Episode 006 – Women in Dentistry Today

In this episode of the My Dental Agency Podcast, Jackie speaks with special Guest Anne from DeW Life,  a women’s lifestyle magazine for all women in dentistry. DeW Life’s goal is to inspire and highlight women in dentistry and to be true to our shared commitment of being our best in all things, using our gifts for others while taking care of ourselves.

S1 00:16[music] On today's episode we have a very special guest. I've asked Anne from DeWlife magazine to join us and share her journey as a professional woman in dentistry. We're also going to chat about how women in dentistry have evolved over the last decade. DeW, which stands for Dental Entrepreneur Woman is a women's lifestyle magazine for all women in dentistry. Of course, I love this concept, being a woman in the dental industry for over a decade. I'm getting to see first-hand how the presence of women in the industry has really changed. Thanks for joining us, Anne.
S2 00:47Well, thank you for having me, Jackie. I'm thrilled to be here.
S1 00:50I'm excited as well! So, Anne, tell us your story. How did you get started in the dental industry as a whole? And then how did DeWlife evolve? Kind of walk us through that process.
S2 01:05Well, okay. I started in dentistry back in 1974, graduated from Ohio State's Dental Hygiene Program. And that was back in the day when you either go to college for teaching, nursing, or dental hygiene. So it was just a nice fit for me. I liked my dental hygienists when I was growing up and I was lucky to go to the dentist every six months. So it was important to me the oral health dynamic. So I started practicing and married my college sweetheart. With that, we moved about 10 times before we got to Charlotte, North Carolina, that's where I live now. And I took the state board and continued to practice, raising three kids, and again, traveling across the country, working for a lot of different practices. And actually, to this day, I still work a half day a week at the dental practice here in Charlotte, North Carolina. I love it. It keeps me relevant and authentic when I'm publishing two magazines now: Dental Entrepreneur, which goes to all the dental schools, the Business Beyond the Classroom magazine, for those-- little business because, as we all know, they don't get really much business education in dental school. And I started DeWlife, for dental entrepreneur woman, gosh, July 18th, 2016. That is when I hung the phone up and just was pretty much outraged by that point, Jackie, that through my experience and all the connections I'd had in dentistry with sales and marketing and reaching out to the corporations for advertising for the magazines. And then the authors. And then I'd built a team of-- a sales force, actually, a direct sales team selling toothpaste and mouth rinse.
S2 03:03So I had a lot of knowledge with all women in dentistry at every level and every opportunity. And I just felt that women were not getting their due, so to speak, and pun intended [laughter]. Yeah, they just weren't getting the speaking gigs. I found out through my colleagues they weren't getting paid as much as men. They weren't getting the promotions in the dental corporations and I think you can-- I picture you go into the big meetings on the exhibitor floor and you've got 15 gentlemen in suits standing around a morning huddle and there's maybe one or two women that are standing there in that huddle. And so I saw that. And then just working in the practice, seeing how women are treated and the lack of respect for what they bring to the party. So that, coupled with the fact that more than 50% of the graduating dentists are women. And then you think of 95% of their team are women. We're literally taking over dentistry. And I really felt that we needed a community that would inspire and empower women, and fill that pipeline of leadership, which is so needed. So that when they're looking for that person to promote, or that person to speak, or to be the keynote, or to get a raise, they're going to look at a female in dentistry. A dental entrepreneurial woman.
S1 04:37I love it. Yeah, I love it. And I've seen the same thing. Obviously, I have not been in the dental industry quite as long as you. But even over the past decade or so, I've seen a real transition of women kind of taking over. But I agree, it's the same concept where-- when I first started with a large dental laboratory company and we really were working with a local residency program. And when I first started with them, there were only one or two females that went through that program. And then as the years progressed it started to really make this change. And I saw almost half of that class-- that's a small class, I think they're normally only around 10 to 15 students in the residency program. But I really started to see that change in females increasing and almost becoming half of the class. So from your perspective, how has the professional woman in the industry changed through the years? Corporate leaders, dental teams, and of course, women as a dental provider?
S2 05:44Well, I think it's very appealing to women. One thing I think that dentistry offers is the work-life balance. From being a female dentist, I think that they certainly see that there's an opportunity for work-life balance, versus other opportunities in the medical field. And I also think that women are natural caregivers so that lines up with-- I do think men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and I love men and I love women. But I think that there's some characteristics of dentistry that just really appeal to women. And so I think that's why we're seeing the shift, and I also think that in the past-- I mean, just recently after I graduated college, you would start to-- I started to see females going into male-dominated occupations, like engineering or business. So I think that that has shifted, and I think that's where you've seen women in dentistry especially grow. Because I think typically, again, it used to be male-dominated, and it just fits with, I think, the female persona and what we like to do. We like to help people, we like to build relationships. And I think that is something that lends itself to the female population.
S1 07:06I couldn't agree more with that, especially the building relationships, and we'll touch upon that in just a second. It's really interesting, I was reading a story in the DeWlife Magazine of a young female associate who was struggling in her first practice, where obviously she's an associate to a male doctor. And if I understood the article correctly, and I read through the entire thing, I mean, she really was looking, was it her? Was it her that wasn't making this connection with the patients? And she really turned a corner when she started her own practice. And it was almost night and day. Why do you think-- and if you know the story I'm talking about, why do you think she struggled as an associate but was wildly successful on her own? And what do you think it takes for women to succeed in this industry?
S2 07:57One of the biggest things is to be authentic because I think when you're working under the thumb of somebody else that doesn't get you, doesn't understand the difference between immediately going to solve a problem, versus building a relationship and that's not valued, I think that is something that you have to break away from. And I remember this particular article. I mean, not only that, but it felt, I think, to her that she wasn't even given the opportunity to succeed, or there was no cheerleader or mentorship there. And I think women thrive on mentoring and being a mentor and a mentee. I think women thrive on that relationship. And so I think that once she could start-- once she could do her own thing, I think she just started to reap the benefits. And I think that's always the best way to go, is to use your strength and not consider somebody else's-- not map on somebody else's strengths onto you because what somebody else does, you can't do and vice versa. So I think that's why she just became wildly successful. And not only that, but she was really smart and savvy, where she picked her location, and then the relationship that she had with all of her partners. There is just something special about that, I think, in the female psyche, that they really can build relationships. I mean, and I'm talking with your attorney, your CPA, your sales reps. They have a way of building those relationships and asking for help. So I think that's the other thing that probably helped her in her goal of being successful with it. She was vulnerable and humble and asked for help and really wanted it.
S1 09:42That's right. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, I mean, maybe even in that scenario, the dentist that was there may have just been very kind of stuck in his ways and very resistant to change. And I noticed that when I first started in the industry, that a lot of dentists are very resistant to change. And I think you stated it. That she was very vulnerable and kind of opened up her eyes to say, "How do I need to market myself? How do I need to build these relationships? How do I need to treat these patients differently to make that connection?" Would you agree that-- I mean, that may have been a-- that may have been a factor there. And I'll touch upon this in just a second, but that's really marketable for us from an agency standpoint, when we have these female dentists that are-- they're more open to those ideas on occasion.
S2 10:29Yes. They are open to other expert advice. And I think that's a great way to go. And I think that just helps-- that's a true leader. Honestly. That's a true leader. And so I think that, that again, lends itself to our female psyche.
S1 10:46We joke around here, and we really took a leap as an agency to only work with dental practices, really kind of narrowing in on that niche. I mean, most marketing agencies will work with any type of industry. And we really took a leap there. And then we went even further to narrow ourselves, by only doing comprehensive marketing which is another leap, where we kind of look at that big picture. But we often joke that we may eventually work for just women dentists. And truly, all jokes aside, a good portion of our clients are female dentists. And it's interesting to me, that I would say, that there's almost half or more than half of our practices are either made up of the female dentist, that owns the practice or is, at least, a female associate. And it's really cool to see how they respond, and the approach that these dentists take, the female dentists. And this isn't a blanket statement. We've seen, obviously, a male dentist that do really, really well-- does this as well, but they're really truly making an investment in learning their patients, taking their time to get their patients to trust them, and being human which, as I mentioned just a second ago, really makes our life a lot easier as a marketing agency because that's marketable. I mean, that's something that we can really tout for them. That that that connection is made. And I guess can you describe to us what you've seen through the years as far as these women kind of making that change and how they could be more marketable than some of the male dentists out there?
S2 12:14Well, I think women in general love friendships. They love relationships. I mean, not very many men are in book clubs, or buncos, or study clubs, and the list goes on and on and on. I think women love connecting with other women. There's no doubt about it. I mean, just think about growing up and being in school. It's just one of those things. And I think now with the change in-- and again, the videos, the Me Too movement, and the empowering of women, and Wonder Woman, and all of these trends now. It's just like it's exploding my brain and the fact that anything is possible. And so I think they're hungry for being as big a success as they possibly can while having the balance in their life. And I really feel that women are starting to see that they can have it all if they build themselves a great team to help them do that. Men are so laser-focused, and I love that about them. However, women still - and I don't think that'll ever change - are the ones that are just spinning the plate. They've got the practice or their work outside of the home. Then they've got the family, the kids, the groceries, the dinners, the orchestration of the calendars, the buying. I mean, women really take that all on, where men are kind of just laser-focused on their career. And [honey?], what do I need to do? What's on the list? Because who's making the list? I would love to see that statistic. Who actually makes the list of the to-do list in the household? So I think it opens up just enormous possibilities now. And I think it's not only some parents have told their girls that they can do anything that they want to do, but it is just part of society right now. And it is just being pounded on all of us to be strong, to be open, to take it on, and to continue to learn. And I think that it's just-- anything's possible.
S1 14:30Yeah. It's really interesting to me. So when I first started in my career-- you're right. This new movement of kind of being authentic and being yourself, that wasn't the case even a decade ago. Everything was very straightlaced, and you had to have a certain persona and a certain power, male or female, it didn't matter. And I think what you're saying really resonates with me and how I've seen even a change in how I approach my business and growing the agency. It's incredibly different than when I started in my corporate world, where everything was very uptight. Now you're able to open up and show a side of you that really connects with people. And people want that connection, I think, from a marketing standpoint. These female dentists being able to truly show who they are, and making that connection is huge. And I'll share a quick story. I mean, we work with, obviously like I said, male and female dentists, but some of the most impactful video testimonials come from one in particular of our female dentists. And these video testimonials, Anne, I mean, the people speaking in them are just brought to tears. And how this female dentist has changed their life. And I think she's a fantastic dentist, and probably really works well with her hands, but I find it hard to believe that it's not also the connection that she's making with these people on an emotional side. They feel like she's truly changed their life. I mean, that is so crazy to me and so powerful.
S2 16:11Yeah, I really felt that when you were talking. And I do think women want to first build that relationship and look at the whole person. So I've noticed it, even in the practice I'm in right now. We've got a male dentist and then we've had three female associates come through the doors in the past couple of years-- and only because of pregnancy and leaving. One had twins and so it was hard to come back. I get that. But it's so interesting how they come in and talk to the patient after a hygiene exam-- for the hygiene exam. Right? They will sit down, belly-to-belly, eye-to-eye, and they'll just look at that patient and just really want to get to know that patient instead of just sitting right down, and looking at the mouth, and starting in on the exam. It's very interesting. And when I was preparing for this call, I was really thinking about three different women and they all do the same thing. They are building a relationship. So when you say that she's changed their life, that's so much bigger than giving somebody a great smile. So many more layers there. And I really feel that it's that caregiving, relationshipping that we just have a natural bent for that. And also telling stories and loving stories. And I think that's pretty cool. You hit the nail on the head with your agency, Jackie. And I think that's why it sets you apart and why you are a specialist. You're actually telling the personal story of those dental practices. And the women out there are usually the ones that are finding the dental practice for their families. So you've got a great business here that starts with the heart and then gets results. And I think that is another very important thing for women. We have to start with the heart and then we know and we look for getting results.
S1 18:13I agree. I mean, that's huge. It's such a big part of our buying decision, no matter if you're purchasing a new laptop, or looking for a surgeon, or looking for a dentist, looking for a pediatric doctor for your child. I mean, it's an emotional decision of a purchase. And I think on all levels, I agree with you. I think it has to start with the heart. And you have to kind of differentiate yourself and show that personality. And we preach that day in and day out, showing the personality of the dentist and the practice itself. And you kind of have to show your true colors and I do agree. I mean, females tend to be more open. Again, we have male dentists that are the exact same way. But I think we see more often that these female dentists are willing to kind of open themselves up to being vulnerable and really showing that side of them to make that connection which consumers want these days. I'm sure you see that as well. I mean, is there any-- I know you've had and heard thousands of women's stories, is there any that stand out to you as it relates to women, female dentists, and being marketable?
S2 19:24Well, I've had so many fabulous conversations with women in dentistry. I would think I was meshing. Now we have almost 200 women that I've jumped on a call with, just to hear their stories. And they're all amazing. And then again, back to-- they're not afraid to share their vulnerabilities or their failures. And they're also willing to share how they overcame those challenges, and what they did to be successful, and be on the other side of that. Because I think with failure, breeds success. It's an opportunity for some growth. But one in particular, and I just adore her, Kate Robinson. She was featured in our spring edition. I hope that you'll get a chance to read that. It's still up online in archives. But she started as a dental hygienist because her-- and her dad always said she could do whatever-- whatever she dreamed of, she could do. But once she got into school, they were like, "Oh, just go the dental hygiene route. Dentistry's really hard and complicated, and you won't be able to have your family and do all the things you want to do." Well, anyway, she got into dental hygiene practice, and she started working for a female dentist that saw something special in her and kept encouraging her to go to dental school. So Kate actually went to dental school an hour and a half or two hours away from where her husband was working. He was also a dentist in Atlanta. So she's in Augusta, Georgia, going to dental school, and back and forth they saw each other on the weekend. So that's, right there, commitment. I mean, I can't even imagine doing that. And the goal that she had was so big, and the sacrifices she made were so great, but she just never took her eye off the ball.
S2 21:20Anyway, she, when she got into her practice, bought a small practice, and then she's grown it. She's got five dentists working with her, for her as partners. And when you talk to her, she loves her partners, and how often do you hear of a dentist that says their partners are precious to them? I mean, it's just so refreshing, and of course, women don't want to work unless they have good relationships with the people they're working with. It's miserable to go to work, and I just appreciated that about Kate, that she could actually build this amazing dental practice with five partners she adores. She's the oldest partner and bringing in young dentists. I feel like she's just the epitome of a DeW Extraordinaire, a Dental Entrepreneur Woman that is not only doing it, but giving back and setting a great example for all of us, so I just-- oh, and not only that. She's, I think, the next chairman of the-- or on her way to be chairman of the Hinman Dental Meeting. Right? So I met her through the Hinman Dental Meeting. And last spring, when she was the president, I believe-- they have so many different titles. I get confused on that. But she was undergoing-- and I don't think she'll mind if I mention this. I have her permission, but she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. And so here she is, a mom, a wife, a friend, an owner of a practice with five partners, general chairman or future general chair of the Hinman Dental Meeting, and going through chemotherapy, and putting on just an absolutely amazing meeting with a smile, graciousness, generosity, and hospitality. I mean, I'm impressed with her courage and her [just gumption?]. And she's on the other side of it. She's got a great prognosis. But women can do anything and get through it, and it's just a wonderful thing. And she had so much support around her, and I do think that's another thing that women garner, is when you give support and give of yourself, you see it come back twofold. And I think that's another very important thing. I think women aren't afraid to give, and I think that that's when you see it coming back, and I love that part of it. So yeah, she was one of them [laughter].
S1 23:43I absolutely love stories like this. I mean, these things are just the reason that I wanted to have this podcast with you. I mean, hearing stories like that. I really hope that someone listening is impacted by this and realizes that they can take that control and kind of take the reins and go out on their own, whether that be starting their own business or getting into dentistry as a female, or going from, like you said, from a hygienist to a dentist. I mean, that is so impactful. And I absolutely appreciate you sharing that story. And I really hope that this reaches someone that is kind of struggling with that decision and says, "You know what? I'm going to go for it." That would mean the world to me if that happened. I mean, I really--
S2 24:32Thank you.
S1 24:32--appreciate you coming up and chatting with me about this. It's important for me, being a woman in the industry and being a business owner, and I know the same for you. Tell our listeners how they can find the DeWlife Magazine.
S2 24:45Well, thank you. Well, our website is DeW, D-E-W, dot life, L-I-F-E. So DeWlife, dew.life. Go to our website please, and the newsletter is free. The online subscription is free, so you can get the magazine. Read these stories, because I'm telling you what, there are so many amazing women in our industry. And back to the reason we started this, is to inspire, to highlight and empower women in dentistry. We also have a print publication that there's a small subscription fee, and if you like a yummy print, as I do-- I like all my different various ways of getting information: my newspapers, my iPhone, my iPad, my computer, and I like magazines and books. So if you like that, we would be glad to send you a hard copy four times a year because that's what we're publishing. And also, Jackie, another little shoutout-- listen, if they want to share their stories with us, we want to hear those stories, or a story of somebody that impacted and inspired you. We're all in this together. We've got to grow together because it's our profession, growing more and more to be our profession. So the good people, finding good people, and my new tagline's going to be Good Dews Find Good Dews. And it's so nice to have met you over the phone, and through-- we had a mutual friend. That's how we do it. Right? And it's so fun.
S1 26:14That's right.
S2 26:15So fun. So thank you. Thank you.
S1 26:17Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you for taking time in your busy schedule. I know how busy you are, and I hope everyone enjoyed the conversation that Anne and I shared with you today. And everybody, go check out the magazine online and subscribe. I personally enjoy reading the stories. They give me inspiration. And sometimes, I just poke around on there just to find out [laughter] what's going on in the industry and women and see what's out there. And you never know what you're going to come across and resonate with you. But I really encourage everybody to do that. Anne, thank you so much for chatting with me today.
S2 26:57Thank you, Jackie. Thanks for having me, and have a great rest of your day.
S1 27:01Thank you. You too. [music]
S3 27:04Just in case you guys are not aware, we are a dental marketing company. We eat, breathe, and sleep dental. All right, maybe it's not our whole lives, but it's pretty close. We believe in thinking differently from other mass marketing groups that you're probably used to, and we help you stand up against corporate dentistry. Yes, you heard me say it. We help the little guys. We do this by helping independent practices like yourself build genuine relationships with your patients, create and manage positive reputations by utilizing online resources, and retain your current patients. And you're probably thinking, "How the heck do you do that?" We do all this by creating custom, relatable, personalized, and distinctly different campaigns that reflect the needs and personalities of each individual practice. It's as simple as that.