality is something I have championed in other areas of health care, and I am proud Upstream is taking active measures to be part of the solution.”
Equity has an underlying theme—respect. “We make sure all patients are treated equal,” adds Kuerbitz. For Upstream Rehabilitation, the issue is the same with therapists—and they are making respect a reality.