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Polly's Blog - Women in dentistry – what are we doing to support our female colleagues?

In this Blog, I was delighted to be published directly in the Dentistry Magazine in July in the Practice Life section!

You can read the article below




"Within the UK a high percentage of the field and team is predominantly women. But when you look to leadership levels, there’s a far smaller number"






Polly Bhambra explores the difficulties many women in dentistry are facing and what the profession needs to do to remove some of these barriers


"Within the UK a high percentage of the field and team is predominantly women. But when you look to leadership levels, there’s a far smaller number"


In the field of dentistry, women have historically faced numerous challenges and barriers.

However, the past few decades have witnessed a remarkable transformation as women have gradually shattered stereotypes, gained equal opportunities, and made significant contributions to the dental profession.

culminated in the Women in Dentistry event last month, which brought together female leaders from around the profession to exchange ideas and challenges in a safe space.


It was a hugely inspiring event and one I was honoured to be invited to speak at.

Empowering women in dentistry involves recognising their potential, promoting gender equality, providing support systems, and fostering an inclusive environment.

Here I’ll explore some of the opportunities that lie in front of us and emphasise the importance of empowerment for a diverse and thriving dental profession.


The changing landscape

Over the years, the dental profession has experienced a gradual but significant shift towards inclusivity and gender equality.


Traditional gender roles and biases that once limited women's involvement in dentistry have given way to greater acceptance and recognition. As more women pursue careers in dentistry, their contributions to patient care, research, and leadership positions have become increasingly evident. Today, women account for more than half of dental graduates in the UK, and their participation in dental organisations and professional networks continues to expand.


Overcoming challenges

Despite the progress, women have faced and continue to face unique challenges.

Historical gender biases, societal expectations, work-life balance struggles, and limited mentorship opportunities have all posed obstacles along their professional journeys.


However, through determination and resilience, many have demonstrated their ability to

overcome these challenges and excel in their chosen field. Recognizing the importance of these contributions, the dental community has increasingly embraced measures to address gender disparities and provide equal opportunities for both male and female dental professionals.



Fostering empowerment

Empowering women in dentistry goes beyond mere representation. It involves creating an environment that fosters their personal and professional growth, ensuring equal access to opportunities, and encouraging leadership development.

Dental schools and professional organisations play a crucial role in this process by implementing policies and initiatives that support women in their career advancement. Mentorship programs, leadership training, and networking events specifically tailored to address the unique needs of women in dentistry can contribute to their empowerment and overall success.

‘For us at Ivoclar, it's really important to sponsor events such as the Women in Dentistry event,’ Cher Scott, from Ivoclar, told me. ‘Within the UK a high percentage of the field and team is predominantly women. But when you look at leadership levels, there’s a far smaller number. ‘That's something we're really passionate about – just elevating diversity in general, not just women. We feel that a diverse workforce means that you can add strengths. You get a much more rounded business. ‘In the UK it’s always been how it's always been. You see the males in leadership positions and they're seen as the leaders.

‘You might have a lot of females in the team, but when it comes to that leadership level, you don't see it there. ‘What you're doing is creating a perception that it's almost not achievable or it's not possible. So representation is really important.’


Role models and Mentorship

Having strong role models and mentors is instrumental in empowering women in dentistry. Experienced female dentists who have paved their own path can serve as a source of inspiration, guidance, and encouragement for aspiring women dentists.

By sharing their experiences, challenges, and triumphs, these mentors help younger generations navigate the complexities of the dental profession and provide invaluable support.


Advocating for diversity and inclusion

Empowering women in dentistry also involves advocating for diversity and inclusion at all levels of the profession. Dental schools, professional organisations, and governing bodies need to ensure that their policies and practices promote equality and create opportunities for underrepresented groups. This includes addressing unconscious biases, promoting cultural competency, and providing support for women from diverse backgrounds. Encouraging collaboration, embracing different perspectives, and valuing the contributions of all dental professionals, regardless of gender, are essential for a vibrant and thriving dental community.



Conclusion

Empowering women in dentistry is a vital step towards building a more inclusive and progressive profession. As women continue to break barriers and thrive in dentistry, it is essential to recognise their contributions, provide equal opportunities, and create supportive environments that encourage their success. By championing gender equality, fostering mentorship, advocating for diversity, and embracing the strengths of all dental professionals, we can ensure a more rounded and welcoming profession for all.

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