March 8 is International Women’s Day, and the British Dental Association (BDA) marked the occasion with a look at the percentages of women practicing in the United Kingdom (UK). And while these figures have been increasing, disparities still exist in pay between male and female clinicians.
In 2014 and 2015, there were 12,662 male dentists and 11,285 female dentists in England. That represents a 3.1% increase in female dentists during the previous year and a 44.2% increase during 2006 and 2007, according to an August 2015 report from the National Health Service (NHS) Health & Social Care Information Centre.
Elsewhere in the UK, about 40% of NHS dentists were female according to 2012 figures. In Scotland in 2013, another NHS report said that 47% of dentists were female. And, a 2015 report noted that 52% of the dentists in the General Dental Service workforce in Northern Ireland were female.
Despite their greater participation, female dentists are paid less. A 2015 report from the BDA noted that only 10% of female dentists saw monthly gross earnings between £6,000 and £7,999, compared to 27% of male dentists. On the other end of the scale, 25% of women earned between £2,000 and £3,999, compared to just 14% of men.
Some of these differences may be attributable to hours. The BDA also reported that 54% of women work 30 hours or less per week compared to 27% of men at the same schedule. Yet the BDA noted that other factors in the current NHS contract may negatively impact on the earning potential of female dentists.
These figures may change in the years ahead, as 51% of dentists between the ages of 35 and 44 are women. That figure increases to 57% for dentists younger than the age of 35. The BDA would like to see more research and analysis on how the growing numbers of women will impact the profession, their careers, and their patients.
“The gender balance of the workforce in 10 years’ time is going to look completely different from today, with a huge amount of older male dentists retiring, and a growing number of female dental graduates taking up careers,” said Judith Husband, chair of the BDA’s ethics, education, and dental team.
“Talented dentists are now delivering for their patients on an increasingly level playing field,” said Peter Ward, chief executive of the BDA. “The entire profession should take pride in the progress we’ve made together, but it’s vital we remain alert to the barriers that remain.”
“I really want to see more women stepping up and getting involved,” said Husband. “We have to take ownership of our professional lives, and we need more women to take on representative and leadership opportunities, to be role models for future generations of dentists and to ensure the profession works for us all in the future.”