health

Female doctors are using the hashtag #LikeALadyDoc to advocate for the excellent work of lady doctors.

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States and the first woman on the UK medical register.

She obtained her degree in 1849. In 1890, Emma Constance Stone was the first woman admitted to the Victorian medical board in Australia. Both of these women were initially denied entrance to university.

Skip forward to modern day medicine, more than half of medical graduates worldwide are women. Women are making huge leaps and bounds in a profession that has been a traditional male bastion. Surgery is still an area dominated by men, with only around 10% of surgeons in Australia women.

In 2015, to show that stereotypes are off the mark, US general surgical resident Heather Logghe MD, first used the hashtag #ILookLikeASurgeon. This online campaign united hundreds of supporters on line and aims to demonstrate that the traditional notion of a middle aged man as a surgeon, were no longer applicable.

Despite big steps forward, women are still subjected to sexism in surgery. Sometimes with and more recently, from outside from the profession. Recently, the conservative British newspaper, The Times, published an editorial denouncing the participation of women in the healthcare workforce, Women were blamed, their procreation and their lack of work ethic responsible for problems with the health workforce. The author, Dominic Lawson, sister of celebrity cook Nigella, was highly critical of the lack of commitment of women to their vocation and unwillingness to work weekends or in a full time capacity. Unsurprisingly, women doctors the world over were most unimpressed with the notion that hospital systems could fall apart on account of their ovaries and alleged laziness. The article resulted in a social media hashtag, #likealadydoc that took off around the globe on Twitter.

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Women doctors shared stories and pictures of them and their extraordinary achievements in both medicine and their lives. Some tongue in cheek and some serious but all distinctly squaring up to anyone who would blame a valuable part of the workforce for any and all problems.

What this article failed to mention is that not only are women wanting better work-life balance, men are too. No longer are men happy to work the incredible hours of their predecessors, they too are wanting time with family or time to have some balance in their lives. Both men and women are making work choices that allow them to live life outside of the four walls of a workplace. Flexibility in the workplace is not a woman problem. It is a human problem.

Feminisation of the workforce is a term that refers to the changes exerted by the increasing presence of women in a workforce. With more men and women in the workforce looking to have some semblance of a balanced life, workforce planning does need to accommodate a changing work style and will require creative solutions on the part of employers and employees alike. No one group should be disadvantaged by another in order to fulfill needs.

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Women’s participation in work, in medicine, has brought many positive changes, skills and allowed us to pick our workers from the best of the whole population, not just half of it. We should fight to encourage their participation, not blame them for all that we see wrong with the world. Broad generalisations that are often inaccurate are insulting to the thousands of women doctors who have trained so hard and are dedicated, skillful professionals. Women in medicine have long struggled with how to fully participate in clinical and academic life. They are unfortunately, still subject to forms of discrimination and harassment in their work lives. Women are still discouraged from specialties such as surgery. As a young female surgeon, people still act shocked to see me managing their care rather than the stereotypical surgeon. There have been times when I was told to pursue a more family or female friendly career path.

#LikeALadyDoc has shown that women doctors are extraordinarily proud of what they do. We are a group of women who are smart, motivated, funny and strong and are excelling in many areas of life and work. On Wednesday, men and women in healthcare wore pink to work to show support for the wonderful work women in medicine do. It was also an act of defiance to anyone who would say that women doctors have somehow tarnished the workforce.

It’s important that we keep looking for ways to change societies expectations of what a woman should and shouldn’t do in her work and personal life. A diverse workforce is an enriched workforce. I am very proud to be a female surgeon and my colleagues and I will never stop advocating for the excellent work we all do. Like a lady doc would.

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