In a recent edition of the BMJ (yes reader, I have caught up eventually) there is an article about men’s dominance of surgery, they are commenting on a survey that I in fact took part in, about UK surgical trainees perceptions of how well they fit the “surgical prototype”. They used statements such as “Generally, I feel good when I think about myself as a surgeon” and unsurprisingly the boys came out on top, hilariously assuming that they performed better than all their peers, a perception that increased with seniority.
No offence to Tom Moberly, the editor of BMJ Careers, but his article is a wee bit boring. Men don’t “dominate” surgery, even that word is sexually aggressive, there’s just more of them. The big question is what is it that puts women off? why do they drop out, why do they leave? I know I am a strange creature in some respects (part time mummy surgeon) but I wasn’t always like this, I used to be just a girl and I wanted to be a surgeon more than anything else.
Role models get banged on about a lot, I have a few of them and they are mostly men. Why I have to identify myself only with women is a strange one, I identify more with someone who likes what I like (food, clothes, travel, exercise) or uses the same sort of language (frequent expletives) or has the same sense of humour than someone who is female.
I am very aware of my responsibility to other junior doctors and get at times (application season) overwhelmed with requests from eager beaver juniors who want some advice and to ask me all about being a surgeon. I realise that as one of the few young female surgeons who wears makeup, high heels and doesn’t fit anyone’s idea of a “surgical prototype”, I am the go to girl for the careers chat.
I am not a member of WIST (the Royal College of Surgeons of England’s women’s group; aargh) as I can’t bear the idea that we need a special group to look out for us. There isn’t one called PIST for presbyopics or GIST for the red haired so why is there one for us? I suspect they do marvellous things and I am probably missing out on something great, but I think as I have got this far without them I can probably carry on in ignorance. (Annoyingly the author of this article calls the Royal College of Surgeons of England “the royal college” when of course, there is more than one.) The president of the RCSEngland, Norman Williams urges that “it is up to us as a profession and medicine as a whole to look at why women may be deterred from becoming surgeons….and find ways to overcome any barriers they face”
I’m the only girl in my university year doing surgery, most are GP’s and the vast sums of money earned and ease at which part time working could be accommodated was what lured many of them. Unfortunately, they now have school age children who need them less and they are realising that they quit a job they loved (Anaesthetics, surgery, medicine) and are now stuck for 30 years in GP jobs they hate. A role model is someone who is happy doing what they do, not someone who has 4 kids in private school and a range rover and never works weekends or night shifts. I hope that it is the fact I love my job that makes me the careers chat girl, rather than the fact I am a girl.
Nobody dominated her at work.