The IDA’s Women in Dentistry (WIDEN) group held a very successful meeting in the Dublin Dental University Hospital on February 24. A large group met to hear an inspiring speech from special guest Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles St. Dr Mahony, who is the first female master of the NMH, is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and a specialist in foetal and maternal medicine. She is also married to a dentist in private practice, so had an excellent insight into the ups and downs of the dental profession.
Dr Mahony gave a talk entitled ‘Beyond dancing at the crossroads’, a whistle stop tour through areas of Irish history that have had a particular impact on women’s lives. She pointed out that ancient Brehon law gave extensive rights to women, but over the centuries these were eroded to the point where, well into the 20th century in Ireland, women could not serve on juries, obtain legal contraception, or stay at work after marriage. While the legal position with regard to equality has improved enormously, she pointed out that barriers still remain. These days, however, the barriers are less tangible, and centre on the practical difficulties in achieving a work–life balance for women whose careers often enter their busiest phase just as they also reach the stage of wanting to start a family.
In the very frank and insightful discussion that followed, Dr Mahony spoke about difficulties she had encountered in her career and about the need for women to support each other’s choices, whether to pursue a career outside the home, or to take time out to raise a family. With over 9,000 deliveries a year in Holles Street alone, she felt that as a society we need to see pregnancy and childbirth as a normal part of life and work, and plan for our workplaces to cope with this. She felt very strongly that until family and parenting are seen as a dual responsibility of both partners, particularly in terms of parental leave, then inequalities will remain.
Dr Mahony’s presentation was warmly received by those in attendance. WIDEN committee member Dr Nuala Carney thanked her for her honesty and felt that the talk was very fitting for the group, whose mission statement includes the aim of encouraging and supporting women to enhance their career satisfaction and become leaders in their profession, while maintaining a successful work–life balance.