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“Bari bann thann kay aa gaye hai maharani.” “(The queen has arrived all dressed up.)”
You would think such a crass phrase would have flown around during a tiff between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law. But what if I were to tell you that these were words from the mouth of a senior (female) professor directed at her senior (female) resident, during a round at a local hospital and are the former’s trademark?

Appalled? Don’t be. Because this was neither the first nor the last time these words were uttered. As countless women physicians will tell you, the discrimination they face at the hands of their senior female colleagues is far worse than what they receive from any other quarter.

Between juggling a career and being homemakers and mothers, the state of women doctors pursuing postgraduate training is far from the images portrayed in the soapy, teary televisions shows that have glamorised them.

In the last decade, the enrolment of women in medical schools has increased but the dropout rate is extremely high. Those who make their way and put their foot down about having a career will be reminded by their senior women colleagues how they have it easy. Ironically, it’s the same seniors who will evaluate the women more strictly than men, leaving them wondering, “If these women had ‘fought’ so hard against the men, why are they so much harder on women?”

So as we approach International Women’s Day on March 8 (the theme for this year is ‘Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures’) there is clearly so much that remains to be done. As a senior doctor said, “More women get admission at medical colleges now than in the 1980s, but few of them put this education to good use. Thus, the percentage of women physicians has not risen much as anticipated, partly because their senior female colleagues do not encourage them and they drop out after just a few years at medical school.”

Poignant words indeed. Perhaps it is time women doctors realise the importance of encouraging their contemporaries.

– Dr JN
The writer is a recently qualified doctor struggling to survive in the minefield of medicine.