Friday, May 10, 2013

Hilarious Interview and the start of the 21st century feminist

First off--does anyone else find this guy's interview absolutely hilarious. Word up to AC who knows how to do a real street handshake.

Now onto a new blog segment I'm going to start: The 21st Century Feminist. Perhaps as I grow older I'm becoming more attuned to gender-bias in the workforce/academia, but I want to make a few points about women in medicine (or really any other male-dominated profession.) I recently posted Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk on why there are so few women leaders. I hope as I progress in my career that I see a paradigm shift where there are more women in leadership positions across every field. The issue I have, however, is our journey to those positions in the first place. I'm on the cusp of my career and time and time again I notice comments (on the frontline in my field and through the media) that continuously place women in a less than positive light for either being assertive or having ambition to enter positions of power or dominance or male-dominated fields. I'm a little bothered by the NY times coverage that was written by a woman about a survey from the Pentagon that indicated a sharp rise in sexual assault cases in the armed forces. While that fact alone is disturbing, the line that really pinches my nerve is when Senator Gillibrand (a woman-D-NY) is described to have "nearly shouted as she addressed Michael B. Donley, the secretary of the Air Force." My disappointment rests with the word "shouted." That description doesn't add any value and carries a negative connotation. What is also cause for concern is that the author is female. My point is we have to stop doing this to ourselves. This ties back to a point that Sheryl Sandberg made in her TED talk about stepping back in our careers as women before it's necessary or called for. As a collective demographic that comprises half the population of the human race we have to stop limiting ourselves because how can we expect any societal shift if we continue to illustrate assertion of other vocal women in a negative light?

From my personal experience and the experiences of many of my female friends here, we are consistently discouraged to pursue demanding and highly-competitive residencies. I have lost count of the number of times I've been discouraged to even pursue the MD degree altogether and encouraged to instead be PA or going the MPH route for no other reason than that "it's more economical for women to do so." These comments have only come from men so far and nearly every PA I know (all female) say they wish they just went to medical school instead. It's upsetting that after so much social progress, the journey to getting the opportunity to even play on the field is still an uphill battle and will continue to be so unless things change. I'd like to share an anecdote from PK who went to see her physician (a male) the other day. He commented on medicine being tough for women especially if they want to get married and start a family and that a lot of women in medicine choose ROAD specialties for the 9-5 schedule and high salary instead of surgery (and there seemed to be an insinuation that the women couldn't hack it to match in a surgical specialty.) First off, medicine is tough for everyone. Secondly, her comments to me as she relayed the conversation were en pointe "why don't fathers take care of the children while women are in residency? and when did it become ok for male surgeons to not spend time with their children?" True points. I have a sister in a surgical specialty and I recall many of her female seniors that either had children or were pregnant during residency and they managed to handle it (it is undisputed that there's few endeavors that are more taxing on time and energy than a surgical residency where you kill it for 100+ hours/wk for 5+ years, but it's possible to survive and women can do it.) I'm always aggravated when I'm discouraged to pursue any competitive surgical specialty because my elders just want me to have an easy life where I get in and out of residency and earn a real income again. The thing is though, I didn't choose to be a doctor for either of those reasons. I want to tirelessly work, even for the 5 years of less than nothing resident salary, because with grueling hours and hard work you learn and you grow in ways that you simply cannot if you don't push yourself to your limit and doing anything less than that simply limits my own potential and contribution to the field. I'm not discrediting the women in ROAD specialties in any way. I just reject the notion women ought to be the ones to consider confining their options from the start whereas for our male colleagues any residency is fair game. If Marissa Mayer can steer Yahoo while having a newborn then isn't it time we believe it's possible for women to handle 12 hours of surgery and be mothers and wives?

As a last thought, interestingly when I worked as an engineer I remember many of my superiors with children and I was impressed by how they found a way to seamlessly integrate fatherhood into a demanding career. The point isn't to leave men behind, it's to bring them along with us. This is a collective challenge for both men and women and we all must make a greater effort to share the responsibility.

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