Diversity in dentistry: evolving nature of Australian workplace (2)

This piece continues an article begun in Diversity in dentistry: The evolving nature of the Australian workplace (1)

Responding to the market

Julie Parker of Melbourne agency Julie Parker Practice Success believes Australian dentistry has embraced diversity in impressive ways, not just from an ethical point of view, but also from the business aspect.

“Most dentists I’ve worked with get the cultural change of recent decades, and just as the client base has become more diverse, so has the understanding of meeting the needs of those various cultures for the sake of remaining in business,” she says.

“As the market has shown a need for diversity, I believe the profession has fallen into line with that. It comes down to knowing how to work with your client base, and treating them accordingly is no big deal – it’s just how you do business.”

Changes in the dental workforce in terms of cultural and ethnic backgrounds has also undergone a major transformation, Ms Parker adds.

“Look around at the next dental conference and take note of the range of faces you see there, working at all levels,” she says. “We have an enormously diverse range of dental practitioners across the country. I like to think, as a profession, we have an understanding of why good workplace policies and practises in valuing what each other brings to the job are so crucial.”

A good move for business

Creating diversity in the workplace isn’t simply ‘the right thing to do’. Well-planned and executed diversity initiatives and policies can have benefits in terms of recruitment, retention and promotion of the best available talent; increased productivity, creativity and strategic vision; and customer relationships.

The Center for American Progress A Diverse Workforce is Integral to a Strong Economy report outlines the economic benefits of workplace diversity. Among the listed factors are a greater share of the consumer market, attracting consumers from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, recruiting a more qualified workforce from a larger talent pool and fostering a more creative and innovative workforce.

The same point is made in the AHRC’s report Leading for Change Report; “A more diverse workforce makes for better decision-making. There is mounting evidence that more diverse organisations achieve better performance.”

Leading the way

Dr Angela Pierce is an ADA Federal Councillor and on the ADA’s Constitution and Policy Committee. In a recent interview in the ADA News Bulletin [April, 2019], she said while she was pleased the issue of equality and representation in dentistry being in the spotlight, leadership and governance are the keys to achieving better diversity across the profession.

“Governance is where women need more representation and also in specialisation – it really has been a problem,” Dr Pierce says. “It is taking longer as less women applied to dentistry for years, and there is a difference in the biological life cycles of females and males. It is tough when you’re a thirtysomething mother and find you have to play catch up, as you can’t spend all those extra hours working that grad students are often expected to spend.

“That change will happen, it is now just a matter of time for there to be a proper balance between male and female representation as far as governance is concerned. I am just glad these issues are coming up again for discussion as there seems to have been a couple of decades of apathy, or maybe it was a case of women bashing their heads against glass ceilings.”

A family friendly approach

Dentistry has long been considered one of the more family-friendly careers, that can be a good fit for working parents, with the flexibility to work part-time or full-time. That doesn’t mean, however, it’s all plain sailing.

“Diversity needs to be more than just adopting a range of good policies, it’s also about putting them into play and considering what else might be going on within your staff’s life,” Julie Parker says. “Male or female, they may be the parent who has to pick up the kids after school, and yet if there is a board meeting called for that time, it can be a real problem.”

Adds Dr Holden, “I hear those kind of reports from female colleagues all the time that they were welcome to go to senior and management meetings, but never could because those meetings were held late and never facilitated with any sort of consideration of what other commitments that dentist had to fit in.”

Not time for complacency

The role of strong leadership cannot be underestimated when advancing workplace diversity, adds former Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane, now the University of Sydney’s first Professor of Practice (Sociology and Political Theory). At the time of the release of his Leading for Change report, Dr Soutphommasane said cultural diversity must be addressed at all levels, and it requires far more than just consciousness raising. It also needs training and education, particularly through talent mentoring and sponsorship and professional development.

“It would be complacent to believe that it will only be a matter of time before cultural diversity is better represented,” he said. “Getting serious about the issue demands that leaders and organisations take committed action in three areas: leadership, systems and culture. If we are committed to deepening our success as a multicultural society, there must be consideration of collection and reporting of comprehensive data on cultural diversity within Australian organisations and institutions.”

Information on diversity

Some of the places to find resources and advice on Diversity:

Australian Human Rights Commission

Diversity Council Australia

Australian Dental Association

Diversity in the workplace

The Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland offers these tips for effective ways for creating a diverse workplace:

• Identify and address any unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion that may be preventing particular groups of people from joining or staying at your workplace.

• Discuss diversity with your employees, highlighting the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace.

• Value individual skills that employees bring, including language skills and international experience

that may help to broaden your market and business connections.

• Ensure flexible work options are available to all staff, including comprehensive parental leave policies for both men and women.

• Be aware of different cultural practices and special needs of employees and make workplace adjustments where appropriate.

• Take steps to prevent discrimination and harassment in your workplace.

For the full article, please go to News Bulletin Online

/ADA Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.