Overcoming unconscious bias and promoting equal opportunities
Equality and diversity have been hot topics among global societies of late, with various movements and campaigns aiming to raise awareness of the issues and instigate change.
Equality and diversity have been hot topics among global societies of late, with various movements and campaigns aiming to raise awareness of the issues and instigate change. The message has reached all corners and industries, with the Lego Group announcing its intention to stop marketing specific toys to either girls or boys. This comes after results from a survey showed that most children involved – from various nations worldwide – associated toys with a particular gender. It also suggested that girls were less restricted in what was ’acceptable’ for them to play with, while boys were more restrained by traditional views of typical toys for their gender. While the removal of gender bias from the company’s advertising will no doubt have a positive impact on sales, it does communicate the lengths to which traditional perceptions, marketing and societal norms have perpetuated gender stereotypes.
A similar concept can be seen across the adult working world. There are several jobs that have traditionally been gender biased – for example firefighters, plumbers and metal-workers would have typically been seen as ‘men’s jobs’, with nurses, midwives and primary school teachers being more ‘female roles’.
Even in dentistry, it was only a few years ago when the number of female dentists overtook the number of male clinicians registered with the GDC in the UK. A profession that had previously been dominated by men, is now far more diverse than it was before, with 51% of dentists registered being women according to a 2021 report.
In the dental technology sector, this is not yet the case, with many more males (73%) than females (27%) recorded in January 2021. Though this has changed slightly since January 2018 – when 75% of registered dental technicians were male – this is not a significant difference to evidence a long-term trend.
The first question we have to ask is whether there are inequal opportunities or gender bias surrounding the dental technology profession. Do males and females have access to the same education and training? Do they receive the same level of encouragement and praise within the industry? Are there any gender stigmas that exist within the profession?
Of course, these are not questions that dental technicians individually can always address, but it’s important to be aware of any barriers that people may encounter. Similarly, it is the responsibility of the profession to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to develop their skills, to grow and to build a long and prosperous career in the sector.
Removing unconscious bias
There are various things you can and should do in the workplace to avoid gender bias, including hiring or promoting according only to skill and dedication, being gender inclusive throughout the working environment and not allowing discrimination by gender in any way among the team, even if it is ‘just banter’. Going further, it is important to consider whether any unconscious bias is present and how you might remove this too.
The concept of unconscious bias is an interesting one. Basically, it is the idea that even people who are aware of potential bias and actively try to avoid it in their behaviour and treatment of others, may still have subconscious prejudices that influence their decisions. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) was created by Yale freshmen to help identify these unconscious tendencies, covering a broad range of topics that include gender bias. As the BDA has suggested, taking some of these tests may help individuals to better understand their potential unconscious biases so that they can manage them more effectively. This could be just as important an exercise for dental technicians as dentists and individuals in any other industry.
Aside from creating a diverse and safe working environment for everyone in the lab, ensuring equal access to career progression opportunities is just as important. Promotions should be awarded for talent and dedication alone, and assumptions should not be made about an employee’s preferences, working hours or abilities based on their gender.
When it comes to skill development and training, the same opportunities should be offered to all as well. This may include providing in-house CPD or facilitating the entire team in attending external training courses or events. The Dental Technology Showcase (DTS) is an excellent choice for the whole dental lab team, regardless of the background, interests or career ambitions. The two-day educational programme offers hours of Enhanced CPD through lectures, workshops and on-stand learning, enabling all professionals to further their knowledge and capabilities in the areas of their choosing.
The availability and promotion of equal opportunities is important in every industry and dental technology is no exception. Though there may be many reasons why the field continues to be dominated by males, doing what we can to ensure that everyone has the same chance to enter and progress within the sector is vital.