Dr Sepi Shahidi,
The first time I really felt conscious bias was when I graduated and started being interviewed for jobs. I was asked do you have a partner, a boyfriend, do you plan on having a child any time soon. I didn't even realise then that it was not legally allowed to ask that.
As my career progressed, other examples include working for a male dominated dental clinics where they wouldn't notify me when they were going on certain courses, events or conferences. I was excluded and treated as one of the nurses instead of as a dentist which was really unfair as it hindered my personal and professional development. Big cases were always handed to my male counterparts even though I was consistently overachieving on my NHS quotas and was craving for the opportunity for these big private cases. I was told - oh it's intense, manual labour requiring a man's touch. I was young and didn't question it at the time but did have a real sense that I was losing out and was being treated differently.
As a result, I now make a big effort whenever someone new joins to keep them included and to make them feel empowered. Compliments can go a long, long way, bringing people out of their shells and bringing the best out of them. Saying well done or thank you can have a huge impact on how valued or appreciated people feel. If there is an event I always check 'oh is this person invited' to ensure no one is excluded. I do this in a non-aggressive way so as not to make anyone uncomfortable but to gently let them know someone is paying attention. I also extend this to my patients as its super important to understand we have the power to make people feel better not just through our clinical practice but through the way we treat people, the attention we pay them. People blossom when paid positive attention. I pay intention to all the invisible people, the cleaners, those working on counters - everyone.
I would say to my younger self and to any dental or aesthetic practitioner who is doubting themselves or going through similar experiences of exclusion and inequity, your feelings are valid. Just because it happens doesn't mean that its ok. You shouldn't feel guilty for wanting more, for asking questions, for expressing your feelings. You're simply wanting to do the best you can and it's important to get that approval through being recognised and being included. Know that it's not a you problem, It's a them problem. ◆
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Shahidi, S. Changing the narrative on unconscious bias: Their stories. BDJ In Pract 35, 18 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41404-022-1748-1