The number of full-time female faculty has increased at dental schools in the U.S., but men still outnumber -- and outearn -- women faculty at schools, according to an article published recently in the Journal of Dental Education.
In addition to being paid at lower rates than their male counterparts, female deans make less in total compensation. The article suggests that academic institutions need new strategies to ensure gender parity and pay equity, the authors wrote.
"While it may seem ordinary in our time for women to be dentists or dental educators, the path was neither always easy, nor has true equity been achieved," wrote the authors, led by Dr. M. Nathalia Garcia, MS, of the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine in Alton (J Dent Educ, September 27, 2022, Vol. 86:9, pp. 1182-1190).
The percentage of women earning degrees continues to grow. Female students have earned 50% or more of all baccalaureate degrees for the past three decades, and women have earned 50% of all doctoral degrees for almost a decade. If half of doctoral program graduates are women, it follows that at least 50% of leadership roles in higher education should be women. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support this, according to the article.
About two decades ago, female job applicants interested in landing a leadership position at a dental school would have been perceived as highly aspirational. In 2010, women continued to fall behind men at every career stage, and 10 years ago, the ratio of male to female faculty in U.S. dental schools was 3 to 1.
At the same time, the representation of women in dentistry is growing. The percentage of women in the dental workforce was about 24% in 2010 and grew to nearly 35% by 2020.
In the 2018-2019 academic year, 59.5% of positions at dental schools in the U.S. were held by men. Also, men were paid at higher rates than their female counterparts, and deans who were women made 7% less in total compensation, the authors wrote.
To tighten the pay gap and ensure that women are fully represented at dental schools, academic organizations must invest resources and provide nurturing environments that promote professional performance and leadership skills for women to facilitate their progress in organized dentistry, they wrote.
"To ensure fairness, strategies and measures must be available to compensate for women's historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field," Garcia and colleagues wrote.