The theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is #PressforProgress. So today is a good day to look at women in dentistry and their changing roles.
Who does what?
This question has to be asked: Who buys the toothpaste in your household?
In my house, about 95% of the time it’s me, a woman, that drops the toothpaste into the shopping trolley. And how am I different to my grandmother? I’ve earned the money to pay for it too! In the UK, the number of women in the workforce working, earning and forging careers is at an all-time high.
How is the role of women in dentistry changing?
Dentistry has come a long way in the last century. Treatments are now so much more sophisticated, with the emphasis on care and aesthetics, rather than pain management and tooth pulling. And there is a change in the role of women too.
Between 2007 and 2015, the number of women registered as dentists increased by 44.2%. This does mean that the percentage of women dentists is higher in the younger age brackets. An interesting statistic is that about 75% of dentists over the age of 55 are male.
Who was the first female UK dentist?
Although women would have played an important role at home, helping family members deal with toothache, the first registered female dentist was Lilian Lindsay. She qualified in 1895 but had to study in Edinburgh because no English University would accept her.
How can we help press for progress?
Around young people it’s important to challenge stereo-types. Professor Julia Higgins of the Institute of Physics writes: “It is astonishing that, in 2018, girls still grow up being treated very differently from boys through entrenched stereotyping and unconscious biases…. We all have a role to play – government, educators, industry, parents and citizens – in tackling the barriers that girls face.” Women make great engineers, programmers, and dentists! We need to be careful not to limit expectations.