This week a number of events have occurred that have made me reflect on the position of women the in world, and specifically, women in medicine. I have also come across a report detailing the poor position of women in the New Zealand science landscape, a write up on sexism in the saturday paper, and, on the upside, a rocking pop song challenging for gender equity from a saudi-born songstress!
This week I have I personally experienced four instances of sexist attitudes from medical colleagues, men that I respect highly as colleagues and people. These have left me feeling disappointed and angry. Luckily all I have experience is words. A surgical registrar (resident) in Melbourne was propositioned for sex at work and senior female colleagues have publicly suggested that next time she, or others, should acquiesce for the sake of her career. Outrageous.
Growing up my parents told me I could do anything, a message backed up by TV adds, posters, and if my memory serves me right, I even had a T-shirt. Girls can do anything. It was the 80’s and the 70’s feminism wave was still rolling.
I set goals, I made a plan, I worked my way through and achieved what I aimed for. The journey to becoming a consultant rheumatologist was challenging but manageable. I was never thought on the way through that my gender disadvantaged me at all. I now juggle a family with clinical and academic work. It’s crazy at times but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This week, my personal appearance has been commented on twice, both complimentary but non the less, quite irrelevant to, and in, the workplace. I was too surprised on both occasions to make any meaningful reply, but I have a witty yet terse reply ready for the next one. Describing the other instances would potentially embarrass my colleagues and I respect them too much to do that so will not detail them here. Both left me clearly understanding that the underlying and perhaps unconsicous attitude to women in the medical workforce left much to be desired.
Well over half the medical undergraduate students I teach are women and we will be most of the workforce in the future. I hope with increasing numbers of women doctors these attitudes will have to change. I have resolved that I will not continue to tolerate expressions of sexism in the workplace, or elsewhere for that matter. Each of us contribute, with the balance of how we contribute depending on the professional and personal roles that we fulfil. I am woman, I will roar.