The dental field is one of the best professions for those looking to have a sense of autonomy and flexibility in their career. However, although there has been a surge in the number of women in the field, there remain many barriers that prevent women from receiving the same opportunities and benefits that are readily available to men.
One of the primary concerns for women looking to work in dentistry is the lack of support and leniency given in the workplace after giving birth. Maternity leave has always been a topic of discussion in any work environment, yet little has been done to address this issue. While many dentist offices offer brief periods of rest and relaxation for their employees, it is often insufficient to fully prepare a new mother for reintegration into full-time work. For those that own a private practice, longer maternity leaves are possible; however, those that work in corporate settings are often subjected to unpaid leave that can be as short as three weeks. While many women may be physically ready to begin working again after a short leave, companies must ensure that their mental health is stable as well. If new mothers are rushed back into practice too quickly, they may become at risk for postpartum depression, stress, and other mood disorders, which could then adversely affect their work life and home life. With increasing research into the optimal time off options for women in dentistry, it is important to learn more about how to ensure the best care for all dental providers.
The disparity in pay between genders in dentistry has raised eyebrows in the past and present. Even when taking into account the difference in hours worked and demographics, there still exists a large gap called the “unexplained difference.” However, it’s important to note that there may be other factors that play into this difference. Female dentists generally take a more conservative approach to treatment plans, especially when it comes to preventative procedures rather than surgical ones. Approaches for salary negotiation also differ between the two genders. Are these factors enough to create the large discrepancy though? To shrink the pay gap, a further understanding of all the factors that can contribute to the differences may need to be analyzed in future research.
One of the most important effects of having female representation in dentistry, is the ability of these women to empower the next generation. In professions with lower female representation, it can be discouraging for young women looking to enter the field. Seeing a strong female, especially one who works in a comfortable, supportive environment, can be extremely motivating. Since a large part of a dental appointment lies in the small talk between the dentist and patient, female patients having a female figure to interact with during a difficult procedure may provide them with a more comfortable experience, and over time, perhaps spark an interest in the field.