Women in Dentistry: Why Early STEM Education Drives Modern Representation

Women in Dentisty - Ealry STEM Education
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by Kristi Casey, CEO, Rock Dental Brands.

March is Women’s History Month, a time for all of us to reflect on and recognize industry pioneers, inventors and fearless leaders. It’s been empowering to see women’s efforts balancing out traditionally male-dominant roles and diversifying industries in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Women in STEM fill crucial roles in our society, from doctors and dentists to computer scientists and engineers. In 2019, women accounted for 27% of employees in STEM industries, nearly twice as many as in 2010.

By encouraging young girls to pursue STEM education and careers, we’re engaging an often overlooked group. Emerson reports that two out of three U.S. women say they were not encouraged to pursue STEM career options or education opportunities when they were younger. It’s up to parents, teachers and mentors of young girls to invest in their STEM interests at an early age.

Today, the STEM industry shows incredible growth, with women in the workforce accounting for 50% of its total, a slight increase in their share of the American workforce (47%), according to the Pew Research Center. If we neglect this interest rather than foster its growth, we could see a shortage of women pursuing STEM careers. For the dental industry, this could mean women losing a crucial foothold established in the early 1900s.

We understand the importance of female representation in industry. At Rock Dental Brands, 90% of our staff is female. More than half of our leadership is comprised of female executives, and 47% of our providers are women.

These women showcase STEM excellence every day and are proving to any young girl or woman who walks through our doors that women belong in dentistry.

Women practicing dentistry united to form the American Association of Women Dentists in 1921, advocating and campaigning for the rights of women across the nation. Yet, dentistry continued to be a male-dominant profession until the start of WWII. As men were called into service, women stepped into dental leadership roles and kept the industry running in their absence. When G.I.s returned home, many men reclaimed their positions, but progress for women had taken root.

In 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was approved by Congress, establishing that equality of rights under the law should not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.

Despite positive growth in women’s rights and a growing workforce, women accounted for just 16% of dental school graduates in 1980, up from 1% in 1968. This slow growth would soon give way to a rapid flood of STEM jobs.

Today, women account for over half of all dental school graduates. Data from the American Dental Association indicates that as of 2023, 202,304 licensed dentists are practicing in America, with women representing 37.7% of that number.

It’s also important to note that over 60% of dentists under the age of 44 are women and many have been in the profession for decades. Yet, according to the Department of Labor, women in dentistry may be earning as little as 83.6% of what their male counterparts are.

For the industry to continue its forward trajectory of equal opportunity and pay for the rising number of women in dentistry, big changes are necessary. That starts with championing STEM education and increasing the representation of women in our workforce.

We’ve come far in our journey for equality, but there’s still a long road ahead of us. I hope you’ll join Rock Dental Brands in celebrating women in STEM careers and young girls who are passionate about science, technology, engineering or mathematics, not just in Women’s History Month, but every month.

Together, we can tear down inequality barriers within the dental industry and foster meaningful opportunities in STEM for this generation and the next.

As CEO of Rock Dental Brands, Kristi Casey leads more than 850 employees and 109 affiliate dental clinics across Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee. Prior to joining Rock Dental Brands in 2019, Casey spent 17 years successfully climbing the ranks at Verizon, the largest telecom company in the United States, ultimately holding numerous executive-level positions including president of the South Central Region, as well as vice president of marketing and distribution strategy. Casey is a North Little Rock native and earned a bachelor of science in biology from Hendrix College in Conway. She’s a mother of twin boys and proudly resides with her family in downtown Little Rock’s historic Quapaw Quarter.

  • Job Title: Westrock Orthodontics

    "The decision to affiliate with Rock Dental Brands was easy. They are a dental practice management group that is founded by dentists and focuses on putting patients first. This affiliation has not only relieved harrowing administrative tasks, but also allowed me to keep my professional autonomy and set my own schedule. All of this, plus Rock Dental Brands’ proven track record, I am able to trust them to do the right thing for my practice and my patients."

  • Job Title: Owner Founder | Chief Dental Officer

    "How can I say as an individual provider, when I get out of school and open my practice, that I am providing better care than a group of doctors who have support with difficult cases and other specialists available for consultations? I don’t think anyone would disagree if I have a heart issue I want to go somewhere where there are multiple specialists that will take good care of me. I got into this because I feel that our organization can provide great quality and do it cost effectively. We are serious about quality. If we weren’t I wouldn’t be a part of it."

  • Job Title: Owner | Pediatric Dentist

    "Rock Dental Brands prides themselves on taking care of their patients before profits. I was in a place in my life where I wanted to be with a group who was owned by dentists, practiced dentistry, and knew what it is like to own a business and to provide excellent patient care. Rock Dental has wonderful values that align with my own core values. I love that about them."

  • Job Title: Owner Founder | Orthodontist

    "I love to see patients - that's why I became an orthodontist. What I don't love is bills, past due accounts, managing employee 401(k)'s, bonuses, marketing, and of course countless other issues that unexpectedly arise each day. Rock Dental Brands has taken many things off my hands leaving me free to concentrate on what I love: treating patients. The partnership between Rock Dental and our team "on the ground" has been wonderful. Rock Dental is an extension of our team that benefits our practice and our patients in way that I was unable to provide myself."

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