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The role of women in healthcare: the dental sector

il ruolo della donna nella sanita il settore odontoiatrco_selmedico.com

March 8 is International Women’s Rights Day, established to remember the social, economic and political achievements achieved over time, and at the same time to condemn the discrimination and violence to which women have been and are still subjected in every part of the world. It was born following the revolt of the New York textile workers of 1908, who went on strike to demand greater social and economic equity. It was established in 1975 by the United Nations General Assembly and represents an important sign of respect for women all over the world, a day in which to celebrate their strength and their importance within society.

As for the health sector, the percentage of women graduating from medical school has increased over the years; however, there are still many difficulties they encounter in emerging as professionals, especially in obtaining leadership positions in our National Health System. This emerged from an Openpolis survey: 31.5% are women who hold top positions in healthcare or hospital companies, i.e. just under a third, despite in 2022 for the first time the number of female doctors below 70 years exceeded the number of men (50.9%).

According to Rossana Berardi, Clinical Director of the Marche University Hospital, «The causes have not changed. We need to change the so-called Ermione syndrome, i.e. the inability to take a step forward. I run a graduate school, have a women’s group, and urge women to step up. There is an underlying fear that limits us a bit.».

The American psychologist Lisa Damour offers an additional explanation in the New York Times: in addition to the gender gap, there is a confidence gap on which women, teachers and parents of girls can and must work. The starting point came from a survey by The Atlantic, from which it emerges that in the workplace “underqualified and unprepared men don’t think twice before taking the plunge”, while “although overqualified and over-prepared, many women hold back. Women only have self-confidence when they’re perfect.” It is therefore often insecurity that limits women from taking on leadership roles; insecurity that perhaps derives from having been told all their lives that they are one step behind men.

As far as the dental sector is concerned, it is still colored blue, but pink is advancing.
Of the 62,898 registered in the Register of Dentists, 17,158 are women, but the percentages change drastically if you look at the data by age group. Among those aged 60-69 the presence of women is 18%, among those aged 45-49 it rises to 36%, among those aged 40-44 it rises to 42%, in those aged 35-39 it reaches 45.7%, in those aged 30-34 to 42.8% while female members between 25-29 reach 48%. In the halls of “power”, on the other hand, women are in fact absent: none in the Central Committee of the FNOMCeO and not even in the national CAO are women. And at the level of the provincial Orders things are no better. Out of the 106 Orders, there are only 11 medical presidents while there are 5 CAO presidents.

According to Eleonora Cardamone, vice president of AIO, the lower presence of women in the dental world is due to the fact that nine times out of ten dentists’ services are provided in the professional field. Owning a practice involves rhythms and commitments that are not always easy to reconcile with private life, especially with looking after a family. For those who work in an associated practice, the road is less uphill, given that they have more possibilities to organize their presence, but it is still necessary to consider what long absences entail in terms of patient retention. In fact, the reconciliation between family and work is complicated for women. According to an ISTAT research, the share of 18-64 year old women with children under 15 forced to change aspects and ways of working in order to be able to follow family commitments and professional activities is 38.8%. For fathers, the rate drops to 11.9%: women sacrifice their work three times as much as their partners.

The Ministry of Labor is aware of this, and aims to introduce new protection rules, such as the establishment of a Commission on work-family conciliation.

There are also some factors that make women particularly suitable for dental work, and Francesca Ibertis, president of ANDI Asti recounts some of them: “we have an innate ability to care and the ability to establish empathetic relationships and this makes it easier for patients entrust such an intimate and personal environment as your mouth to the care of a female dentist. We can easily grasp non-verbal messages, which is very useful for understanding those patients who find it difficult to openly express expectations, doubts and sometimes fears. Furthermore, women have the not indifferent physical advantage of a thinner hand, not bulky and suitable for fine and precise movements, a great resistance to forced work positions and more physical flexibility than their male colleagues. It is only an external impediment, in short, which often prevents women from fulfilling themselves professionally and taking on roles of power. What is defined as inferiority of the female gender does not actually exist.

In conclusion, International Women’s Rights Day occurs on March 8 every year, to remember the social, economic and political achievements. Today, however, it appears as a commanded appointment. If we browse through articles and press releases from the last few decades, it immediately becomes clear that it is a cliché that repeats itself once a year without great results. The mirror of a country that is the worst in Europe after Malta for the gender gap at work: the gap is almost 19 points compared to men.

At SelMedico we try every day to guarantee equal opportunities for men and women, creating a climate of gender inclusion and tolerance. Our staff is made up in equal parts of women and men, and we are well aware of the added value that each of them can bring to the working environment. Let’s remember that celebrating March 8 as a simple stereotype or social conformity is a hypocritical attitude: we need to provide women with exactly the same possibilities that men are given, valuing them every day of the year.

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