While there is an increasing number of women entering the dental profession, they are still underrepresented in leadership roles in major dental organizations, academia, and journal boards. Keynote and invited speaking roles in professional and scientific conferences recognize expertise and leadership and are key factors in career advancement and academic promotions. The aim of this study was to investigate gender differences in representation at dental continuing professional development (CPD) events and conferences in Australia.
An analysis of the gender of speakers was conducted with CPD and conference programs that are publicly available online from the federal and Victorian branches of the Australian Dental Association, the peak national body for dentists.
The planned 2020 Victorian Branch CPD program featured 30 events, with a mean 2.5 speakers per event. There were 58 scientific presentations in the schedule, 22 (38%) of which were allocated to female speakers. Seven CPD events in 2020 included only female speakers, and 13 included only male speakers. The 37th and 38th Australian Dental Congresses featured 25% and 36% of female speakers, respectively. All keynote speakers were male for both events, and men accounted for 86% and 93% of international speakers.
While women are approaching parity in local and state-level CPD events, there is a large discrepancy in the male-to-female speaker ratio for major national conferences. Suggestions to improve gender imbalance include having women on the convening committee and developing and implementing policies to address the imbalance. There has been significant progress in addressing gender inequity in dentistry, but gender-balanced leadership in major conferences still needs to be addressed.
Knowledge Transfer Statement
The findings of this study show that while women may be approaching parity with small continuing professional development events, they are still underrepresented as speakers in major conferences. It is recommended that active policies be implemented to reduce the imbalance to ensure gender-balanced leadership in one aspect of the dental profession in Australia.