Who runs the world? Girls
APRIL 3 — Last week, at a conference, one of the consultant surgeons asked me what I planned to do in the future, but before I could answer he said to me quite seriously that he wanted to know what I wanted to do regardless of my gender.
“Most people don’t pursue their dreams in surgery and other fields like trauma medicine because of their gender. I want to know what you want to do, not what society wants you to do.”
I thought about this quite a lot after that. Does it have to be this way? How many dreams in the world get crushed because gender gets in the way? Are there many females out there who do other jobs like cooking or teaching, but secretly want to be mechanical engineers? Are there many males out there who do accounting or finance, but secretly want to be fashion designers?
Take the case of female doctors, a topic I am more knowledgeable than any other field. A lot of females in my class want to be GPs or medical physicians. Not many of them have come into medicine wanting to be surgeons or trauma doctors or intensive care specialists, all of whom are reputed for having long and tedious training regimes, terrible working hours and a high rate of divorce and substance abuse.
Now that we’re steadily working through our tour of the various specialties during medical school, more and more of my female friends who had an interest in surgery to begin with have begun to change their minds. Others are now faced with difficult choices. Graduation is looming, and waiting for us after the mortarboards is a whole new working world, where life is no longer a bed of roses. Coupled with that, we’ll have to think about marriage and starting a family; not many girls want the hassle of a difficult and draining specialist career to add to their already overloaded equation.
Is this justified? Should gender be a reason for you to not do something you would like to do? Any reasonable person would say no. But a lot of women would say yes, even though the world has been trying to make things easier for the career woman by increasing maternity leave time and benefits, as well as giving consideration to women with families when allocating jobs, and so on. And this has nothing to do with whether these women are feminists or not, it is just personal choice.
Yet we just can’t win. The women who choose family get criticised for not trying to maintain a more high-powered career in the meantime. The women who choose their careers get criticised for not caring about their families. The women who try to do both usually end up messing one up at some point, and the best they can do is to hope it won’t be too big a mess-up.
So what am I saying?
In my opinion, it all boils down to the individual. Some people like the challenge of balancing a demanding career and home life. Others have a very firm opinion about which is more important, and they pursue that. What I am saying is that no matter what it is the woman chooses in the end, it would have been a hard decision for her to make.
Therefore one must not make judgments, whether it is about your neighbour who works all week and doesn’t want to have children, or whether it is about your sister-in-law who refuses to work and wants to stay home with the kids. They have their reasons.
The world has always been a difficult one for the woman, but society needs to realise that these decisions are not easy to make, and sometimes hard to live with if people keep telling you that you’ve made the wrong one. So make life a little bit easier for the women in your life today.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.