Supporting Women in Life and Work

As a woman and a mother, I understand the challenges that come with juggling family, career and everyday life. What I also know to be true, is that it is possible to “have it all”, with the right support. Throughout my journey to achieve professional freedom and satisfaction, I have consistently seen the benefits of providing women with the tools and autonomy to thrive, in all aspects of their lives.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen” – Brene Brown

In 2002, pregnant with my first child, I needed a change. I constantly felt that bureaucracy and red tape were getting in the way of providing my clients with the best outcomes. I realised I needed to be the change I wanted to see in the #alliedhealth system and took the courageous step to begin my own occupational therapy private practice.

The path wasn’t always smooth, but I was convinced I could be doing more. I wanted to provide other therapists with the same freedom and satisfaction I had found for myself. While franchising in allied health was – and still is – practically unheard of, I did just that. In 2012 I founded Australia’s first and only occupational therapy franchise business, ActivOT, which now has over 50 franchisees and is continuously growing throughout Australia.

“Amazing things happen when women help other women” – Kasia Gospos

In my previous workplaces, prior to starting ActivOT, I often felt like the “boys club” was a huge roadblock and that despite the fact that occupational therapy is a largely female-dominated industry, I was constantly fighting against preconceived biases based on my gender. I have proven to myself that I am a strong and innovative trailblazer in my field, and I see it as my responsibility to empower my franchisees and my support staff to back themselves, by providing them with the tools to do so.

I firmly believe that women shouldn’t be labelled based on outdated mindsets. Our time is less valued than men’s, and women-dominated industries often earn less. In an industry where a level of care is involved, our behaviour is unfairly scrutinised that isn’t placed on our male counterparts. Some women also face wild inequity when it comes to domestic responsibilities too. It’s a minefield, but I’ve seen the benefits of cultivating an environment where women are supported – and encouraged-  to “have it all”.

Over the last ten years since founding ActivOT, I have witnessed how flexibility within a traditionally bureaucratic system has helped my franchisees, many of them also mothers, thrive both professionally and personally and become successful business owners. More than that, I have been able to provide them with a community that is supportive, where resources – and values – are shared. As a result, we have #occupationaltherapists who are advocates for their community, along with the capabilities to provide their clients with the best possible care.

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails” – Dolly Parton

We’ve seen so much change to the way people work, particularly over the past few years, with flexibility becoming more and more important, particularly to women in the workforce. Mothers returning to work face many struggles, feeling pressured to return to the workforce before they are ready and the cost and availability of childcare at war with one another. An inflexible workplace, only adds to the burden many women carry of the #mentalload of daily admin, schedules and housework.

As a woman and a mother, I have personally faced these challenges and have experienced the burnout that comes from (unsuccessfully) trying to juggle everything. I have also experienced the difference that flexibility makes from my time in #privatepractice, and have wholeheartedly grasped the opportunity to provide real work/life balance to my franchisees and support staff. It is so rewarding to be able to see women pursuing their passions outside of their professional life, to enable mothers to spend more time with their children and foster a culture of support within the ActivOT team.

“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher” – Oprah Winfrey

Having a strong set of values that guide me is the key to the success and sustainability of ActivOT as a business. I want ActivOT to be the best provider of #occupationaltherapy services in Australia and to do that we need to bring like-minded therapists onto the team. Therapists who put the client at the centre of everything they do and who are passionate about helping people.

Each of my franchisees has their own business, works their own hours and follows their areas of passion within occupational therapy. I see ActivOT less as a franchise and more as a pooling of resources, allowing the OTs to lean into each other’s strengths and providing them with the opportunity to broaden their knowledge. Any business growth is a happy by-product.

How does your workplace support both your personal and professional goals? How can this support be improved? What does flexibility mean for you? You can comment on the original article on LinkedIn.