What’s considered ‘woke’ to some are very real barriers to care and career progression for others. Julie Bissett makes the case for having those ‘uncomfortable conversations’

The term ‘woke’, used in reference to being awake to sensitive social issues, such as racism, was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017.

African American in origin, it has since been weaponised by some as a way to dismiss opinions that are aware of injustices and those who wish to redress the imbalances.

Whichever side of the political centre line you fall, a heightened awareness of social injustice is surely only ever a good thing?

We all have a responsibility to highlight inequalities, as well as have frank and open conversations, that may prove uncomfortable for some and about issues that directly (or indirectly) impact negatively on certain sectors of people. In fact, it is how we improve as a society.


The dental profession is not without its issues here. Gender bias and racism within its workforce continue to be problematic and, quite rightly, deserve much discussion at all levels and at every opportunity. This is how we learn. We are enlightened by discussions and benefit from having our pre-existing viewpoints challenged – at the family table, with colleagues in the staff room or in more formal settings, such as webinars and conference presentations. Policy makers and regulators are no exception. None of us can fully understand and appreciate the life experiences of others (nor act upon them) without stories shared and topics debated.

As dentist Shaun Sellars notes in a recent Twitter thread on the topic of gender bias: ‘Just because YOU PERSONALLY haven’t experienced sexism (or racism/other forms of discrimination) doesn’t mean that it’s not an issue for many. The issues raised should be heard, investigated and acted upon.’

To make positive changes, we also need to read around the subject, listen more, converse with a younger generation and with a cross-section of society, as well as be made aware of our own privilege, particularly when based on inequalities we may not have previously appreciated. Once we are enlightened, only then can we make those all-important changes.

This month, the BDIA Dental Showcase On Demand is giving a platform to the topics of diversity, equality and inclusion, with Thursday (25 March) afternoon dedicated to raising awareness of key issues of inequality. Among the speakers are dental hygienist and dental student Chinwe Akuonu and dental student Jade Kwaku, who will consider strategies for creating an inclusive dental environment, and Andrew Gilliver, of the LGBT Foundation, who offers a guide to strengthening and developing relationships with LGBT patients.

There will also be a discussion on how to help phobic patients and vulnerable children access dentistry. Do sign up as a delegate and make time for Thursday’s speakers. Whatever our gender, race, age, class, sexual orientation, disability and even job title, every one of us needs to understand the challenges to help dismantle those unfair barriers – for our patients and our colleagues.

In essence, we can all do better.

Sign up today https://ondemand.dentalshowcase.com