Diverse OT : Men

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Diverse OT : Men

Men: on OT’s Most Wanted list – but why?

We all have a right to choose who cares for us, so how can we encourage more men into occupational therapy to secure that right for brain injury survivors?

We put that question to some male OTs as part of our series supporting the Royal College of Occupational Therapy’s #ChooseOT mission to make the profession as diverse as the people it serves.

OT’s founding fathers would be turning in their graves if they knew that, over a century later, men would be making up around just eight per cent of the UK’s total OT workforce[1]

Back in 1917, the profession’s founding body was equally comprised of three men and three women - William Rush Dunton, George Edward Barton, Thomas BessellKidner, Isabel Newton, Susan Cox Johnson and Eleanor Clarke Slagle.[2]

Now, however, male OTs are like gold dust, making it hard to meet our legal obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) [3]to ensure disabled people’s rights to:


  • Equality of opportunity.
  • Equality without discrimination.
  • Decide for themselves.
  • Respect for their family life.


So what’s causing this acute gender imbalance in the workforce? We tracked down some of the members of thrare (for now) and precious (forever) male OT breed for their suggestions.


   We believe that all people should be treated with dignity and respect, above all as equal members of society with the same choices, rights and privileges.    

Dan Smith, RCOT [4]


Tom Beech: Krysalis Neuro-OT

Age: 32

Qualified: University of Southampton, 2009

Tom has been working as an OT since he qualified and has been in his current role providing community therapy for the past six years. Along with his specialist neurological skills, he is also a qualified mindfulness teacher.


Why do you believe there are fewer male OTs than female?

Occupational therapy is no different to other health and social care roles where, traditionally, more females tend to gravitate towards these careers.

I feel, with regards to the profession of occupational therapy, this issue is compounded due to it having lower profile than some other health and social care roles. This was certainly the case for me! 

Initially, I was interested in a career in physiotherapy and, through researching this and volunteering, I realised I would find more fulfilment in occupational therapy as a career.


What could be done to encourage more men to join?

I really feel it is all about raising the profile of the profession in general. My friends who don’t work in healthcare are fascinated to learn that my work can be so varied day to day.


   I feel if people understood how diverse and fulfilling the profession is, far more would be interested in it as a career.   


It does seem as if society as a whole is moving away from the traditional ‘female’ or ‘male’ roles and this will hopefully lead to a more diverse group of people wishing to become occupational therapists.


What do men bring to the profession?


   During my whole career, I have been one of, if not the only, male OT in the teams I have worked in.   


I personally have had experiences where some clients feel more comfortable with a male in certain aspects of their intervention or feel I can relate more to their issues.

As with all things in life, I feel a more diverse group of people brings a broader range of experiences, and people can learn from each other.

David*: NHS Occupational Therapist 

Age: 36

Qualified: Brighton University, 2015

David was 31 when he qualified as an OT. It was his second degree and he’d tried a number of jobs, including support work, before settling on his OT career. He was also motivated by a childhood spent helping to support his disabled father.


Why do you believe there are fewer male OTs than female? 

Most of the male (and female) OTs I know became aware of the profession through earlier jobs as carers and support workers. This is both in the community and as HCAs [healthcare assistants] in hospitals. 

OT in general is not very well promoted and what we do is often misunderstood. Working alongside OTs in these roles gives an insight into what we do. 

I can only speculate, but these types of roles may be fulfilled largely by women as they are often seen as traditional 'caring' roles. I think this is changing, but it is a slow process!


What could be done to encourage more men to join?

Raising awareness of what OTs do on a day-to-day basis; in particular, promoting the practical and problem-solving aspect of the job that is so key.

The job is flexible, creative and rewarding. 

Also, accessing the population of men that already exists as carers and support workers would mean that you are (hopefully) accessing men who are empathetic and good communicators and with some of the practical skills necessary for the job.


What do men bring to the profession?

I am not sure I would say I am a 'typical' man or that one of those exists! Men bring a range of skills depending on who they are, as do women. 


   However, diversity of any sort brings different life experiences and knowledge and that is always positive.   


I would also say that certain people (often male service users) may relate to and build more positive relationships with male OTs and so having that option within your team to draw on, if necessary, is helpful.

*real name withheld

More RCOT information about career pathways into occupational therapy here: https://chooseot.co.uk/

Related articles

Diverse OT! - Happy New Henry! Occupational therapist, Louisa Hasseldine proves cerebral palsy (CP) is no barrier to bearing fruit - both professionally and personally!

Find out more about occupational therapy for neurological conditions here: Krysalis Neuro OT - What we doand Occupational Therapy: A Guide for Individuals and Professionals


Further reading

Crafts to support neurological occupational therapy and brain-injury rehabilitation


200 Home activities for brain injury survivors and their families

Over 30 online communities to help keep spirits high among brain injury survivors and their families during the covid19 lockdown

Twenty apps to boost brain injury rehabilitation

Waltz with us on world stroke day

How to enjoy a daily dose of exercise despite brain injury



[1]  https://www.hcpc-uk.org/about-us/insights-and-data/the-register/registrant-snapshot-1-sep-2020/

[2]  http://www.otcentennial.org/photo/the-founders-in-1917

[3]  https://www.krysalisconsultancy.co.uk/resources/item/neuro-ot-and-human-rights-day-2019

[4]  https://www.rcot.co.uk/news/rcot-statement-diversity



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