Sophia Morris reflects on identity and leadership in dentistry, in this second and final part of our guest blogs on BAME professionals in leadership roles, and asks if now is time for the professions to develop and implement a leadership succession plan, with diversity and inclusion, at the heart of its strategic frameworks.
COVID-19 and Black Lives Matters (BLM) shone a light on the stark reality of inequalities related to race and ethnicity within our society. Lived experiences have been shared, uncomfortable truths told and now here we are, we can’t put the genie back in the bottle. A dialogue has begun within the dental profession about equality and inclusion, my hope is what follows is meaningful action which educates and drives positive change.
Does diversity in leadership matter?
BAME professionals are under-represented within our leadership. Observing few black leaders within dentistry, has not dampened my own career aspirations. However, I do occasionally question “will I be gate crashing a party I’m not invited to?” For young Black professionals, seeing leaders from a similar background succeeding within the profession can serve as a motivator and be inspirational. When your figures of leadership are of a homogenous group, it can cast doubts in your mind as to whether you will be welcome, fit in or whether your individuality will be valued.
Many say leadership is made not born
Could we use this time of reflection to appreciate that diversity drives innovation and equity of care? Now is the optimum time for the profession to develop and implement a leadership succession plan with diversity and inclusion at the heart of its strategic frameworks. As a profession we would benefit from denouncing selection bias for leadership roles and strive to ensure that young BAME professionals are developed equally and begin to see leadership roles as achievable and feel confident that their value in these roles will be respected.
Voices of the future
Young professionals have an energy and enthusiasm which is unmatched. Seeing many young professionals using their voices to highlight how BLM issues relate to our profession has been inspiring. My advice to young professionals seeking a voice in the profession is to get an understanding of what different dental organisations do. I was fortunate as a foundation dentist to gain valuable insight into how to influence change from my Educational Supervisor, which guided me into expanding outside my clinical practice. Networking is essential and there are many dental organisations such as BDA, LDC, FGDP(UK), BSDHT to get involved with. Do not be scared to ask questions. In my experience requests for opportunities to observe and learn are always welcomed. Most importantly be your authentic self.