Food for Thought: 2016-Time for a Change?

03 Jan 2016

Lately I’ve started noticing a common theme- in public and private conversations, in various parts of the internet, the gathering of momentum.

In November of this year I attended the Millin Meeting, the one day annual conference of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI). As it happened, one of the presentations that day was to be on the topic of women in surgery. In her speech, the surgeon covered the history of women surgeons in Ireland, discussed the current challenges of being a woman in surgery, and even gave a shout out to the #Ilooklikeasurgeon movement. Afterwards, a member of the audience asked the speaker about the problem of recruiting and retaining women into the surgical field. She paused for a moment before responding, “Both women AND men reject surgery careers due to problems with work/life balance.”

Surgery is no longer for those who decide it’s ok not to have an apartment because they can live out of the call room [true story]. While traditionally seen as a woman’s issue, more and more men are expecting and demanding time for both family life and leisure. Indeed, my twitter feed is evidence of the importance of #SurgParenting, proud surgery folk displaying some of their greatest achievements. And have you taken a look lately at #ilooklikeasurgeon? So many fabulous women (and men) doing amazing, fun, diverse things from marathons to rock climbing to race car driving. Truly, we love surgery, but we love life too. And the world we work in should reflect the changes in our society.

A few days ago I came across an interesting blog post by Victoria Bateman, an economist working in academia: more women are to benefit from the gender equality that society prizes, she writes, it is time for the world of work to change. While she doesn’t refer to surgery, the problems she discusses regarding academia ring uncannily close to home.

We hear about leaning in- and as noted in Shree’s post there’s still a lot of work to do in this regard. However, whether it is economics, engineering or surgery, women have proven themselves more than capable time and time again. It’s no longer a male/female issue. It’s about changing a work culture that has become outdated and outmoded. Work/life integration is important to all of us. And people have started speaking up.

It seems a change is in the works for the culture of surgery.  Have you noticed it too?


Dr. Ainhoa Costas Chavarri is a General Surgeon and Hand Surgeon who does full-time #globalsurgery. She has been living and working in Rwanda for the past two and a half years. She has started again so many times she has lost count. But every single time it has been worth it.

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons. 

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