Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology & Research

Committee Chair

Yeh Hsueh

Committee Member

Alison Happel-Parkins

Committee Member

Christian Mueller

Committee Member

Pooja AjitSankardas


Dentistry has traditionally been a male-dominated profession. However, the past decade has seen a steady improvement in gender equality in dental schools around the United States. For the first time in 2018, the entering class in dental schools had more women enrolled than men. While women have achieved equality in receiving undergraduate dental education, they remain significantly underrepresented in advanced training of three dental specialties including endodontics, oral surgery, and periodontics. The purpose of this case study is to explore why women remain underrepresented in these specialties of the dental field by learning from six women’s personal experiences to understand their reasons for becoming interested in and ultimately choosing a male dominated dental specialty. This case study was guided by a dual framework consisting of a feminist approach to conducting research and Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) which seeks to explain three interrelated aspects of career development: (1) how career interests are formed, (2) how career choices are made, and (3) how career success in a chosen field is obtained. Data collection was accomplished through interviews, prompted participant journaling, and regular researcher journaling. Thematic analysis was used to identify commonalities across the data through initial, in vivo, and structural coding. Three themes were identified: (1) interest to specialize was cultivated through learning experiences, (2) residency is not conducive to family life for women residents, and (3) having a strong support system led to success. These findings suggest that it is important for women to be exposed to numerous dental specialties early in their undergraduate programs and throughout dental school, that there should be supportive maternity leave policies in place for women in residency, and that women mentors in various specialties should be available to be observed and consulted by women who are interested in a male-dominated dental specialty. Keywords: dental specialties, feminism, Social Cognitive Career Theory, residency


Data is provided by the student.”

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open Access