Women and the Changing Face of Dentistry
In many western countries, it’s been estimated that before the 1980’s very few women attended dental school, it was very much considered a ‘boys only’ club.
Shockingly the statistics were estimated as low as 3% of all dentists were female within the industry at that time. Within a decade these figures grew to around 30% of females starting to attend dental schools.
Between 2005 and 2015 we now see the active female dentistry workforce had increased to between 20-29% in western countries. Given these statistics, with the significant increase in the number of women entering the dentistry industry, we take a look to try gauge the impact this has made.
Never has society been paying closer attention to the gender gap in the global workforce, not just in dentistry but across all industries. The recent revelations regarding Hollywood have seen women’s movements bringing this under the microscope like never before, the gender gap, equality of pay and women in the workforce has never been under more scrutiny than it is right now.
What Benefits Female Dentists Bring
In healthcare, it is vital for diversification, even at its most basic level a diverse leadership team can cover a broader spectrum of society taking into the considerations, needs, and concerns of both genders when it comes to the patients they serve. Naturally, an organization with a greater understanding of this will prosper and give a better overall service and comfort to its clients.
With such ethnic diversity in today’s world, it’s just not feasible to act in one particular way. To be able to understand and comprehend the values of different populations gives a triangulation effect, thus being better treatment, a better outcome with better compliance.
When considering the traits of a female nurse in a hospital for example, traditionally we associate qualities such as nurturing, sensitivity, and friendliness and we hold these in very high regards and are often more relieved to see a nurse than a doctor.
When it comes to leadership, however, people expect calmness, authority, and dominance and tend to associate these characteristics as commonly ‘masculine.’ However, in the dental industry, it is being proved that warmth and grand chair side manner are the characteristics that are crucial for people to shake off the nervousness and feel comfortable to come and sit in the famed ‘dentist’s chair.’
Of course, let us be clear that either gender may have all or none of these characteristics, and we look not to discriminate about the very caring male dentists and not so caring female dentists in the workplace, as everyone has different personality traits, but with diversity breeds opportunity to learn from one other.
This is a consideration in many businesses, take the sales industry for example. If you are sitting opposite someone who is very successful at selling the same product that you are struggling with, it’s only natural that you gravitate towards changing your approach somewhat and try to adopt some of their style or characteristics, this is equally applicable to the dental industry. A dentist who tends to be more distant can learn from a dentist who has an inclination of warmth towards their patient.
Benefits for Healthcare Organisations
Healthcare organizations that remain undiversified will then to also fail in their recruitment process. In society, today workers are looking for employers that can understand their needs and already have a diversified workforce.
We are at a time now where millennials are coming into play in the global workforce. Projections by Forbes that by 2025 the global workforce will consist of 75% millennials, add that to the forthcoming retirements of the baby-boomer era dentists, then we can fully expect to see a shortage in the market that represents a gap for female dentists to fill.
To ensure that the industry is populated and continues to grow alongside the new technology that is coming through into dentistry is crucial to attract and retain the female workforce to fill this deficit.
Recruiting and Retaining Women Dentists
The numbers are indeed up, women are becoming more prevalent within the industry and proving invaluable. However, to maximize their asset to the industry depends on ensuring that the necessary efforts and support is in place to help develop their careers as their male counterparts were afforded previously.
With businesses of all industries now becoming aware of maternity leave and caring for women’s needs through their careers this is a step in the right direction. Flexibility towards women is the keyword as women spend more time caring than men, this is not just concerning childbirth but also aging parents, and therefore have more responsibilities outside the workplace. This has shown a tendency for women to only practice dentistry part-time (20% to 12% female to male ratio).
The industry was known for a bias towards leading recruitment of hiring part-timers, and females were often the ones to fill those roles due to the required balancing of personal and professional commitments.
New solutions are now entering the industry, whereby practices are accommodating two part-time clinicians to share in the same responsibilities. This will open doors for new opportunities, granting women the flexibility they need and in some cases, the organization is now benefiting from getting more hour coverage in that particular role leading to the ability to serve more patients and increase the companies bottom line.
It is essential for dental practices run by men to begin to understand female-centric perspectives and inclusion of them in the leadership roles within their practices. This gives informed decision making, different views on cares and treatments and in general a better understanding of life outside of work. A lack of knowledge in these areas can somewhat be attributed to people’s perception of fear when it comes to dental care.
What Female Professionals can do
The most sensible way to when entering into the field is to be diligent in your choice, research is essential, look for organizations that have female leaders within, this will give you a good indication that there are long-term work-place prospects.
Women have unlimited potential, not only in dentistry but in all care industries as they have a perspective that can be very different. Strength in numbers is one thing but representation of both male and female input into the industry can only make it move forward, and this translates directly to the customer who no longer fears a visit to the dentist but feels comfortable, relaxed and are no longer intimidated in sitting in the famed ‘dentist’s chair’.
by Carl Mahony