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Do female dentists earn less than their male counterparts?

Blog Author Priyanka Patel and Surina Bhola

Blog Date 25/04/2017

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We know there are more women working in dentistry today than ever, but do we know if there is true equality in terms of pay? We decided to take a look at the current available evidence, and ask what this means for the future of the profession.

 

Women in dentistry on the rise​

Since the first UK female dentist (Lilian Lindsay) qualified in 1895, the number of women in dentistry has been increasing year after year. Lindsay was denied enrolment at the dental schools in England​ and therefore had to graduate from Edinburgh.

 

Since Lilian’s ground-breaking accomplishment, the number of female dentists in the UK has been on the rise.
 
The percentage of women in general practice has increased by 3.6% over 2010 to 2015, which not only changes the dynamics of the primary care workforce, but also the percentage of those specialising and in high profile governing roles.
 

Do female dentists earn less than their male counterparts?

Despite this transformation, it appears that women overall, are earning less than their male counterparts.

 

Figures from latest Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration report​ shows that women are disproportionately more likely to be performer-only dentists than their male counterparts, with over 90 per cent working as performer- only, compared with 72 per cent for men. Female dentists were also more likely to be younger with almost half under 35 (46 per cent) compared with 30 per cent of men. Due to this, it appears that female dentists are earning less than their male counterparts, as younger, performer-only dentists and those working fewer hours tend to correlate with lower incomes.
 
In 2015, the NHS found that females in England had lower monthly gross earnings than males. Twenty-seven per cent of men were earning in the £6000-7999 bracket, in comparison to only 10 per cent of women, whilst 25 per cent of the women were earning in the £2000-£3999 region in comparison to only 14 per cent of male dentists.
 
In an American study, Brown and Lazar found that when as many variables were matched between males and females (age less than 40 years old, working full time and less than 20 years’ experience), on average male practitioners were on a higher income. This factor in this study that was thought to be the most influential, was whether the female dentists had children; however, it was shown that women who had one child, tended to earn more on average than those without.
 
Two new organisations for women in dentistry have recently been formed and Caroline Holland noted in an article for the BDJ recently, that the fight for gender parity may not yet be over in our profession.
 
A study done at the University of Bristol in 2016, looked at the career intentions, work-life balance and retirement plans of current dental undergraduates. The findings showed that the majority (78.8 per cent) felt both men and women were equally likely to succeed in dentistry. However, 42.9 per cent felt men had an advantage over women with regards to career success.
 
Fifteen years after qualifying, 52.2 per cent planned to work part-time and the majority (86.6%) felt that childcare should be shared equally between both parents. Female students did however, report they intended to take more time out of their career to concentrate on childcare, and felt that having a child would affect their career more than males.
 
It seems more research needs to be done, and women need to make sure they are getting a fair deal at work.
 

Do patients prefer male or female dentists?

A study conducted in 2015 that was carried out to investigate patient’s perception of male or female dentists revealed that patients are not drawn towards a particular gender.

 

Interestingly, patients felt more relaxed when being treated by a female dentist and found that female dentists spent more time taking a history than male dentists.
 
Alth​ough patients were happy being treated by both gender dentists, no doubt do the aforementioned skills play a very important part in patients’ satisfaction with their dental practitioner.
 

So, what does this mean for the profession?

Looking to the future, we believe that women in dentistry are going to play a very important factor in the progression of the profession. In spite of the fact that three of the current Chief Dental Officers are female, there are still gaps in terms of women taking on leadership roles in dentistry, across the specialisms, and we’d like to see this changing.
 
This is an exciting time to be a young dentist in this profession, we advise you to make the most of it! Getting involved with the BDA can help you to gain news skills and open up pathways you hadn’t thought of before.
 
Priyanka Patel DCT and Surina Bhola, DCT
 

Women in dentistry: tell us what you think

Read our profiles of some inspiring women in d​​​entistry here.

We are keen to hear your comments on the issue of gender parity in dentistry, or to find out which female dentists have helped inspire your career, please get in touch and let us know​​.