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Wonder women of dentistry: Female dentists go from rarity to building profession, communities up

For every dollar a male dentist makes, women, on average, earn 65 cents. While 13 cents of that gap is accounted for by things like differences in experience levels, specialty and hours worked, there still remains 22 cents of earnings differences that remain “unexplained.” Female dentists made up 32% of the workforce in 2018 but the percentage women in leadership positions in organized dentistry fall short of that, according to ADA data.

Gaps in wages and leadership representation — and the need and ways to close them — were among the subjects Dr. Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, ADA executive director, discussed March 7 at this year’s Women’s Executive Forum, an annual assembly of female association CEOs and emerging leaders designed to facilitate candid conversations around specific issues, challenges and opportunities. Dr. O’Loughlin served as the event’s keynote speaker.

In recognition of her achievements and leadership as the first female executive director of the ADA, Dr. O’Loughlin was also the recipient of the Association Forum’s 2019 Woman of Influence award.

“She has broken down barriers and paved the way for future generations of women to believe that they can accomplish the previously unimaginable,” said Michelle Mason, Association Forum president and CEO.

“Over the course of my career, it’s been gratifying to see the growth of both women dentists and women leaders,” Dr. O’Loughlin said. “We’re not done yet, and I’m excited to work with the next generation of women.”

While female dentists continue to face unique challenges in the profession, they have found and continue to find opportunities to move dentistry forward, contributing in various fields including academia, science and research, organized dentistry and advocacy.