‘This is Anushka Chaudhry. She’s a breast surgeon and here to make the place look prettier’
That was my introduction to a ‘by invite only’ society of reputable surgeons as we sat for our first lecture on digital mapping of the spine for fusion surgery.
‘I’d like to think I’m here to offer a bit more than that’ I said, seething inside.
Remarks such as this have always been a part of life and never really bothered me so much. I kick myself now for not protesting on the sexist comment and calling him out. I questioned the invitation that had made me feel special and accomplished. Should I leave this group?
I used to be a knee-jerk reactor but as I have grown, I realise that processing my emotions helped me rationalise what I was feeling and how to react. So that’s what I did. Some of these men worked in times when the theatre changing rooms were for ‘Men’ and ‘Nurses’. Their culture consisted of a hierarchy where the man led the team supported by their staff. Despite years of working in a changing environment of more female leaders, their position remained static and in the past. Should I take this personally, or understand it and move on?
In a quiet moment, I took him aside the next day and explained what had disappointed me. Met with a huge portion of apologies with a side of dismissive laughter, we agreed it was inappropriate.
I spent the next day engrossed in fascinating talks and discussions with surgical specialists that opened my eyes outside the world of breast surgery. It made me hungry for more and I told myself I’d stick with them. I deserved a place in this historical society and make history myself. As the second woman in the group and the first breast surgeon and Indian ever invited, something is changing. Slowly but surely.