Most women in dentistry have come up against inequity. As in many industries, discrimination against women can be as casual as a thoughtless comment from a superior or as grave as outright mysogeny and as pervasive as pay discrepancy.
This is something that Dr. Susan MacMahon, DMD, AAACD, FAGD talks about at length in her recent article in Dental Economics Magazine, “Women in Dentistry: Evolving Industry Culture”. This article left a big impression on me—largely because I don’t think these issues get discussed half as much as they should. All genders should be invested in seeing women succeed in dentistry!
In fact, how women can empower women gets swept under the rug all too often in our industry—because if we all really worked together, we could totally transform dentistry. If we can find community with one another, we have the power to succeed in the fight against discrimination.
I encourage you all to read Dr. MacMahon’s article. These are some of my reflections on her piece.
Women in Dentistry Are Not Your Competition
The belief that we are in competition with one another is so pervasive. But it’s total BS! I believe that it springs from a scarcity mindset—it’s essentially the idea that there is only so much room at the table, so we each have to fight to keep our place at it.
But nothing could be further from the truth!
In fact, I believe the opposite. I’ve witnessed how women can empower other women to make MORE SPACE at the table entirely. There is no maximum number of people that are allowed within a given field. In fact, can you imagine how awesome it would be if dentistry was a female-dominated field? How would the culture be different?
I believe that changing the narrative about other women in dentistry goes beyond just seeing one another in a friendly light, but should include the willingness to both mentor others and be a mentee when you need to.
Learning from others as well as sharing your wisdom helps each of us grow and evolve in our careers—while also offering other women invaluable opportunities to do the same.
I absolutely would not be where I am today without the support of other women in dentistry… and I want to be a mentor to pay it forward. That’s a big part of why I created E-School!
A community of women has so much power to create change, no matter what field they’re working in. So I suggest you find your trusted circle, if you haven’t already.
Communities can become more than just a hub for sharing information and opportunities—they also function as support groups. Need to blow off some steam after a tough day or a frustrating encounter with a colleague? Your community can listen and give advice. Struggling with an aspect of the job that seems to come so naturally to everyone else? I guarantee others have been in your shoes before.
Access to a community of supportive people—men, included—in your profession means you have a safe space to ask questions as well as answer them. This is where individuals gain the confidence and encouragement they need to reach their goals. I have a bunch of communities, including my team at my practice, Mommy Dentists in Business, Women in Endodontics, and more!
Support Businesses that Support Women
Money talks. For that reason, I think it is so important to support businesses that are led by women, are dominated by women, and honor the work that women do. I believe that by shopping at and promoting the work of these companies, we support more women in dentistry because there tends to be a ripple effect—women-run businesses tend to hire more women. When women are in leadership in a business, young women get more support from above as they advance in their careers.
Some of my favorite women-owned businesses (in dentistry and beyond) to support are CoCo Floss (shoutout to the incredible sister who started it—Dr. Chrystle Cu and wonderful artist Catherine Cu), as well as Yapi App (co-founded by Dr. Gina Dorfman) and Light Solutions (which is co-owned by Dr. Tina Shaw!).
I believe that when we as women honor ourselves and give ourselves all the space and support we need to truly thrive—then we are in a better position to change our communities and uplift others.
For me this means hiring support—other doctors for my clinic and great assistants, for example. It also means hiring people to help me in my personal life, too—like a chef, massage therapist, and stylist. By using my resources to keep me healthy, happy, and sane, I free up my time and energy to do the stuff that fills up my cup and ticks the needle forward on my big goals. This is how I balance all the things going on in my life and feel fulfilled while I do it.
Meanwhile, I delegate in my practice, giving my staff ownership over their roles and letting them truly own their position and grow within it—learning new things all the time. This means the women on staff are able to evolve and grow, just as I am. It’s a win-win.
But empowering yourself is also about mindset. And letting anyone make you feel guilty for pursuing your dreams is both corrosive and totally irrelevant. Remember—if they were doing better than you, they wouldn’t be taking the time to criticize how you’re living your life or reaching your goals!
There is no one path that everyone has to follow to be great in their professional or personal lives. This goes for women as well as men.
But just remember, that as you reach greater and greater levels of success—pay it forward. Others—especially women—deserve community. And together we can make a difference.
Big kudos to my friend, Dr. Susan MacMahon, DMD, AAACD, FAGD, for shedding light on this important topic! Please go read her article in Dental Economics Magazine, if you haven’t yet.
How are you supporting other women in dentistry? Tell me all about it in the comments. Let’s support one another!