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SADJ. 2005 Aug;60(7):284, 286, 288 passim.

Women in dentistry in South Africa: a survey of their experiences and opinions.

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Department of Community Oral Health, University of the Western Cape, Tygerberg.


Women form an increasingly important part of the dentally trained workforce in South Africa. However, little is known about the professional issues and work-related problems affecting women dentists. A postal survey was undertaken of registered female dental practitioners in the country, with the aim to document their experiences. The survey (i) ascertained their current pattern of work, (ii) identified factors influencing their work patterns and (iii) identified factors that would help women remain in the profession or re-enter it more easily after an absence. A self-administered 50-item questionnaire containing open and closed-ended questions was used. Questions related to professional status, working patterns, practice ownership, postgraduate qualifications and career satisfaction. Nine hundred and sixty questionnaires were sent out and 280 were returned (29% response rate). Although a significant majority were currently practicing (96%), about 20% were employed or worked part-time and 7 reported that they were not in practice at the time of the survey for various reasons including maternity leave, ill-health, retirement or that they were now working outside the dental field. Major factors identified in this study were the women's dual responsibility at home and at work. Few women find themselves in specialist practice, although 68% indicated that they would liked to have specialised. Home responsibilities and inflexible working conditions were commonly reported difficulties experienced with further studies. In addition, the lack of part-time training and the geographical location of training facilities also played a role. Women dentists need more flexible working schedules and conditions of employment. Part-time training and part-time career options should be extended. Retraining and refresher courses for Women dentists who have had a break in their careers should be available to enable them to return sooner and more easily to practice. Tertiary training dental facilities throughout the country should take up this challenge and run courses that are tailored to the local need and domestic commitments of the women involved.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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