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!




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