Women Chiropractors group embraced with 7,500 women in 58 countries
Chiropractic has historically embraced and promoted women from the very early days, and many early leadership roles were given to women chiropractors (WDCs).
Alameda Haldeman, DC, is Elon Musk’s great-grandmother and was the first licensed chiropractor in Canada. Mabel Heath Palmer, DC, along with other pioneers, wrote the first anatomy textbook in the profession. More recently, Linda Elwart Atkinson, DC, became the first licensed chiropractor on mainland China, and Gina Roberts, DC, the first licensed in Costa Rica.
Women close to half of chiropractic students
Despite the great beginnings of inclusivity in our profession, the world wars and the 1950s resulted in an increasingly smaller number of WDCs graduating from chiropractic colleges and becoming practicing doctors. The percentages gradually increased during the 1970s, and today more than 30% of all practicing chiropractors are women, with at least half of all chiropractic student enrollments being female.
The Women Chiropractors organization exists to be a resource and support to the women established and entering the field, to reflect the dynamic and changing landscape in the chiropractic profession. Women have physical differences that need to be addressed for practicing chiropractic doctors, including how to practice while pregnant, adaptive adjusting for injury prevention, and learning ergonomically-safe techniques to use with patients.
However, the differences of women both in gender and lifestyle often make them some of the best providers. The Women Chiropractors organization recognizes these differences and advocates for better teaching and resources to support all women in chiropractic to empower them both professionally and personally. Since 2016 this group has grown from a few hundred women to 7,500 women chiropractors in 58 countries.
The metrics the Women Chiropractors group demonstrates monthly are impressive — in March their Facebook group had more than 30,000 engagements in 28 days, with close to 90% of the women participating by posting, reacting or commenting. People continue to ask, “What is the secret sauce to the success of this group?” The response is simple: It is a safe place for women to share, express and promote themselves both professionally and personally without solicitation and judgement. Conversations range from clinical practice, human resources, finance, parenting, relationships or just sharing their success of the day.
A safe space
Creating a culture where women can thrive and succeed is a main priority of the group. The group was created several years ago after founder Cynthia Shaft-Toll, DC, FPAC, and Nancy Elwartowski-Cooper, DC, DICCP, presented a successful seminar to women chiropractors. Continued conversations and demand for more motivated Shaft-Toll to enlist help from Elwartowski-Cooper and Kelly Milano, DC, to establish the Facebook group Women Chiropractors. When the group went viral very quickly, other powerful female chiropractic leaders were recruited and continue to serve Women Chiropractors.
The last two years have seen a lot of conversation around the issue of women’s rights, and women across the world are wanting to be heard. Women chiropractors have the unique and powerful ability to amalgamate their innate nurturing aptitude with their chiropractic knowledge and technique. What a gift that is. In the chiropractic world a global conversation has started around women in chiropractic, seen as a “modern” subject; however, these conversations started in the early 1900s with Mabel Palmer and women pioneers in chiropractic.
In 1920 Mabel Palmer published a pamphlet called “A Woman’s Appeal to Women.” In this pamphlet she encouraged women to consider a career in chiropractic. There she stated, “Never before has there been such wonderful opportunities for women for practical service, and in my opinion, there is no other profession in the world so splendidly adapted to women as chiropractic.”
Growing membership and support
Much of the success of the organization comes from its membership and the open dialogue this group has daily. In 2017 the first survey for Women Chiropractors was developed. This survey was essential in the growth of this organization to determine what was needed for women in chiropractic and help solidify their mission of connecting compassionate, confident, charitable and courageous women chiropractors.
The women of this organization, with the support of the members and the support they had from sponsors, supporters, schools and state associations, accomplished a lot in less than two years. These achievements include supporting Palmer College of Chiropractic in developing the Palmer Institute for Women’s Studies and creating the International Women Chiropractors Day on June 5 (Mabel Palmer’s birthday).
In 2018 they organized the first Women Chiropractors Convention for women chiropractors only. Close to 200 women attended a weekend of networking, learning and leadership and made history. There they held a Glass Ceiling Roundtable, uniting the women in the profession who paved the way in leadership and chiropractic to come together to empower those who are following in their footsteps. These women included doctors Irene Gold, Bobby Doscher, Deb Hoffman, Sherry McAllister, Theresa Warner, Donna Godin-Craft, Amanda Apfelblat, Claire Welsh, Jeanne Ohm and Cyndy Shaft-Toll.
Mentoring and support
Mentorship is a key goal of the organization. The Re-Entry Program was launched in 2018, where candidates received support, education and tools to re-enter the chiropractic arena after a brief absence or unexpected life event had them step away from practice. Now in its second year, the organization has mentored them solely on their own to gain the confidence needed to re-enter the chiropractic profession.
Karen Hudes, DC, of Toronto, Canada, was awarded the first WDC scholarship — the Linda Atkinson Memorial Scholarship — after successfully completing the first Re-Entry Program, and is now paying it forward and helping the next group of members.
With the growth of the organization and conversations with schools and state associations, the unfortunate reality is that a larger percentage of women are not practicing after five years compared to their male counterparts. The Women Chiropractors nonprofit is currently focused on providing solutions to strengthen the profession, and for women to gain confidence and knowledge in the areas they have expressed are most challenging and further educate them on the tools necessary for success.
The WDC Virtual Academy will allow members to access a library of resources contributed by WDC mentors, speakers, educators, coaches and consultants. This collaboration with these instructors and state associations has resulted in the planning of one-day Pop Up Regional Seminars. These seminars will provide continuing education and focus on core areas of practice including leadership, business, personal development, clinical sciences and adaptive adjusting workshops.
Acknowledging and meeting the needs of the profession is a paramount concern.
Without implementing programs to help WDCs succeed, the profession will face tremendous loss. Therefore, the Women Chiropractors would like to acknowledge the support of Foot Levelers for graciously donating $100,000 toward supporting the mission of the organization. As we all work together toward this goal, we look forward to seeing what charitable, confident, compassionate, courageous women chiropractors can do to provide the “tipping point” the chiropractic profession has longed to see.
Rosemary Batanjski, DC, is a founding member and president of Women Chiropractors who lives in Macomb, Mich. Retired from clinical practice, she is passionate about educating and consulting chiropractors on the business of chiropractic. To find out more, visit womenchiropractors.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.