Women in Dentistry in Alberta

In honour of International Women’s Day 2020, we reached out to Dr. Reena Talwar, founder of Women in Dentistry, a group to connect females in the industry in Alberta, and the only female oral surgeon in Alberta to chat about diversity in the profession.

Jessalyn King - 28 February 2020

“Our School one of the most diverse”

Dr. Reena Talwar has worked or trained all over Canada and the U.S. and on top of the commonly acknowledged lack of females in high-level or ownership positions in the industry, she has experienced a distinct scarcity of women in dental specialties everywhere.

As the only female oral surgeon in Alberta, (and one of not many more in the rest of Canada), she says, “The former will eventually work itself out through networking and seeing others succeed. But the lack of female specialists stems from even deeper social and cultural barriers that make it a statistic that’s hard to improve.”

The additional years of schooling required often delay life events like marriage or having a family and the cultural pressure to conform can be strong. Talwar says, “Sometimes things don’t happen in the timeline that we think they should. It doesn’t mean they won’t happen! I got married at 44 and I have two wonderful ‘bonus’ children.”

She says, “The U of A School of Dentistry is one of the most diverse programs, both in terms of gender and of culture,” she says.

Women in Dentistry

Talwar started a group for females in the profession to connect and network. The group holds formal events two to three times a year.

“We approach our events from a whole-dentist perspective,” Talwar explains. “We share and develop new knowledge, meet and connect with other women in the field, and bring in speakers on topics of personal development, fitness, and health.” And the outcome is a stronger Albertan dentistry community.

Women in Dentistry has had overwhelmingly positive support since the beginning, although as in all things, there are detractors. “We’re creating a place where it’s easier for women to express their unique challenges and share solutions and encouragement.”

The group’s first event had 15 people, since then, the group has grown to attracting 55+ at each event.

Members love the fact that the group helps build the support network they’ve been putting off developing on their own. “After an event, attendees know more women and feel more comfortable reaching out to them for help or advice. They get a sense of what others are struggling with and help by sharing how they overcame or are dealing with similar struggles, as well as offering motivation to leave an unhappy situation knowing there are people who can mentor or be asked for help.”

“Reach out and connect with others”

“For all the women out there, focus on your goals. Don’t allow cultural and social biases to turn you away from what you want to do. There’s always someone out there who has faced those same challenges and has accomplished their goal(s). Reach out and connect with others as it can open doors you never knew existed.”

Upcoming events

Talwar is speaking on April 24 at a Women in Dentistry conference in Toronto, co-organized with her counterpart Effie Habshaw.

The group has a wellness day planned this spring with Dr. Bruce Freeman (who incorporates yoga and meditation into his dental practice) and a charity fundraising network event in the fall. Talwar says, “Last year, 40 women came to our charity event. I’d love to double the attendance this year and eventually plan to expand the group into an annual conference here in Alberta.”

Join the group

Women in Dentistry welcomes women from all areas of dentistry. Among others, their members include dentists; dental hygienists, assistants, and technicians; managers; denturists; and specialists.

For the women who are not yet a part of Women in Dentistry, Talwar asks that you consider joining. “Having more women involved as mentors to students and those newly entered into practice is almost necessary. They’re looking to have that type of support.”

The group is free to join. If you want to get involved, contact Michelle Bradford (mbradford@contoursurgery.ca or 780-757-8844).

Share your story of overcoming gender diversity challenges on social media for International Women’s Day with the global hashtag #IWD2020 and be sure to tag us @ualbertadent.