The concept of gender is deep rooted in society, with strict guidelines of ‘appropriate’ behaviour for men and women. However, gender roles around the world have undergone a sea of change! After we organized the DentalReach-DentalDivas Digital Summit 2020 – the first live, digital dental conference, consisting exclusively of women speakers – I realized we need to celebrate women dentists all over the world! Here’s a look at the journey of women in dentistry.
The First Woman Dentist (FWD) – A Global Timeline 1-8
The pioneer women in dentistry deserve recognition and admiration. They broke the traditional barriers for their gender, country by country, and set the standards for other female dental professionals.
Interesting Facts About The First Women Dentists 1-8
1. Ironically, FWD Pakistan actually studied from India (Dr R. Ahmed Dental College in Calcutta, Calcutta University) before the Indo-Pak partition and shifted to Pakistan post partition, and FWD India actually studied from Pakistan (De Montmorency College of Dentistry in Lahore, Punjab University) before the partition and shifted to India post partition.
2. FWD Pakistan Fatima Jinnah was the younger sister of Mohd. Ali Jinnah, the leading founder of Pakistan. She was an active politician herself and is fondly referred to as the ‘Mother of the Nation’ and the ‘Lady of Pakistan’.
3. FWD India Dr Vimal Sood was also the first Indian woman dentist to pursue her post-graduation. She did her internship in New York, USA and her masters in pediatric dentistry from the University of Minnesota, USA. For many years, she visited villages in mobile dental clinics and set up dental camps at Jalandhar, India specifically for the sufferers of the partition.
4. FWD USA Dr Emeline Jones was married to a dentist. Her husband believed that dentistry was not a suitable career for a woman as they have ‘frail and clumsy fingers’. So, she studied in secret! After she showed him a two-quarter jars of several hundred of teeth extracted by him that she had secretly filled, he allowed her to assist him. After her husband’s death she continued to practice dentistry by herself and owned the largest and most lucrative practices in Connecticut.
5. The FWD Sweden Amalia Assur was given special permission from the Royal Board of Health to practice independently as a dentist in 1852. Dentistry was not legally opened to women in Sweden before 1861. The FWD of Sweden to practice after dentistry was formally opened to women, was Rosalie Fougelberg (1866).
6. FWD UK Lilian Lindsay was initially refused admission to two dental colleges because she was a woman. The dean of one college was so concerned that she would distract male students, that he interviewed her on the pavement outside the school! She was the first woman member and years later, the first President, of the British Dental Association.
7. FWD Iran also called as ‘Mother of Dentistry’ in Iran, studied in Belgium. She was the younger sister of Abdolhossein Teymūrtāsh, a powerful Iranian politician. After his death, she endured 8 years of house arrest and exile. After her release, she co-founded a dental college in Iran.
Present Scenario Of Women In Dentistry-Global Stats & Struggles 9-16
In recent times, there has been a global gender shift in dentistry with a rise of female dentists. In fact in some countries, the ratio of female dentists to male dentists is in favour of the former.
- Women dentists in Russia constitute 48% of the dental workforce and in Finland, 75% of practicing dentists are women. 9,10
- Dental student enrolment in the USA consists of 42% women. US dental schools traditionally had hostile attitudes and stereotypes toward women – as emotional, undependable, distracting individuals, lacking in physical strength, undesirable for admission for training because they are more likely to get pregnant, and less capable than males. 11 This situation began to change around 1975 with the federal legislation granting funds and encouraging enrolments of women in professional health schools.
- 50% of new entrants to dental undergraduate courses in the UK are female, and more than 50% of all practicing dentists are female. Traditionally, women dentists in the UK were regarded by many as ‘masculine’. Over the years, women dentists became more accepted. In the 1960s, women were encouraged to join the Maternity and Child Welfare Service and the School Health Service. It was felt that this work would be particularly suitable for them and that child patients would react more favorably to women dentists. 12
- About 50 to 60% of students in all dental schools in India are female and about 15% of the deans in dental schools across the country are women. 13
- There has been an increase in the number of female dentists recently in the Middle East. Till very recently, career options were limited for women, other than education and medicine and also, women here prefer to be treated by female doctors, particularly in dentistry, gynaecology, and obstetrics. 14
- The American Dental Education Association revealed that there is a small percentage of women serving in significant administrative positions in dental colleges of the United States. This disparity, seen in other countries too, is particularly of concern, as the number of female students has steadily increased. 15
- Studies have also reported that female dentists working in the government sectors are usually given lower positions in the employment hierarchies, paid less than men, were less likely to hold consultant positions, and were usually clustered at the lower end of the employment ranking, especially at universities. 16
So we have come a long way, and we have a long way to go. Female dentists are constantly conflicted in balancing their careers with the competing responsibilities of marriage, homemaking, and childrearing – a challenge faced by only few male dentists. The next time you see a female dentist working hard, I hope you stop by to acknowledge and appreciate them – they deserve a small pat on the back!
Highlights Of Dental Divas Special Issue
- Hyson JM Jr. Women dentists: the origins. J Calif Dent Assoc. 2002;30(6):444-453.
- Early Women Students. The University of Sydney, 17 January 2019.
- Lilian Lindsay (1871 – 1960). The University of Edinburgh, 24 November 2017.
- India’s 1st woman dentist shares journey. Tribune India, 6 March 2018.
- Fatima Jinnah [1893–1967], Personalities in Pakistan’s History, Allama Iqbal,12 February 2012
- Emeline Roberts Jones | Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame”. Cwhf.org, 2011-10-08.
- Publications | Pierre Fauchard Academy”. www.fauchard.org. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
- Ogilvie, M.B.; Harvey, J.D. (2000). The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: L-Z. Routledge. p. 768.
- Pallavi SK, Rajkumar GC. Professional practice among woman dentist. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2011;1(1):14-19.
- Jeanne C. Sinkford. Global health through women’s leadership: Introduction to the conference proceedings. J Dent Educ. 2006;70:5–7.
- Sinkford JC, Valachovic RW, Harrison S. Advancement of women in dental education: Trends and strategies. J Dent Educ. 2018;67:79–83
- Stewart FM, Drummond JR. Women and the world of dentistry. Br Dent J. 2000;188:7–8
- Hari Prakash VP, Mathur RD, Jhuraney B. Dental workforce issues: a global concern. J Dent Edcu. 2006;70:22–6
- Shaker RE, Babgi AA. Women in dentistry: A perspective on major universities in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Dent J. 2009;21:103–12.
- Turner SP, West KP. A Qualitative comparison of women’s leadership programs at local and national levels. J Dent Educ. 2006;70:41–6.
- Ashri NY, Norah Ajaji Al, Mayyadah Mozainy Al, Rasha Sourani Al. Career profile of dentists in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Dent J. 2009;21:28–36