Before the early 1980s, dentists in the US were almost exclusively male; in 1980, fewer than 3% were female. The United States had the lowest percentage of women dentists in the Western World. In the early 1970s, females made up about half of the dentists in Greece, almost one-third in France, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and almost four-fifths in Russia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania.
Currently, women represent an estimated 30 percent of practicing dentists and 95 percent of clinical and non-clinical team members. In the US, the mass majority of practice management research, opinions, surveys and business models have been built around “him” practicing successfully.
I believe that the growing gender shift will have a dramatic and positive impact on the leadership and landscape of the practice of dentistry. I love being a part of the Dew community and hence participating in the conversation that is very close to my heart: feminine leadership. I know many of the members of this DeW community, the women at the forefront of the dental industry, and I applaud you for the active leadership you demonstrate daily.
- With the patriarchal leadership so entrenched in this industry, what is it saying about those of us who choose a different leadership style?
- Are you being authentic—i.e., Do you know your leadership style?
- Are you buying into the notion that expanding practice models is somehow ruining dentistry?
- Do you have a bias against feminine qualities, seeing them as not being in the best interest of our profession?
- How do you feel about female dentists and female teams? Can they be efficient and productive?
- Are masculine behaviors being held up as the standard of practice in the oral health industry because that is how it has always been done?
- What are you doing about the succession of the current female leaders?
It’s not about polarizing men and women. It’s more fruitful to explore the inner dynamics of the masculine and feminine leadership styles, which reside in all of us. Currently, dentistry, in general, has a confirmation bias toward masculine leadership styles and somehow downplays or dismisses feminine leadership styles. The more traditional masculine systems of command and control, power over, aggression and competition and the feminine principles of cooperation, sense of community, empowerment and collaboration are BOTH needed. The effectiveness of a leader’s behaviors depends on the contextual variables, indicating that we all need to be able to step into our masculine and feminine styles.
I am probably speaking to the choir with the DeW readers, yet, beyond this community, are these questions being asked and conversations occurring at the level needed to positively impact our futures?