Report by Melissa Flynn, Medical Student, Queen’s University Belfast, WENTS UK medical student representative.
WENTS UK marked International Women’s Day 2021 with a special two-hour seminar featuring Prof Sujana Chandrasekhar as the keynote speaker, followed by a panel discussion centred around the challenges facing women in ENT surgery. Prof Chandrasekhar gave an inspirational speech about her positive life experiences and the struggles she’s faced during her career.
The panel delved further into the issues which negatively and disproportionately affect women in the workplace. This session aimed to address issues, raise awareness, and start the conversation toward equality for all female trainees. ENT UK members can watch the recording of the event here.
This event was preceded by a successful social media campaign, in which both male and female colleagues posted pledge videos on Twitter to challenge bias, discrimination, stereotypes, ignorance and complacency in the ENT community and beyond. Check out the WENTS UK Twitter page to view the pledges made in support of International Women’s Day 2021 and the #ChooseToChallenge initiative.
The event was attended by over 100 people from the UK and further afield. Feedback reported that 77% of attendees rated the event as very good and excellent, and 79% of attendees are interested in attending more of the WENTS UK events.
The WENTS UK Committee would like to extend special thanks to Prof Sujana Chandrasekhar, and all panellists for their insights and being such generous role models. Thank you!
Victoria Sinclair, WENTS UK Committee member, dug deeper into Prof Chandrasekhar’s motivations and inspirations:
Are there any particular people and mentors who’ve supported you in your career?
I had a lot of family support. My parents instilled in me this belief that I could do whatever I set out to do. Training was fun, a lot of work, a lot of laughter, but I did feel like an outsider. When I came to my fellowship at the House Institute, I finally felt supported. I’ll mention Dr James Sheehy and Dr Antonio de la Cruz - both so generous. I grabbed those opportunities.
What do you think are the advantages of being a woman in surgery?
There are so many! Our strength is perseverance. We know how to smile and carry on. The way we are raised makes for an extraordinarily compassionate approach. We can keep our eye on the prize. I think we need to be more outspoken; we need to learn how to give direction. We need to allow ourselves to be ourselves. In those days, I made myself as asexual as possible, until I got pregnant and had to admit to having a uterus! But now it’s ok to be generous, to be familial, to bring in cookies. And you know the sisterhood is strong. It still takes more for a woman to get to the same position professionally and we are very supportive of each other for the majority. We just need to learn to reach out and be generous.