London: An Indian-origin leading British female surgeon has called for a cultural change in the UK’s medical system, saying her colleagues face sexism every day at work place as there is a “hostile environment for women.”
Jyoti Shah, 44, a consultant urological surgeon at Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the West Midlands region of England, says her colleagues face sexism every day in operating theatres by their male counterparts.
“Surgery still remains very male dominated and it does still appear as an old boys’ club and you’re very much an outsider as a woman. You’re trying to break into their gang almost and that culture is quite engrained in surgery,” she was quoted as saying by BBC today.
Operating theatres are a “hostile environment for women” she said.
Shah went on to cite a number of examples of sexist behaviour in the industry, including female surgeons being referred to as “nurses” and being asked to make tea.
“Women are tough resilient creatures, we’re facing this culturally engrained behaviour by our male colleagues, discrimination does exist and it’s existed for far too long and its time we did something about it.
“This is about saving lives and recruiting the best talent possible, regardless of gender, we want to create an environment that is appealing to everybody, we owe that to patients,” she said.
Her remarks came as research by Exeter University found that women in the UK could be discouraged from entering surgery because there are fewer female role models.
It also found a perception among many women who felt they are less likely to succeed than their male counterparts as 68 per cent of newly qualified female UK doctors believed surgery was not a career that welcomed women.
There are around 800 female surgical consultants in England and they represent only 11 per cent of the total.
The first female president of the UK’s Royal College of Surgeons Clare Marx agreed there was gender inequality in surgery but said the culture was already changing and that a growing number of women were going into medicine.
“We can’t tell people to change their culture, what we have to do is grow the numbers and show the way we can change the culture from within rather than dictating. Laying down rules doesn’t work,” Marx added.
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