Contour Extended: Hidden Figures in dentistry

Dear Hidden Figures,

Perhaps you have seen the new motion picture that describes the life of Katherine Johnson, an African-American math prodigy who grew up in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia. She grew up counting numbers and manually computing equations. In 1953 she began working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), later known at NASA. She joined hundreds of other women as a human computer. Pre-dating Apple or Microsoft, these women helped to win the race to space. As a math computer, she completed calculations for Alan Shepard, John Glenn, the Apollo moon landing mission, and the start of the space shuttle program.

The growing presence of women in dentistry

female dentistAs a high school senior, I had an opportunity to interview for a collegiate scholarship, during which I discussed my aspirations for a career in dentistry with an all-male panel of judges. I remember being asked, “Why don’t you want to be a dental hygienist or an assistant? Aren’t those the typical roles in dentistry for a female?”

I was taken aback. I was sure that it wasn’t their intention to instill self-doubt in a woman pursuing a career in a male-dominated industry. However, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was being relegated to another career, based strictly on traditional gender roles.