Developing Women Professionally in the Health, Fitness, and Wellness Industry

Let’s start with the numbers

Turning the tide for equity and equality for women in the workplace has been a growing mission for advocacy efforts, and the same emphasis should be placed on doing the same for women in health, fitness, and wellness spaces. Statistics offer a glimpse of perspective into the variances of experiences women have within the industry. Around 47% of men employed by a company in the fitness industry are in a leadership role and 21% are in a C-suite role; yet, that number is 11% or less for women. Specifically looking at self-employment, men make up 70%of gym owners and women only make up around 29%. The gender pay gap remains at 16% which translates into women earning significantly less than their male counterparts. At the same time, 4 out of 10 women have experienced workplace discrimination.

What do these numbers mean?

Across a wide spectrum of survey and interview feedback, women consistently state that they feel undervalued and struggle to balance career demands with life. This is not due to a lack of confidence or skill. Generations of inequitable treatment form the foundation of the constant work women must do to continue winning the battle over gender inequality. Within the fitness industry, gender bias hinders career progression for women. Many feel they pay a career penalty for taking parental leave, and lack of mentoring and coaching is a major barrier to career advancement. Over half of women have experienced sexual harassment and bullying at work.

Equity-centered mentorship considers the historical context of inequities while also moving the needle forward to rectify them. Developing women in health, fitness, and wellness spaces requires significant discernment to address past wrongs and simultaneously decenter oneself in the process. The statistics of women in the fitness industry underscore the need for a greater focus on personal and professional development opportunities to combat these persistent issues. Pity never the name of the game, gender equity is. 

Michaela Brown, General Manager of VIDA Fitness & Aura Spa and Chairwoman of VIDA’s first Diversity and Inclusion Board, uses her experience from her time entering the fitness industry to continue work developing fitness professionals. Michaela found herself in the fitness industry after her life as a youth athlete and needed to become certified and learn about the culture of wellness and movement. In the earlier years of her journey, she was certified at cost as an instructor and was paid to take training. Her entry into the industry, after her first certification as a fitness professional, showed Michaela the importance of accessibility and leveraging developmental opportunities for individuals to propel themselves from novice to professional. Health and wellness businesses along with the leaders who lead them need to value their efforts and take the time to invest in women across identities and experience levels. This ongoing work ensures that employees can develop and grow programmatic thinking in the fitness and wellness space – no matter where they start. 

Nicole Petitto, Director of Franchise Learning & Development at Pvolve, works to ensure she’s using the most equitable lens when looking for talent in hiring for boutique fitness opportunities. She started her fitness career focusing on mind-body modalities and worked to leverage learning and development within key roles she’s held throughout her career. She has learned so much across her career that has bolstered her ability to seek out talent while also working to develop talent at the same time. Early on she realized that many individuals were coming into the fitness space with various experience levels and different skills that lended into fitness modalities, but needed synchronicity to elevate these experiences for translation to clients and customers. She understands how diverse perspectives and creativity elevate the client experience while also bringing in opportunities to create blended curriculums for fitness talent and organizations across learning styles and origins. 

What can fellow fitness leaders learn from these amazing women?

Coaches and fitness leaders can leverage diversity of thought to foster innovation and creativity. Every woman brings a unique set of skills to her role and deserves the opportunity to refine those skills while accessing additional growth opportunities. By providing women with more chances to explore potential roles in the fitness industry and identify areas where they seek mentoring and leadership development, leaders can advocate for greater representation of women in the wellness industry. This proactive approach promotes a more inclusive and dynamic fitness landscape.

What traits are key in developing women leaders in fitness?

  1. Coaching Depth – Focusing on “the what” while also focusing on “the how’ of execution. Understanding the purpose behind what is being taught ensures that learners are being amplified.
  2. An Empathetic Personality – Portraying an authentic personality that is motivating and empowering at the same time. A high level of empathy enables leaders to figure out where someone else is in their journey and compassionately tailor growth opportunities to individual needs. 

Leaders who bring themselves back to a place in their career where they can relate to others create a baseline to level set creating clear action plans and action items for mentoring. Small incremental opportunities honed in at a time can elevate someone’s career and support their growth – opportunities can turn into strength over time with the right support. 

While leaders should be mindful of their impact on women’s careers, those seeking to grow in their fitness and wellness roles should actively affirm their desire for development. Women looking to enhance their skills should communicate their interests and advocate for mentoring and career pathing opportunities. By expressing a keen interest in exploring roles beyond their initial positions in the fitness industry, women can open doors to personal and professional growth.


  1. GmbH, S. A. (n.d.). The fitness industry remains male-dominated | SPORT ALLIANCE.
  2. Marshall, A. G., Vue, Z., Palavicino-Maggio, C. B., Neikirk, K., Beasley, H. K., Garza-Lopez, E., Murray, S. A., Martinez, D., Crabtree, A., Conley, Z. C., Vang, L., Davis, J. S., Powell-Roach, K. L., Campbell, S., Brady, L. J., Dal, A. B., Shao, B., Alexander, S., Vang, N., Vue, N., … Hinton, A. (2022). The role of mentoring in promoting diversity equity and inclusion in STEM Education and Research. Pathogens and disease, 80(1), ftac019.


Katrina is a global educator and Certified Wellness Specialist dedicated to bridging gaps through equitable access and collaborative coaching. With over 20 years of experience, she leads diverse teams, creates support groups, and mentors future leaders. Katrina specializes in Bias Unearthing, Neurodiversity Inclusion, and Intersectional Inclusion. She holds a Master of Science in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, certificates in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell and USF, and an Associate of Science in Graphic Design. Katrina’s mission is to foster unity through self-care and compassion, making healing a path to deeper purpose and inclusivity.

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