Empowering women in Dentistry
Last week my son celebrated his 18th birthday, which was a big milestone for him as it would be for any young man. It was a big milestone for me too, for a different reason. Supporting him towards adulthood while maintaining a full-time role and a homelife has not been an easy challenge, and at times it was almost impossible. I battled to balance career aspirations and running a business, that I have been working towards all my life, with family life priorities and being a mum that everybody expected me to be. Thankfully, I grew up with a very strong and determined mum, who always said ‘my children have a mum and a dad, and we look after them together as a team’, which served as an excellent example for me while growing up. I didn’t miss having my mum or dad around as they both worked hard to be there as much as they could and made sacrifices when necessary.
This is not a new story, and thankfully times have moved forward so that women can have it all, but it still takes coordination and is really challenging at times. Dentistry is an excellent profession, in that it offers flexibility during training and working life which may suit all genders and may offer additional flexibility when raising a family. Number of female dentists now registered with the GDC is just over 50% and number of female dental students sits at 63%, exceeding the number of male dental students.
GDC registrant report, Nov 2020
Number of women in dental profession to men is a at a ratio of 3:1, where in the DCP category it is at 13:1. Interestingly, even though the female representation is growing the gender pay gap persists. Research carried out by resume.io ( https://resume.io/blog/57-jobs-dominated-by-women-with-the-biggest-gender-pay-gap ) identified professions where women dominated the profession numbers and identified roles where the biggest gender pay gaps exists. Dentistry was one of the professions were the gender gap was the largest. This could be somewhat influenced by the way dentistry is undertaken, ie. hourly rates vs taxable income as the comparison may identify that the hourly rates paid for the same/similar work carried out would be similar.
There is no question that despite the equal number of male and female dentists within the profession, there is still a disparity in the number of high profile and high earning male dentists to female dentist. Female dentists are still much more likely to be a performer on the NHS rather than a provider/performer. They are also much less likely to own a dental practice than their male counterparts. It seems that progression is still a stumbling block. How can the dental profession enable more female dentist to progress into the specialist, higher earning roles and into practice ownership?
To be able to excel in their careers and bridge the pay gap:
- We should have more (visible) female role models. There are some amazing female dental practice owners and specialists who dominate the profession.
- Men and women should call out inequality when they see it. It is our collective responsibility to build an equal society and we all individually play a part but not turning our head when we see inequality but playing an active part to shine a light on its existence. This is how we progress as a society.
- There should be an organization/movement dedicated to women in dentistry. There have been attempts to organise a ‘women in dentistry’ movement but due to Covid-19 activity has been quiet.
- As with the rest of the society, we should all work hard to give men and women in dentistry the same opportunities, including opportunities for parental leave which should not have a negative effect on the professional’s ability to progress.
Covid-19 has brought changes in the way we all work. These have been challenges or opportunities, depending on how you perceived the disruption the pandemic brought. Many women have embraced the opportunity to think about how they can balance their personal and professional lives embracing Covid-19 changes. These have included:
- With the limitations within NHS dentistry, opportunities to develop private dentistry practice have sprung up everywhere.
- Virtual consultations have created opportunities to balance personal and professional lives.
- Many female associates are registering with agents/brokers looking to source their first dental practice purchase and embrace the opportunities that being ‘masters of their own destiny’ bring.
There is still some way to go across all professions to ensure there are equal opportunities and equal pay for men and women in society. In my lifetime, and especially in my mum’s lifetime, we have moved a long way but there is still a long way to go to reach a stage in society where equal opportunities mean equal for all and result in equal pay.
Additional interesting statistics below are from 2017/18 and have been sourced from the https://bda.org/womenindentistry