I found this photo of me receiving a research grant award during my Head and Neck residency and it brought back some memories. I remember how I always wished there were more women in medicine and how sometimes a mainly male dominant environment can intentionally or non-intentionally be hostile and sexist. Many co-workers and supervisors have the attitude that women do not belong in the operating room. A female surgeon must be tougher, stronger, smarter, and just better than anyone else, just to measure up to her male colleagues. Even when she is tougher, stronger, smarter, and better than everyone else, that does not guarantee her acceptance. Statistics show that they make less than their male counterparts and are promoted less – they have also shown that female doctors are much less frequently addressed as “Dr. “ and instead called by their first name.
Surgery and medicine in general are an admirable line of work. When a girl aspires to become a surgeon then grows up to become one, it seems like a dream come true. Going to work is a pleasure…until she runs into the difficulty that is being a female surgeon. Inherent in the position is prejudice, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Being a female surgeon is extremely difficult, and most of the difficulty comes from within the job and residency itself.
In addition to the problem mentioned above, being good at her job does not guarantee her acceptance in the male-dominated career. Jealousy, malicious gossip, sexual tensions, and other issues can make it impossible for her to ever feel comfortable in her so-called “dream job.”
Many female surgeons have the ability to brush off insults, real and imagined, and go about their jobs with positive attitudes. These women put up with slights, gossip, hurtful comments, and worse. Some women just cannot tolerate these issues and give up on their dreams. This is truly unfortunate and is heartbreaking for the woman who has had her dream destroyed. Even worse, the community suffers the loss when it loses a good female doctor or a surgeon. Never feel intimidated. Never feel that you don’t belong at what you love to do because you are a woman and most importantly, never keep quiet if you feel that you are not being treated right.
(Note: People in this photo have nothing to do with my reference to the above, the photo just symbolizes the loneliness I experienced as a female medical student and surgical resident)