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Where is our Female dental force going?

female-dentist-pakistanA January report released by Canberra Australia revealed that female dentists in Australia have risen from 35 percent to 37 percent in 2012.

Proportion wise, females constitute 97 percent of employed dental therapists, 95 percent of employed dental hygienists and 85 percent of oral therapists in Australia. This indicates a positive trend in the previously male dominated field of dentistry in the country.

This raises a question in our own courtyard. While almost 70 to 80 percent of females constitute the entire batch that is taken in each year in dental colleges and universities of Pakistan, we see only a handful of these in the employed stream. Unfortunately, the cultural role of women as caregivers and housewives has restricted many of these bright potentials from seeking further studies, establishing their own practices, or even becoming employed, thereby remaining unable in contributing to the country’s economy.

This fact has been raised from time to time, but the sad part of the matter is that there seems to be no shift in the demographics of women who continue with dentistry after their house jobs. The question is why?

While we may consider the societal aspects as the major influencers of this sudden drop in employed dental surgeon’s population, shouldn’t these women take some responsibility too? Some women are not interested in furthering their studies, despite available options. At other times, some women take up studies only to leave them at later stages. Finally, the senior female dental surgeons may not be inclined to hire female dental surgeons, owing to their unpredictable future plans, which are largely guided by marriage, say of husband or in-laws and raising children.

But are they really the ones to blame? The next question that comes to mind is that is our male dominated dental profession open and ready to let go its hegemony in the field to women? Many women cite bad culture as a part of their decision to move away from the profession.

The good news is that there are islands of excellence in the dental field. These women have not only excelled in their careers but also have become the key opinion leaders in their respective domains. These women remain an inspiration to other female dental surgeons. However, platforms where these women can be given the opportunities where these extraneous influences are reduced or minimized are missing. Perhaps if these avenues are opened, we may be able to fill the void of deficiency of dental surgeons in our country, calculated at one dental surgeon per population of 1000. Who is the take the initiative?

February 7, 2014

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Dental is part of the Medical News Group of publications which in 1968 became the pioneer of medical journalism in Pakistan. Medical News is the only periodical in Pakistan which has 3 simultaneous editions from Karachi, Islamabad and online.

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