Bulletin of Dental Education

100 Years After the 19th Amendment: Striving for Gender Equity in Dental Education

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In August 2020, our nation celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in this country. The 19th Amendment was a significant victory; however, at the time of its ratification, its protections only applied to white women. It was not until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson that suffrage was extended to include Asian, Black, Indigenous and Latinx Americans, who had previously been kept from the polls through a variety of voter suppression tactics. As we reflect on this important moment in history, we must acknowledge there remains much work to be done to ensure true gender equity in this country. 

One hundred years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, dental schools face their own gender equity challenges. According to ADEA dental school application and enrollment analysis, the predoctoral student population becomes more diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity each year, increasingly reflecting the United States population. 2015 was the first year there were more women applicants than men,1 and 2018 was the first year more women enrolled in dental school than men.2 These trends are the result of steady increases in the number of women applicants (6,033 in 2019) and enrollees as well as a decline in the number of men applicants (5,101 in 2019).3 The margin between the number of women and men enrollees is growing rapidly. By 2019, 11% more women than men matriculated at dental schools. However, men still enroll in dental school at higher rates than women, at 58% versus 54% in 2019.4

Unfortunately, trends in dental school faculty do not reflect the same steady increase in diversity as the dental student population. The 2018-2019 ADEA dental school faculty survey shows that white men make up 42% of all full-time and part-time faculty.5 In contrast, 86% of allied dental program faculty are women and 84% of allied dental program faculty are white.6

Advancing diversity within dental education is a top priority for ADEA. Diversity is not only a moral imperative that benefits faculty, students and the patients they are called to serve, but dental education is also mandated to diversify the learning and working environments of dental education institutions in both Commission on Dental Accreditation Standard 1-3 and Standard 1-4. To that end, ADEA has created a number of resources, including the new ADEA Faculty Diversity Toolkit and its companion, the ADEA Faculty Diversity Toolkit Facilitator’s Guide , to assist with these diversity efforts and mandates. With the introduction of these tools and others like them, ADEA reaffirms its commitment to ongoing collaborations and partnerships, working toward the goal of increasing the representation of women and historically underrepresented and marginalized individuals in U.S. and Canadian dental education faculty.

1 American Dental Education Association. U.S. Dental School Applicants and Enrollees, 2015 Entering Class. Washington, DC: ADEA. At: www.adea.org/data/students. Accessed 27 Aug. 2020.
2 American Dental Education Association. U.S. Dental School Applicants and Enrollees, 2018 Entering Class. Washington, DC: ADEA. At: www.adea.org/data/students. Accessed 27 Aug. 2020.
3 American Dental Education Association, U.S. Dental School Applicants and Enrollees, 2019 Entering Class.
4 American Dental Education Association, U.S. Dental School Applicants and Enrollees, 2019 Entering Class.
5 American Dental Education Association. Dental School Faculty; 2018-19. Washington, DC: ADEA. At: www.adea.org/data/Faculty/2018-2019-Survey. Accessed 27 Aug. 2020.
6 ADEA Survey of Allied Dental Program Directors, 2018. Washington, DC: American Dental Education Association, July 2019. At: www.adea.org/Allied-Faculty/2017-2018-Survey.

Published on October 14, 2020

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