Dentistry is changing, for the better. However, women still face barriers to success based on decades of traditional gender roles in the workplace. Consider the following:
- Compared to a male dentist who owns a private dental practice, a woman dentist makes, on average, 34 percent less.
- Male dentists are 22 percent more likely to own private practices than women.
- Women represent about half of dental school graduates, and only about 29 percent of practicing dentists.
- Female dental school students are more likely to envision themselves as associates after graduation, not practice owners.
How can women dentists set themselves up for success?
Throughout dental school, women can take leadership roles in student organizations on campus, statewide, and nationwide. This helps set the tone for future female representation and also provides valuable leadership experience before graduation. Another option is job shadowing experienced dentists who are in roles that women envision for themselves some day.
Mentorship and Leadership
It can be difficult to envision yourself in a leadership position if you don’t see someone who looks like you succeeding in that role. There is a notable – yet lessening – gap in women leaders in the dental industry. Access to mentors can help women dentists get the tools, resources, coaching, and feedback to influence their careers. Even as early as dental school, mentors’ impact can’t be ignored: in one study, female students who had access to a mentor throughout school were more likely to pursue postgraduate specialty education and own private practices.
Pioneers like Jeanne Sinkford in academia or Kathleen O’Loughlin in nationwide association leadership roles help open the door for other women to follow. So for all the experienced women dentists out there: the next generation needs you to step up and be seen!
The American Association of Women Dentists is holding their annual conference on September 22 and 23. Click the image for more information!
A dentist’s management style can have a huge impact on staff morale and loyalty, patient satisfaction and retention, and practice value. Women usually possess excellent soft skills and are generally known for being nurturing, warm, and empathetic. Yet, many women dentists express difficulty in resolving conflicts and motivating their team. Balance in practice management can be achieved with continuing education to provide a foundation for effectively managing teams.
Although all dentists benefit from continuing education and management skills, research on making dentistry more accessible to women has indicated that providing more opportunities for continuing education can help women dentists rise to leadership roles sooner and easier.
Lack of accessible networking opportunities is often pointed to as an obstacle for women’s career growth in dentistry. There are organizations seeking to change that. The American Association for Women Dentists has nine local professional chapters and 31 student chapters nationwide. Meetup has dental networking groups around the country, and The Lucy Hobbs Project hosts in-person and virtual networking events for women dentists. You can also join groups on Facebook or LinkedIn and network on social media. Whatever you do, make it a point to get to know other dentists in your community and specialty – and make sure they know you, too.
To all the women dentists, we encourage you to fuel your passions, get involved in the profession, and pursue your dream career.