Friday, September 27, 2013

The art of being a a man's world

I don't talk enough about this and I should as I seem to constantly find myself in environments where I'm the only female (or the closest thing to one) and should own up to my responsibility of being a prime example of woman in male-dominated fields more often. (I'm still on my way to my next male-dominated profession, but practice makes perfect and hopefully by the time I get to where I want to be I'll have had enough practice.) At any rate, I recently found this blog by a female surgeon and her post about Men in Surgery was poignantly sardonic and wittingly ironic. (She makes the case for why surgery is a woman's field and that men are the minority.) Behind the irony, however, lies a great deal of truth about what many women face whilst pursuing careers in predominantly male fields.

I'm lucky to have an older sister who is already an ENT surgeon (one of the most competitive specialties even among surgery.) There are scores of schmucks who consistently discourage women from fulfilling their full potential by scaring them off with comments such as "you'll never match, surgery is super competitive" or worse "why don't you try a profession that's more economical for women than medicine?" or actually the worst is "what will you do if you don't succeed?" (a scary question for anyone, but in my experience no one has ever dared to ask that same question upfront to any male I've worked with.) Being related to a prime example of someone who has surpassed those comments and still accomplished what she wanted to pursue, I recognize the importance to just deflect and dissipate those remarks along the way. That doesn't mean that they don't sting a little and I'm not sure what the appropriate responses to those questions should be, but I sense that keeping quiet or seriously responding to those are not the best approach to rectify the mentality. 

What I would like to shed light on is (1) why are those comments or questions considered appropriate at all? (2) Why have those comments/questions only been directed towards women, and lastly (3) what really is the best way to respond to men who ask those questions without coming off as the PMS-ing b*tch or the weak and inferior/compliant underdog? What I love so much about the Men in Surgery post was that it actually turned the tables and illustrates the fact that sometimes, even in a "man's field", women often have the advantage (either biological or otherwise) and the fact that we must work so hard just to belong is completely preposterous when the facts defy any notion that women don't belong in the field.

My overarching question really nests in the inquiry of what is the art of being a lady when you are in a field that's seen so few and does not know how to break its insularity? Sure one answer is to just strap on boots, stuff your pants, and act like a man. The alternative is preserving your identity and your second X chromosome and hopefully addressing issues politely yet firmly as they arise. I think it's time to recognize that we have a third option and that's being upfront about what's appropriate in the first place before things become hostile or uncomfortable.

It's been a number of years since I left the engineering/defense industry behind, but my experience there has stuck with me since specifically because of the stark contrast of working for a corporation versus being in medicine. Believe it or not, there are things I've encountered in medicine that would never be acceptable in a corporation. There are measures set in place to ensure that those things do not occur or escalate in companies. I attribute that to our female predecessors in corporate America that addressed those things upfront in the previous decade to set the standard of how women deserve to be treated equally in the workforce. (I was not aware that those efforts did not apply to every industry. Silly me.) This act alone made working in an industry as conventionally male as the military an experience that I look back on rather fondly.

Don't get me wrong, I love medicine, all it stands for, all it aspires to be, all it can do for people and more. I firmly believe that medicine has the power to not only change individuals, but also to collectively change a society for the better. That is why I gave everything up to apply to medical school and become a doctor. I'm just wondering if there will ever be a day where it can make a little more room for women to be women in an OR without being discredited or discouraged. That responsibility rests with the men in the field, the women that are already there, and the women who aspire to be a part of it. To make real contributions to humanity the stride is collective and involves everyone's willingness to move forward and break ridiculous traditions and mindsets that women don't belong or don't have the ability or aptitude to belong.

Friday, September 20, 2013

This week's musings

(1) Very informative piece on Detroit's woes and how it got there.

(2) Maybe I should've tried harder to actually go to my fencing lessons.

(3) 7 things you should NEVER say to someone (click on the link for why)
"I don't care"
"You're wrong"
"You can't do it"
"This should be easy"
"I told you so"
"As I just said before"
"Good Luck"

(4) Exercise and eat less!
and yay for teens that are exercising more and eating less sugar!

(5) Infographic poster: how to take a perfect nap!
although I'm not someone who cannot nap.

(6) From PK, a hilarious documentation of men that take up too much space on subway stations:
PK and I often discuss the psychology and sociological implications of stature in public and workplace interactions; it speaks volumes about the gender gap (and also how evolutionary habits die hard.) It's also just poor manners in my opinion. Hopefully I'll find time this year to join that women's group, but until then Swimming will try to take up as much space as possible to try to fill the gender gap. After all, your body language really does shape who you are.

In other news Swimming has invested in some pepper spray. Burglars beware. I haven't used it yet so let's see how the year goes!

Lastly: Congrats to SM on her engagement!!!! Yay and super excited!!!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Best way to propose? FLASH MOB, Musings and more

(1) I absolutely love this <3<3<3: Utah Man Proposes to Boyfriend with Help From a Flash Mob in Home Depot

Link to story

(2) In case you don't know about the situation in Syria, here are some good links to help:

(3) Since I've been trying to be more conscientious about the environment I started to reduce my usage of disposable plastic water bottles. Here's another reason to do so:high BPA levels (a chemical found in plastics) are linked to higher obesity risks for children

(4) While I love my classes, I am increasingly aware that I ought to be more well-trained in self-defense. Crime even in the daytime and consequently I have already had to tone down my style as to not attract goofy people with nefarious intentions. Swimming apparently needs a better plan of action so I hope to expand on this, but here are some quick safety tips I found for ladies everywhere:

(5) Why people need to stop complaining about how busy they are
Nothing is more annoying than when others complain about how busy they are. In this economy it's a luxury to have work and a gift to have work that you like and want to do. More often than not it isn't the people like residents that work 90+ hours a week or those with families and jobs that somehow always manage to make time for others amidst a busy schedule that complain. Those individuals chose their lifestyle and are content with giving their time to get better at their craft or balancing their career and family life. It appears that the people who complain about how busy they are probably are not truly content with their life and work. My mum used to tell me that not every day can be the same. That's the truth and on days that aren't so great t's important to be grateful for and realize we're a lot luckier than many others around the world. (See #2 above if you don't believe that.) Take a few moments to be grateful regardless of what kind of day you're having or how busy you are and then I suggest you TOGGL your time to see how you can better spend it if you are one of those people who are "soooo busy."

(6) While I'll refrain from any comments on my own experiences, I just wanted to put this out there from the Times:

(7) Chart from CDC via the Economist: Obesity in America

(8) To top off the musings list another story from Utah where a Dad tries to teach daughter lesson about short shorts

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Art of War (lessons)

The Art of War is actually one of my favorites. I refer to it frequently to heed advice on becoming more tough and also to reinforce my conviction that the way I've chosen to go about things is really the best way for me and aligns with my philosophical belief system. Things are rarely what they appear to be; I've waited to do things which has brought many others to question my commitment, interest, and conviction to succeed and pursue what I've set out to pursue. Moving and starting graduate school I am definitely closer to what I eventually want to do, but what most don't know is that grad school was in my plans for a while now (years in fact) and it's nice to be in a program that values my approach to medicine and is trying to help me get there in the best way possible. Here's to a kind fall!