Inspire and empower
Early education is the key to fostering women’s dentistry careers
As one of Scotland’s largest dental groups, their commitment to fostering inclusivity and empowering women within the dental field closely aligns with my own determination to inspire and encourage women throughout their dental careers.
The dental industry has seen a positive shift towards gender equality in recent years. A recent report by NHS Scotland revealed that in the academic year of 2019-20, 65 per cent of those commencing undergraduate degrees were females. Additionally, female dentists now make up 54.6 per cent of all dentists in Scotland, a significant increase from 33.5 per cent in 1995.
As dentists, we stress the importance of early action
Dentistry in 2023 is a vibrant and increasingly diverse profession – but true equality is still far off. Inequity persists, from gender inequality and bias to stereotypes and discrimination, and the gender pay gap remains a very real issue. As a sector, we need to be more proactive in helping young female dentists navigate their early career paths and increase representation in leadership, academic and specialist roles.
How can we do this? I believe the answer lies in early education and preventative action; much like what we teach our patients.
As dentists, we stress the importance of early action to preserve oral health and prevent more severe dental issues from arising. We urge parents to instil good habits in their children from the time that first tooth comes through, in order to teach children how to care for their teeth and gums for a lifetime.
Applying those same principles to support women into leadership roles could be the first step to creating a more equitable, diverse and inclusive profession.
Great dentistry demands constant training, to refresh your existing knowledge and successfully expand your skills in different specialisms. For women, often these conversations around progression take place far later in their career, at which time, many are unable to take the time needed to further their development due to family commitments.
We need to encourage student dentists to think about their career pathways at a much earlier age, and it is the responsibility of academics and those in senior leadership positions to clearly define the different routes to success.
Mentors are vital in this situation, to offer budding young dentists the opportunity to observe and learn from those that came before them, who have a family lifestyle while acting in leadership positions and pursuing their chosen specialities. We have the opportunity that wasn’t afforded to us, to pave the way and be role models that aspiring dentists can look up to.
That is why occasions such as Clyde Munro’s Women in Dentistry events are so important to create a culture of support and recognition for female dentists, where they feel inspired to prioritise their professional development.
I hope to see more dentists across Scotland and the UK take action to support gender equality in dentistry, to ensure women are at the forefront of world-class training, newfound specialisms and the latest dental technologies.