Sir, an independent review into gender pay gaps in medicine found 'the gender pay gap between men and women in medicine is highest for hospital doctors, with female doctors earning 18.9% less an hour when adjusted for contracted hours' and 'women are more likely to work less than full time (LTFT), and most never catch up with male peers even after a return to full-time working'.1 This will apply to many of our colleagues who work in salaried services, whether it be the community dental service, within hospitals or in academia. I hope the acknowledgement of such data means we can begin to work towards a more equal approach to a career progression in salaried posts.
The report acknowledged 'an unconscious bias amongst peers, recruiters, and even the wider health and care community, that those on LTFT contracts lack the same levels of skill and experience as their full-time colleagues. We must put a value on individual talent and ability, not hours on the clock'.1 National recruitment into specialty training in 2020 had an emphasis on time, and although I appreciate this was abnormal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe this is going to continue into this year's recruitment. I feel this could cause an inequality for those that have taken time out of training, possibly due to maternity leave, but also health reasons, working abroad, gaining experience in general practice etc. This is all valuable experience and should be what sets us apart and treasured, instead of focusing on quantifiable factors achieved within a time limit. In creating a more flexible pathway, with more emphasis on talent and ability, it will not only reduce gender inequality, but I believe dentists will be able to self-direct their learning, have improved job satisfaction and allow higher levels of taxonomy to be attained as individuals will have capacity for creative thinking instead on focusing on 'ticking the boxes'.
Once in academia, 91% of consultants work extra hours but not everyone is able to do this and should not be thus penalised in their career progression.2 Valuing staff for their high standard of work within their contractual obligations, and assessing for talent without timeframes, will create a more inclusive workforce. These changes therefore will not only benefit women, but the entire workforce, and our patients. I look forward to seeing how, as a profession, we rise to this challenge.
Dacre J, Woodhams C, Atkinson C et al. Mend the Gap: The Independent Review into Gender Pay Gaps in Medicine in England. Department of Health and Social Care, 2020. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/944246/Gender_pay_gap_in_medicine_review.pdf (accessed February 2021).
Watson N, Tang P, Knight E. Survey of Dental Clinical Academic Staffing Levels: A report by the Dental Schools Council. Dental Schools Council, 2018. Available at: https://www.dentalschoolscouncil.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/clinical-academic-survey-dental-2018.pdf (accessed February 2021).
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Lundbeck, H. Time for equality. Br Dent J 230, 272–273 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-021-2794-5