Slogans like “The future is female,” and “Women hold up half the sky,” are just some of the words branded across placards and posters, as women across the globe celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8.
The call for gender equality remains consistent and clear, with this year’s theme, Balance for Better, driving home the need for a more gender-balanced world.
While women have made leaps and bounds, moving from sleep dusters, hair rollers and house slippers, to boardrooms and becoming entrepreneurs and savvy businesswomen, there is still the argument that with all these accomplishments, women are still treated unfairly and at times with little respect when in the professional world they sit in similar chairs as their male counterparts.
The Sunday Guardian spoke with two women, whose career path, took them into male-dominated fields where they have both prospered, but have also encountered male chauvinism. Dr Vanessa Harry and Dzifa Job embody “girl power”, and they shared their experiences with us.
Dr Vanessa Harry, consultant gynaecological oncology surgeon:
As the only female gynaecological oncologist in T&T, it may sometimes seem daunting, but the reality is that I am confident in my training and abilities and I always aim to put my patients first.
Entering a surgical subspecialty field for me was an easy decision, not based on thinking that I needed to prove anything to anyone, but merely, I was doing something I thoroughly enjoyed and wanted to be very good at it. Although now there are as many female medical students compared with male students, men still significantly outnumber women in surgical fields, particularly in a subspecialty.
In the early days of my surgical training, I was lucky enough to be encouraged and supported by almost all of my colleagues, both male and female. There were the occasional comments made my way that I would undoubtedly have to choose work over family, and can women really do it all? My policy, however, has always been to work hard—even harder than everyone else—both men and women, and not to expect to be given an easy ride because you are a woman in a male-dominated field. And can we really do it all? Well, I feel that’s all about what you want from life. It’s always going to be a challenge to balance work and family, but that’s the same whether you’re a teacher, businesswoman or a surgeon. Do your best, work hard, and enjoy life and family first!
Dzifa Job, public relations consultant/communications specialist:
When women come together to support and empower each other amazing things happen, but to achieve gender equality we need more. We need men who can recognise the qualified women in their circle, and who are willing to recommend them for opportunities that they know exist. I got my first chance to marry my communications savvy with my love of sport, because Brian Lewis, president of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC), was open to me pitching my skills. That moment where I served as press officer for T&T and his mentorship continues to open doors locally and internationally. In spite of this, men I meet are often surprised at my knowledge of sport. This was apparent during the time I spent as part of CNC3 TV’s analyst team for the 2018 World Cup and my stint hosting the number one sports show in the Caribbean, Flow Sports Premier League Weekly. Things are getting better, but change is slow. I persevere in spite of the “mansplaining” and bias because change is only possible if we keep moving forward. Every step counts. If not for myself, then for the little girls who look at me and the other women featured who say to themselves, I can do that too!