May 27, 2019

Is sexism an issue in orthodontics and dentistry?

I am a male and I have never been subject to discrimination.  However, do we have a problem with sexism in orthodontics and dentistry?

My post last week was a bit of a rant about a current threat to orthodontics.  I was then intending to write up the Proffit lecture that I gave to the AAO meeting over the next couple of weeks. However, a social media incident made me think about sexism in dentistry and orthodontics.

These are my own views based upon my experience which is limited to working in the public sector health service and universities in the UK, since 1986.  I have heard many overt sexist comments over the years. Indeed, I have probably made comments “in jest” that would be regarded as unacceptable currently.  I also thought that over the last 10 years the problems of sexism had diminished in dentistry and orthodontics. After all, there is a high proportion of women in both fields.  However, I would like to go back to the Social Media incident that amazed and disappointed me.

An uncomfortable awakening.

Last weekend it was the British Dental Association (BDA) conference in the UK. This has been combined with a large tradeshow called the Dentistry Show. The BDA is a representative organisation for dentists. In effect, it is the dentist’s trade union. Currently, in the UK 49% of dentists are women. Furthermore, 63% of dental students are women.

As with all conferences, there was a large trade exhibition.  During the exhibition, a female dentist posted a comment on a popular dentists Facebook group (For Dentists by Dentists). This is a dentist only group.  She was attending the conference and asked if it was acceptable for trade stands to have scantily dressed women helping to sell products at a professional conference. This was a fair question.

Her comment was immediately followed by many “jokey” responses.  When I saw this, I challenged the comments by pointing out that a woman had raised a concern and all we had was a selection of men making fun of the comments and not taking her viewpoint seriously.  The responses to her comment shocked me.

The comments.

I have made a precis of the main themes here.

“Which stand are they on, I must go and have a look”

“I should have gone”

“There are women who are happy being on a show dressed like that”

“I would not say that this is sexist, it does not say that women are inferior to men”.

“The idea behind these ladies was a lady and they don’t seem to mind, they look happy”.

“Each to their own and nobody got hurt”.

“I’m going to be wearing a low top tomorrow to balance things out”.

“The fact that 65% of new dentists are females illustrates the problems of genderism in dentistry brilliantly”.

“Who was discriminated, stereotyped or prejudiced against on the basis of their sex here? The only people I can see who were discriminated against were the women on the stand. So yeah, I don’t really see how this is sexism”.

So what?

I felt that there were two issues here. The first was why did the companies think that this approach was acceptable?  This was also highlighted by the BBC last week and by Reuters earlier this year. In fairness to the BDA and the conference organising company, they have said that they are taking steps to avoid a repeat of this behaviour by the exhibitors in the future.

Nevertheless, my most significant concern was with the comments in which many men seemed to feel that this could be treated as a joke and dismissed with flippant comments. Indeed, several made the situation worse by posting photographs of them posing with the women on the same thread.

I am not an expert in sexism. As a result, I am unsure why they took this approach, as it disrespected the views of the women who had expressed concern in the thread. Unfortunately, this made it clear to me that sexism in dentistry has not been eliminated and this is a sad reflection of our profession.

What about orthodontics?

In one of the posts a highly respected female dentist suggested that responses like this are behind the fact that women are under represented on the boards of organisations. So I thought that I would look at the major orthodontic organisations and the gender of the Keynote speakers invited to their 2019 conferences. This provided interesting information. I have put this data in this small table.

OrganisationBoardConference programme invited speakers
AAO11 men95 men (87%), 14 women (13%)
EOS12 men, 4 women13 men (72%), 5 women (28%)
BOS8 men, 1 woman9 men (75%), 3 women (25%)

These figures speak for themselves. I have only been able to obtain figures from the BOS on their membership profile. This is 50% male and female. I cannot imagine that this is significantly different from other societies.

It is clear that this is a problem that needs addressing.  I also fear that this incipient sexism/gender inequality may be hiding more significant problems, but I am not sure.

What are we going to do?

My only experience of attempting to deal with sexism is within the Universities, and I have only got information from courses that were held to highlight the issues and offer some solutions. In short, there is no easy answer. However, I think that we should call on the specialty and dental associations to take steps to address this problem. There is no doubt in my mind that this must not be allowed to continue. I will be writing to the Presidents of the Orthodontic Societies to ask them their views on the gender mix of their boards.

We really need to smash some glass ceilings and take this situation seriously and not fall back to the “jokey blokey” culture that appears to still be around.

Let’s have a chat about this in the comments section of this blog post. As usual, I will moderate it.

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Have your say!

  1. Avatar

    .Hi Kevin

    Just curious, but what is the split in academia? Many of the speakers will come from there so is this reflected in the speaker ratio?

    Just curious.

    Chris

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      Kevin,

      Congratulations for highlighting this really important issue. As a middle aged white male (and a father of two boys) I am frequently disgusted by the laddish culture of my gender.

      In response to Chris’s comment, since 2005 the UK higher education and research sector has been encouraging and recognising a commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) through the Athena SWAN charter (https://www.ecu.ac.uk/equality-charters/athena-swan/). This was expanded to non-STEMM departments in 2015. In 2011 it was made a requirement to hold an Athena SWAN silver award before applying for funding from the English National Institution of Health Research (NIHR).

      At the University of Sheffield School of Clinical Dentistry, where I work, 5 out of 13 professors are female. In the Orthodontic Department of the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital, where much of our clinical teaching takes place, I am the only male out of 8 full/part time and visiting consultants, but the figures you give for the numbers of women on the boards of three orthodontic organisations is very disappointing.

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    Kevin O’Brien, orthodontic legend and feminist.
    Thank you for pointing out the systemic patriarchy within dentistry/orthodontics to those that don’t see it. I have shared your post with a (closed) Australia/New Zealand Women in Dentistry page where these kind of issues are frequently discussed and within minutes there are “likes” within minutes. If only some of these blokes had to walk a mile in our shoes. You would not believe the kind of pre-historic attitudes we deal with every. single. day.
    May I suggest that in your arena you could deal with sexism at the university in recruitment of staff and graduate students. There will be unintended gender bias from selection panels, so please ask to remove names from CVs when they are given to panel members. And if you are inviting lecturers to speak or assessors to examine the students, make sure there is a mix of people (backgrounds, genders etc). Diversity is strength!

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      There certainly is a sexist problem within Dentistry, as there is in the broader community. Race and religion are also problems.

      Is a closed Women In Dentistry group sexist?

      Are we concerned with, say, a closed Christian or Asian Dentists group?

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        A closed “Women in Dentistry” group would not be considered sexist or discriminatory since they are a minority group and experience relative disadvantage(s) as compared to members of the dominant professional male group (look at Kevin’s small table). Very bad optics.

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      I disagree with several points here. For example, in finding the best speakers or presenters at conferences, or universities, gender, skin color, etc., should not be a factor when making a selection. The most qualified individuals with the most to offer should be obtained.

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    The Dentist you mentioned had asked a question. I’m not sure if she stated her own opinion from your blog? Was it presumed? Some of the responses quoted state they they don’t feel it was sexist. Was this the ‘wrong’ response to the question? I’m more troubled by the jokey responses. Personally I feel it was sexist tbh. In any event it certainly had a negative effect on the stand and in the dental community.

    Your second point is incredibly important. Well done for broaching the topic.

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    You hit the nail on the head Kevin. Great to see it finally being noted.

    Well written
    Gosia

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    We need to discuss the role of sexism in the world as a whole. Male chauvinism has been the pattern and our area has just re-established it. yet I do not believe in a “behavioral policy” dictating rigid rules of behavior. I believe above all in the human capacity to respect the decisions of each person and especially in empathy, which at least here in Brazil is less and less present. This type of marketing appealing to the male’s instinctive side should really be reviewed primarily at a congress where buying decisions should be more rational than irrational.

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    Such an important debate Kevin . Thank you for highlighting it and beginning the debate.

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    Thanks for your post, Kevin. As President-elect of the AAO, I can tell you we take this issue very seriously. While about one-third of the overall AAO membership is female, our student population in the US and Canada is now 51% female, 49% male. Members of the AAO Board of Trustees are selected by our constituent societies. Thus, the Board has no influence on its gender makeup, which you correctly state is currently all male.

    At our recent meeting in LA, the AAO House of Delegates formed a Special Committee for Women in Orthodontics with the following charges:
    1. Work to support and inspire Women Orthodontists by helping to develop tools and pathways to leadership so that women are contributing as AAO trustees, Delegates and Council Members.
    2. Identify obstacles for involvement in leadership and make recommendations to our current leaders. Encourage changes in governance, communication and recruitment that will help shape the future of AAO leadership to reflect the diversity of its membership.
    3. Strive to recognize the unique needs and issues that face Women Orthodontists and make recommendations to improve the value of membership in the AAO for all members.

    Bottom line, we’re trying to do exactly what you say, change the culture of our leadership and our specialty.

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    I also took offence to images of colleagues and peers posing for leering photos with these 2 “models”, I provided feedback to the marketing manager behind the campaign and was also vilified by the model’s manager, marketing manager and others in the dental profession.
    This is a serious issue within dentistry and healthcare as a whole, yet we don’t talk about it! The comments directed back to me showed how far we have to go to achieve equality and that attitudes are still very misogynistic.

    Here’s some literature I was already working on……

    Women make-up between 48% (Russia) to 75% (Finland) of the dental workforce, yet, hold just 18% of dental school dean positions (United States of America)(1), only 14.8% of the 69 major dental journal’s editorial board members are women(2), female clinicians are less likely to own a clinic or take post-graduate qualifications and the average annual income of full-time self-employed women was 37% lower than the income of full-time self-employed men(3) clearly demonstrating the persistence of the gender wage gap.

    It is reported that almost half of dental students will experience sexual harassment before graduation(5) and upon entering their careers over 53% will experience harassment from either male dentists (73%) or male clients (45%)(6). Females in governmental positions hold more managerial roles than men, yet when it comes to breaking the ubiquitous “glass ceiling” research shows that only 18% of hospitals in the US have a female Chief Executive Officer(4)

    1. Blanton P. Women in Dentistry: Negotiating the Move to Leadership. J Dent Educ. 70(11):3.
    2. Ioannidou E, Rosania A. Under-Representation of Women on Dental Journal Editorial Boards. PLOS ONE. 2015 Jan 30;10(1):e0116630.
    3. Pallavi SK, Rajkumar GC. Professional practice among woman dentist. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2011;1(1):14–9.
    4. A/RES/34/180 – Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – UN Documents: Gathering a body of global agreements [Internet]. [cited 2019 Mar 1]. Available from: http://www.un-documents.net/a34r180.htm
    5. Dis J van, Stadum L, Choo E. Sexual Harassment Is Rampant in Health Care. Here’s How to Stop It. Harvard Business Review [Internet]. 2018 Nov 1 [cited 2019 Feb 27]; Available from: https://hbr.org/2018/11/sexual-harassment-is-rampant-in-health-care-heres-how-to-stop-it
    6. Pennington A, Darby M, Bauman D, Plichta S, Schnuth ML. Sexual harassment in dentistry: experiences of Virginia dental hygienists. J Dent Hyg JDH. 2000;74(4):288–95.
    7. Fontenot T. Leading Ladies: Women in Healthcare Leadership. Front Health Serv Manage. 2012 Summer;28(4):11.

    • Avatar

      Very interesting work you’re doing
      Where are you going to publish this
      I’d be interested to read more

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    In Ireland we have a 50/50 gender mix amongst the OSI reps on our Council and our EFOSA rep…

    The points you make are valid, so thank you.

    When FMC brought their dentistry show to Dublin in March, it was advertised as offering free pints and “a great guinness party” from 11am.. I thought this showed not only a gender bias but a bizarre lack of understanding of Irish dentists and their preferences, that assumed we would all want to spend a Saturday morning drinking Guinness?!… I expect this post will attract some responses along the lines of I wish I’d known that was on….

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    Hi Kevin, I guess it really depends upon our definition of ‘sexism’ and certainly in general marketing and sales, the differences between the sexes is highlighted often to get initial public attention at least.

    To put it crudely, Sex sells is a mantra for some, but I think when done so obviously most can see through it, though many series on TV now do seem to still throw in a gratuitous sex-scene, which maybe showing my age (or another ism, ageism?) I’m finding more unnecessary as I get older, but is that just my bias?

    Then there’s adverts online, billboards/newspapers and TV where someone like Beckham going (unnecessarily?) topless in certain adverts or various Male/Female models being featured or other subtle and not so subtle methods, used to get our attention – so is that what you mean by sexism, or is it something far more sinister like oppression of Women overall and direct or indirect discrimination in other areas?!?

    What about other culture and languages where there are even Male/Female assignments automatically applied/implied for inanimate objects too – where is the line between noting the differences (physical/psychological) between the sexes, noting that does have an influence or even initial attraction biologically, or do we have to be neutral and even admitting anyone notes sexual differences is automatically labelled sexist or expressing sexism??

    My concern is that by rushing to condemn, people just go silent through fear of offending someone, either genuinely or someone bending over backwards to be offended for another less honourable reason – thus people being picked to firstly match a tick-box exercise to appear ‘equal’ visually, ironically itself sexist/racist perhaps – we both know a lady who was often picked/asked to attend panels as on paper she ‘ticked’ the female/minority boxes and when turning up as an obvious middle class white person, was sometimes told we are just waiting for one more ‘person’ and were ‘surprised’ when told it was herself – a great person/intellect by the way so still a gain despite being tick-box biased, but sometimes doesn’t truely address the deep seated societal biases as it’s unacceptable to have fully open and transparent debate upon this, when this is considered dangerous in our oppressive/punishing dental environments, preventing progress ironically, in the name of progress.

    I won’t even mention the ‘Gender Neutral’ aspects too and what people wish to identify as wrt Sex/Gender, as we struggle to deal even with Male/Female equality, where genuine equality can recognise and even celebrate differences without ignoring them, but still be equally respectful of them.

    So great question Kevin, but let’s start with what we REALLY mean by Sexism – a bit like Discrimination it is important we are clear what is a direct, indirect and very subtle example perhaps ?!?

    A fascinating area indeed.

    Yours reflectively,

    Tony.

  11. Avatar

    Once again, I appreciate your willingness to open the door to a subject most choose to ignore and accept. The numbers were no surprise, but nevertheless astonishing! In the history of the AAO there has been only one female president to date, a proverbial pat on the head for all women in the profession.
    In 1997 I organized the Women’s Conference for women in Orthodontics. After having so many of my female residents share their stories of struggles and challenges in trying to navigate and find their way in the profession, I wanted to form a support system for them. Having been the only female in the region of my company, 3MUnitek for many years, I could identify with their challenges, and wanted to create a space where they could share ideas, offer advice and support. It’s incredible that that in 2019 we continue to have this conversation.
    However, I have to say how inspirational it has been over the years to have met so many Trail Blazers in the profession. Dr. Kate Vig was one of them who in spite of the challenges rose to the top of the profession.and is highly respected for her many accomplishments. She and many of the female orthodontist who have paved the way for others remind me of one of my favorite quotes, “Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astair did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.” ~ Ann Richards

    • Avatar

      A minor correction, Vicki. The AAO has had two female presidents, Gayle Glenn in 2013-14 and Nahid Maleki in 2017-18. Not enough, I agree! But as I stated above, the AAO constituent societies send the members to the board of trustees to eventually become AAO president. The board itself has no say in who is chosen. However, we’re doing what we can to promote women in leadership positions.

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    Great article Kevin! And, I appreciate that you preface it stating and understanding that you have never been a victim of discrimination. That, in itself, shows that you have an understanding of what you do not know, what you have never experienced – most men simply fail to understand the vast differences in the in a woman’s experience as a professional – during training and practice. And, I believe that many men are unwilling to give up all of their advantages – which is the only way to create male/female equality. Of course, the same is true for religion/ethnicity. Graduating dental school in 1984 I had to persevere through it all. The women starting out today have it easier than in the past, but mainly the good old boys are still in control – for now.

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    Yes! I formed Women in Orthodontics Study Group on Facebook and we have over 2000 members. We discuss our experiences all the time. You would be shocked. I also started a Women in Orthodontics Conference with all female speakers. I wanted to give an opportunity for outstanding women to share their expertise and experiences. It was such an amazing experience and atmosphere. It’s amazing how much negativity I’ve received from men about my group and conference. And the snide comments that “we must share recipes and clothing options”- not even aware of the business and clinical discussions that occur.

    • Avatar

      I hope that the negative comments you receive from men reflect a minority opinion. I think you have an important role to play as a leader in our orthodontic community, and not just for women. I appreciate what you are doing to give women in orthodontics a greater voice within our profession, as well as for your contribution to the AAO through your work on the Council on Communications. We definitely need more women in leadership roles and as speakers at our meetings.

    • Avatar

      Very interesting work you’re doing
      Where are you going to publish this
      I’d be interested to read more

  14. Avatar

    Thank you so much for your post. The presence of the “models” underscores the assumption by the vendors that their customers are men who will be attracted to their booth this way. This is not only discrimination but also denigrating to the men they are trying to attract. It is clear that they do not appreciate that their customers are also women. This is a more blatant exhibition of this bias than the usual. The usual bias at a number of these trade booths is to be ignored or passed over if you are a woman and a man approaches the booth. It has gotten better over the years, but there is still such a long way to go in so many areas.

  15. Avatar

    Dear All,
    I fail to see how a scantily clad lady is going to make me think about buying dental/orthodontic products frankly. Sex may sell some things but I really don’t think dentistry is one of them. Surely we can move on from this mindset? I have a 17 year old daughter and I certainly would not appreciate her being objectified in this manner.
    I don’t think its big and I don’t think it’s clever.
    What can anyone say to make this seem acceptable?
    Well, that’s my rant for the week!

  16. Avatar

    Thank you for bringing light to this. While I do think it’s gotten better in recent years, sexism definitely still exists in our profession. I myself am guilty of it. When I graduated in 2008 and had an interview the owner of the clinic asked me to go to a Ranger game that evening with one of the associates I hadn’t met yet, Dr. Fletcher. I couldn’t imagine 9 innings with an old white guy so I declined the invite. I took the job and soon realized “Dr. Fletcher” was an amazing young black female orthodontist. When I told her the story she looked at me and said “well what do you think I thought Dr. Moody was going to be, a white guy.” We laughed but it was an important lesson for me about assumptions and being guilty of something that infuriates me when done by others. I think drawing light to it and educating people about it is what’s needed. We do better when we know better!

    • Avatar

      I completely understand your situation and trepidations. But I must say that I am recently hearing more derogatory and funny remarks about “old white guy” I am one and it appears to be genderism, ageism, or whatever you want to call it, in another direction. I am to the point that I am probably overcompensating as to not be the creepy old guy?!?

  17. Avatar

    I think the big issue, is the lack of flexible career pathways, especially when you get into post ccst and academic posts. The age of a dentist undergoing specialist training and beyond roughly coincides with a time of wanting to start a family. There is little help or understanding, a colleague had children near the end of her Orthodontic training and she was not supported and if anything most of the grief she was getting was from her female bosses.

    So to go onto do a PhD and furthermore academia career is very difficult if you are wanting to start and raise a family.

    There’s no way my wife could have continued with her training and be there for our children if she didn’t do it part time (she’s a GP trainee).

    Zaid

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      I agree Zaid, many career pathways generally are not family friendly, plus there are more same-sex couples and Gender Neutral issues to consider too, so it’s not as simple as asking trade stands to use sexuality less in their marketing (which as others noted may put-off as many as it attracts or seem crass etc.) activities, but goes right down to deeper cultural, institutional and societal influences & bias.

      Given Zaid’s comments above about which Gender in Power gave most grief (which might surprise some) to fellow females, I would be also interested in for whom Female voters vote for, when positions for elections are presented including a mixture/choice of Gender candidates – might most erroneously ‘assume’ that most Females vote for other females first, then between the Female candidates, based upon their position statements second, then Men third ???

      What if more Women vote for Men than for Women candidates ? 😮 ?

      I think some of THAT objective analysis might be insightful & surprising and again, IMHO this goes a lot deeper than just looking superficially at the ‘faces’ elected around the Board/Table or Chair/Leader and making assumptions, which itself is a form of superficial bias perhaps?

      The GDC ‘appoints’ rather than allow elections very strongly upon Gender/Minority bias – given they are virtually invisible to the Profession & Public and have come under great criticism as a Board since 2013, would people say that has worked out well – it has certainly ‘ticked’ all the equality and diversity boxes – do people also like completing all those GDC surveys asking about our sexuality in great detail – would the majority (Male & Female) prefer this ‘politically-corrected’ appointment approach, imposed ??

      Also remember, Sexism is just one ‘ism’ to consider but as a Society, we are way ahead of some Countries and as a Profession way ahead with our gender mixes generally, though I appreciate we are on a journey and there is still far to go……….

      So what are the ‘real’ issues/barriers and which methods to address these have real merit, rather than artificially ‘tick a box’ approach ??

      Yours equally,

      Tony.

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    It’s really interesting. In Poland the situation looks totally different. Board of management in Polish Orthodontic Society concsists of only one man and 5 women including female – president prof. Czochrowska. Moreover I’ve never seen such absurd form of advertisment as described in blog, during our conferences. We all belong to medical community and such sexism is neither suitable to our profession nor desirable.

  19. Avatar

    There is no place for sexual selling enhancement (so called )in a respectable profession,period !!Bona fide manufactures should not be using these techniques and if they do ,boycott them.
    I am unsure about closing any blogs etc.on the basis of gender or ethnicity.I like to hear the comments from these groups to be able to get a broader perspective .

  20. Avatar

    Read Steven Pinker’s – The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.
    I think that your blog here supports a pseudo-consensus that gender disparities within dentistry are defacto “sexism”. It is emotive, illogical, betrays the scientific method by its cherry picking, minimal sample selection and assumptions and thus, is actually a betrayal of true argument, discourse and debate. Your very position within dentistry means that your words carry great weight and with that weight comes a responsibility to avoid subjective emotive conclusions and speculation presented as fact.

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    Sex sells – plain and simple .
    As the number of women in the profession continues to increase – the models will be male instead of female . It’s simply marketing and all companies use these techniques – rightly or wrongly.
    The number of women in positions of authority will naturally change with time too – the males that occupy those positions are probably ancient and close to retirement

  22. Avatar

    Great blog and brought up issues in a sensitive and serious way
    I recently saw a photo in an awards ceremony of a group of Guys with a row of scantily clad ladies in front of them who must have been bought in for the occasion
    Perhaps the chaps don’t have time to read the papers to know that this is outdated and now frowned upon
    It’s perfectly legal to have a closed all women’s group . I checked the law when setting up the recent Women Dentists Network
    Men can join we decided but only one or two who dominate all the forums were interested
    The brilliant thing was that we found out how much women are doing for themselves to help each other with networking , raising awareness , mentoring each other , and boosting confidence

  23. Avatar

    A very interesting Channel 4 TV interview/interviewee tonight, both women discussing the UK Conservative Leadership competition and how nearly all Men are standing etc.

    They made the comment when discussing merit; “Men tend to oversell themselves and Women tend to undersell themselves” which seemed to get an enthusiastic agreement by both.

    As a generalisation ( there’s always exceptions) does that ring true to most on here and if so, is that a serious factor wrt applying for higher profile posts on Boards or Committees or Speaker roles etc???

    What other factors can help sooner rather than later, to address these differences fairly and equitably – it would be great to hear from more of the presumably thousands of Female (or neutral gender) readers of this blog, otherwise it just looks like Men dominating again when that’s not the intention anyway.

    Yours receptively,

    Tony.

  24. Avatar

    Men are very unrepresented in the nursing , child care and other nurturing professions .
    Is this matriarchal sexism?
    Women are very unrepresented in engineering construction, roofing , bricklaying, road sweeping , sewer works , most outside and dangerous jobs . Is this sexism ?
    Male and female are just attracted to different types of work .
    Females are also less prone to grandstanding, posturing and showing off , or do so in slightly different and more subtle ways than men, hence there lack of enthusiasm for authority positions.
    Egalitarian ideological theorys , that ignore but attempt to lay on top of 60000 years of evolution, are a remarkable triumph of best and good wishes , over fact.
    But agreed :-
    Sexualised advertising to sell dentistry does not throw the profession in a good light .
    Men need to keep the locker room talk , in the locker room. It does not belong in professional life .Good topical post . Like it.
    I await feminist backlash ……..

  25. Avatar

    It is certainly true that men and women gravitate to different professions as you pointed out. However, that is not the issue in this instance because we are talking about the SAME profession. There are not think different pre and post doctoral dental degrees for men and women. The table that Kevin presented illustrates current governance for three different large orthodontic organizations and I previously wrote that the optics are bad. Why are they bad? If we look at this from an actuarial/probability scientific perspective, a reasonable initial reaction is that something is amiss with the distribution of men and women. I certainly grant you that formal study may show that there are legitimate reasons for this. If not, then remedial action could be considered.

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    Yes I would agree with the sentiment that we need some serious ‘objective’ study into this matter – is this mainly an ‘organisational’ bias or is it really more an ingrained general societal bias ???

    Is just using the ‘optics look bad’ criteria when only looking at certain Boards a form of bias in itself, when limited to such one-dimensional judgement?
    Is this as erroneous/bad a ‘judgement’ made upon women and men by ‘looks’ alone, so derided at a sales/trade fair ???
    Are Women just as ‘biased’ for Men compared to other Women alternatives, because they have been brought up or over-influenced like that?

    I shall just give one example here – when I was at the GDC I was a staunch supporter of allowing the courtesy title Dr. for all dentist colleagues – I felt it was a great equaliser for our young colleagues and especially female colleagues, who faced ALL KINDS of discrimination as otherwise having to use titles like Miss/Mrs/Ms when all Men are just Mr, the young dentist often being mistaken for the Nurse when the nurse was older (so several biases going on there!) and of course emphasising their status as at least equal to any male Dentist, at home in the UK or Abroad where this courtesy title is the norm for dentists Worldwide !!!

    Guess what, I (and similarly supporting colleagues in a minority I have to say) faced HUGE opposition and often that opposition was led by Women, despite such equality/equalising advantages, so the idea that the ‘Optics are balanced = better for Women’ as a sole determinant in Organisations, is also hugely simplistic & flawed, in reality IMHO !!!

    Anyway eventually the GDC motion to ban the title Dr. was eventually kicked into the long grass (they still don’t embrace the Dr. title fully, more tolerate it reluctantly!), not because they believe/live in such equality in reality, but because we demonstrated a legal issue where for many EU Dentists, they actually hold a full DOCTORATE on qualifying (eg: DDS or DMD) so they are REAL Doctors in title, not honorary like the batchelor degrees of the UK for both Dentists (BDS) and Medical (MB;BS) GPs too – I have also found many UK Academics are also biased/protectionist against Dentist graduates being awarded a Doctorate degree, similar to most of the rest of the World, despite its merit and great equality qualities too !!!

    So please don’t believe the myth that only females (or other groups) fight for equality & inclusiveness in all it’s direct and indirect ways – nobody is perfect I know, but I fully welcome a proper objective study into these matters because I also feel there are some claiming ‘equality’ goals BUT they are literally playing lip-service, tick-box compliance so maybe the Optics and words look good superficially, but they don’t really ACT to make equality happen upon merit, in reality.

    Yours equally,

    Tony.

  27. Avatar

    When my Dad graduated dental school in 1958 there was one woman graduate every four years. Does the fact that dental graduates now are roughly split between men and women mean that male dominated boards and male speakers outnumbering women speakers at conferences is primarily a result of sexism? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Today, a very important factor is likely to be the fact that men and women make different choices. For example, among nurses, males make 18% more in wages, not because of sexism, but because male nurses gravitate towards specialties more than women, are more willing to relocate than women, and are more willing to work longer hours than women. Does sexism exist? Of course. But it is important to be fully cognizant of other factors at play. How big of a factor is sexism in choosing conference speakers? Should we demand a quota that 50% of all speakers be women if 50% of dentists are women? This is the road we need to avoid.

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