Culture change in dentistry crucial to improve working lives of women

As we approach International Women’s Day, Catherine Rutland considers this year’s theme of ‘inspire inclusion’ and what this means in dentistry.

Our profession will constantly morph and change, it has done over the last decade and will continue to do so. There are many factors that cause those changes, some very obvious, like the current challenges of working in the NHS, while others are less obvious – they don’t grab headlines, but nevertheless create change and alter patient care.

As a woman who qualified in one of the last years at Leeds when there were more males than females, the change in female representation in the profession is one area I watch with interest. While the number of female dentists increases, we also have our DCP colleagues, who are predominantly female and are rightly growing in influence and scope of practice.

North of England Dentistry Show – have you signed up yet?

Catherine Rutland will be speaking at the brand new Celebrating Women in Dentistry Lounge at the North of England Dentistry Show this March.

What are the main issues facing women in dentistry? Have you witnessed a change in attitudes in dentistry? How do you feel about the future? All of these questions will be asked during a live panel discussion on Saturday 9 March at Manchester Central Convention Complex.

And it’s completely free to attend! Register now

According to the GDC register, over three quarters of the profession is now female. This isn’t a feminist rant, far from it – it’s more around facing into the differences we all experience, not just in dentistry, but in the whole world around us.

If we want everyone to reach their potential in dentistry, and stay in the profession feeling fulfilled, we must consider that some things will be different for women.

We need to inspire inclusion in all areas of the profession. Dentistry, until very recently, has been a male-dominated profession, and the culture can still feel very much skewed to this demographic. Understandably, cultural and behavioural changes need time to work through, often requiring some bravery along the way.

Of course, this is not exclusive to dentistry, other industries and wider society is also evolving, and this means that, as well as the profession changing, so is the attitude of the public.

Real problem

We need to consider what we can do to improve the working lives of females on the team. Wider research shows that menstruation and menopause are two important areas that are key for businesses across the UK to focus on. If we want people to feel comfortable working in our environments and therefore staying in the profession, we cannot ignore the significant impact of menopause and menstruation and we need to do more to support women who are impacted.

While we know that some aspects of dentistry can feel harder than they have historically, and that the temptation to leave the profession is a real problem, we need to face into the areas where we may be able to create a change.

I don’t believe we really understand all the issues, and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence, but we must create an environment where women feel comfortable enough to raise concerns, whether in an individual practice or on a wider stage. Many women in dentistry will be comfortable and happy in their roles.

My belief is that they can give so much back to other women by sharing their learnings and experiences from their professional journeys.

Catherine Rutland will be speaking at the Celebrating Women in Dentistry Lounge at the North of England Dentistry Show this March.

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