THE number of women working in NHS dentistry in England increased by 3.1 per cent in 2014/15 to 11,285 and this figure represents a 44.2 per cent increase on 2006/07, according to statistics highlighted by the BDA on International Women’s Day.
Among those under age 44 there are now a greater percentage of female dentists working than male dentists. In the 35-44 age group 51 per cent of dentists are female and in the under-35 age group 57 per cent of are female.
This pattern is also evident in the devolved nations. In Northern Ireland, 52 per cent (2015) of the General Dental Service workforce is female and in Scotland, female NHS general dental practitioners comprise over 47 per cent (2013) of GDPs. In Wales the gender ratio is now close to 50:50 and the community dental service in Wales is dominated by females (67 per cent; 2012).
A recent (2015) BDA survey of dentists working as associates in England found that females report lower monthly incomes than their male counterparts. Ten per cent of women report monthly gross earnings of £6,000-£7,999 compared to 27 per of men on the same income bracket. Women are more likely to be earning in the lower bracket of £2,000-£3,999 (25 per cent reported to be in this bracket compared to 14 per cent of male respondents).
The survey also revealed that female associates in England are more likely to be working part-time: 54 per cent said they worked 30 hours or less (compared to 27 per cent of men working part-time) with 72 per cent of men working more than 30 hours (compared to 45 per cent of women). The BDA believes this may partly account for the lower reported incomes but there may be other factors at work under the current NHS contract that negatively impact on female dentist's earning potential.
Judith Husband, Chair of the BDA's Ethics, Education and the Dental Team, said: "The gender balance of the dental workforce in ten 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. The ramifications of this shift for future workforce planning are still yet to be fully appreciated, or planned for.
"I really want to see more women stepping up and getting involved. 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."