Do women in dentistry still face barriers?

Last week, we asked the profession if women in dentistry still face barriers – find out what was said...

Last week, we asked the profession if women in dentistry still face barriers – find out what was said…

Dentistry’s Big Questions explores the hottest topics of the profession.

Last week, we wanted to find out whether women still face barriers in dentistry. Our poll revealed that some 80% believe that barriers still exist within the profession.

Hear some of their thoughts below…

Scroll to the bottom for next week’s Big Question.

Del Kayha, dental business development manager

In the field of dentistry, gender equality has made great strides, but women are still reporting that they’re facing barriers. This raises the question: why is this still happening?

Women in dentistry often encounter hurdles such as bias, stereotypes and fewer opportunities than men. These obstacles can slow their career growth and make them feel isolated. But why do these barriers still exist? Much of it stems from old societal norms that continue to shape workplace attitudes.

One major problem is the perception that women and men are on different teams. The more we think this way, the more barriers we create. To break down these barriers, we need to work together and support each other.

Men in dentistry face challenges too. The conversation about barriers shouldn’t be limited to women. We need to recognise and address the issues that affect all professionals. By doing this, we can better understand and tackle the obstacles that hold everyone back.

Women supporting women

The feminist movement has been crucial for advancing women’s rights, but sometimes women can be their own biggest barrier. In competitive environments, internalised biases and societal pressures can cause conflicts amongst women. This highlights the need for women to support each other. Building strong networks and collaboration can help overcome these internal challenges.

Another factor contributing to the divide is the increasing number of women-only courses and webinars in dentistry. While these programs aim to empower women, they can inadvertently create a sense of separation from their male colleagues. We don’t see men participating in men-only courses or workshops. So, why are women doing this? By creating these exclusive spaces, we might be reinforcing the very barriers we seek to dismantle.

Achieving equality in dentistry requires everyone to work together. Both women and men need to understand each other’s challenges and collaborate to create a supportive environment. By addressing these issues together, they can make dentistry more inclusive and fair for everyone.

In conclusion, while women in dentistry still face significant barriers, these obstacles are complex and need a united approach to overcome. By seeing each other as allies and addressing the unique challenges faced by both genders, they can move towards true equality in dentistry. Work together, not against each other.

Jessica Itam and Kimica Banwait, KCL Womxn In Dentistry co-presidents

There is often a misconception that due to the growing number of women entering dentistry, barriers no longer exist. However, women still face challenges that their male counterparts do not.

From our own experiences within dental school, we believe self perception and confidence is a big barrier. On average, women are more likely to experience imposter syndrome. Within university this looks likes: 

  • Reluctance to participate in class
  • Hesitance in clinical practice/settings
  • Difficulty asserting oneself.

We theorise that these behaviours develop from the internalisation of stereotypes, lack of representations of women in leadership roles and limited mentorship opportunities.

We think the first step into tackling these barriers are having networks and societies such as our. This creates a space for community, promoting mentors and role models, allowing women to receive guidance, support and inspiration in their dental journey. Our society aims to uphold these values, uplifting the new generation of women stepping into dentistry. 

Angela Auluck, orthodontist

One of the significant challenges women encounter in dentistry is the unrealistic expectations we impose on ourselves.

It’s essential to encourage the next generation of women in dentistry to avoid these pressures and to embrace their unique qualities.

As women, we have so much to contribute to our incredible profession. Thank you for always supporting us.

Rachel Derby, British Association of Private Dentistry (BAPD) president

No, not as there used to be.

But everyone will have their own barrier and their own limitation and it’s about working together and understanding others positions that is required (and that needs to fit in with what others need).

Stevie Farndon, business development manager at S4S Dental Laboratory

Yes, definitely. But I feel this can be more of a drive and motivation for myself.

I always feel it’s very inspiring with women in dentistry that keep pushing to achieve what they want in our careers, whatever the path may be.

Gayathiri Balasubramaniam, cosmetic dentist

A yes from me – we have come a long way for sure, but there is still an invisible barrier and bias that we face.

There is still work to do and we still feel the need for separate representation and network. With more women coming into dentistry and with how we are achieving in our roles this is sure to improve.

Sophie Wilcocks, dental therapist

Personally, I have never felt this way. Everywhere I have worked have been heavily female environments.

My strong female coworkers have always inspired and supported myself and each other. And we have only ever been equally supported and encouraged by our male colleagues.

I know this may not be the case everywhere, especially in ‘old school’ practice environments. But I feel the future is bright for females in dentistry.

Yusra Al-Mukhtar, dentist and medical aesthetic clinician

We have to acknowledge we have come along way, but there is further work to be done.

I think there is still a degree of nepotism and control, particularly as leaders of faculty. This is not reflective of all men or leaders, but there is a degree of gender bias and lack of inclusivity.

However, I see a shift in women’s self perception and self belief and attitude. They no longer fight for an equal seat at the table. If they aren’t invited to take an equal seat at the table, they make new tables.

Mac Bule, dentist

Absolutely. Wait until you say you’re expecting and then you try to juggle motherhood and work.

I’m glad to see more and more females choose the profession but we still have barriers to break.

Stevie Potter, dentist

It’s often taboo to talk about low grade sexism that exists when you’re a fortunate, well-educated woman in the western world. I never thought about being female as a disadvantage, yet the older I get and the more I progress, the more frustrated I get when I see more and more barriers to me for simply being female.

Unfortunately, in dentistry as in many other professions, it is often the case that displaying ‘soft’ characteristics is seen as a weakness (which is bonkers given we’re in a ‘caring’ profession!).

On the other hand, being bold and brave and confident is then given a label as ‘brash’ or similar, which is quite the opposite when you’re a male! These probably aren’t specific to dentistry, but it’s interesting they still appear in their own guises within our profession.

The next Big Question is: Is there mental health stigma in dentistry?

What do you think? Is mental health stigma prevalent in the dental profession? Do dental professionals experience high rates of mental health issues?

Let’s get a discussion going – email your thoughts to [email protected] to feature in our follow-up article in which we will share the views from across the profession.

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