Check out any massage forum and there will comments and questions from male massage therapists who are struggling to develop a foothold in the massage industry. Many of these posts will point to the fact that males prefer to receive therapeutic touch from females and that male massage for females in Sydney is the exception rather than the rule as women often find it difficult to relax when they are being massaged by a male.
The upshot is that new male massage therapists feel that the odds are stacked against them and they complain that it is so much easier for females to work in the massage industry.
However, the reality is somewhat different and research studies point to the fact that males therapists, on average, do better than female therapists.
To quote from a 2002 survey of massage therapists in Australia
Men carried out proportionately more consultations than women, and had been in clinical practice proportionately longer than women. Proportionately more women (80%) than men (63%) had earnings under $30,000. There were proportionately more men than women in the upper income brackets. Although men were 24% of the sample population, they were 44% of those earning over $100,000.
Yet still the perception is that males have a harder time developing a career in the massage industry.
So how can we reconcile the differences between the positions?
There are probably a number of points that can be made to address this apparent paradox that it is harder for men in the massage industry but that on average men do better than women.
Jobs and employment for (newly qualified) female therapists are more abundant than for men. Check out the massage employment websites and there will be more jobs for female therapists than males. Day spas, health retreats, hotel spas and relaxation clinics employ females. Whilst there may be a token male or two on the roster, people who book in for a massage at one of these locations will more than likely prefer and expect to be massaged by a female.
Any male who goes through massage school thinking that because he does a great relaxation massage, he will be snapped up by the swanky spas is naïve and have unrealistic understanding of the massage industry and this misunderstanding may be part of the problem.
However, these relaxation jobs are typically transient in nature and whilst they may provide employment and an income, there is no career development as such. The therapist runs the risk of just providing “cookie cutter” massages without developing their own client base and/or skills.
These type of jobs may also tend to suit people who really just want to fit in work around their family (without wishing to appear sexist, it is suggested that women are more likely to be looking for massage roles that are flexible and are part time and part of the reason for them doing massage is to fit in with their work/life balance).
In order for a male massage therapist in Sydney to succeed, then they need to find their niche which will need to be a segment of the market that is insensitive to the gender of the bodyworker. For male therapists, this niche is most likely to be offering remedial, sports and deep tissue massage ie more at the medical end of the massage spectrum rather than the relaxation end. People who are in pain, are recovering from injury or are looking to improve sporting performance will be more focussed on the outcome of their massage rather than be worried about the fact that they are being massaged by a male.
The result is that males, who can stay in the industry, do more massages per week and have a greater income than women on average.
So less complaining, guys, about the injustices of being a man in a female industry. Maybe it is females that are getting the raw deal.