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Continuing to press for success

Alexandra Crossland

26 Nov 2018

Alexandra Crossland

Press for success was the 2018 Women in Surgery Conference, focusing on how to succeed whilst looking after your personal wellbeing. More than 130 women gathered together at the Royal Institute of British Architects to hear from female leaders in surgery, technology and data including Averil Mansfield, Stella Vig, Nadine Hachach-Haram and Edwina Dunn. 97% of attendees said the event improved their knowledge and understanding of becoming a leader and making their goals a reality.

I had mixed emotions about attending the Women in Surgery conference this October. Initially, I was unsure if it was an event I should be going to, feeling very junior in my current Foundation Year 2 role. I clarified this with the RCS who confirmed I could certainly attend and I was London bound before I knew it.

Attending on my own I was apprehensive. What if there was no one I could speak to? Would it be too daunting? These questions - and my nerves - melted away as soon as I arrived and received a warm welcome from the membership team at the RCS.

As the day progressed we were filled with informative, inspirational and more importantly, incredible role models. Standing before me, they were visible examples of what it takes to succeed, sharing their personal stories of commitment, passion and progression in their careers and through life.

I noticed that within the room, I was surrounded by hugely energetic, driven and charismatic women all present and here for a collective goal: to support each other and learn from the female leaders of today. I was engaged and enjoyed learning about what it takes to climb the career ladder in different professions, listening to pioneering females in the science and data industry, some of whom are actively advancing surgery through augmented reality technology. I found myself astounded and hugely proud to be a female.

I learnt that the Women in Surgery network was founded in 1991, the year I was born and the same year when only 3% of consultant surgeons were female. 26 years later, I am now one of these women aspiring to pursue a career in surgery. Only now have I come to realise that this percentage in 2018 has raised to just 12.2%. This is a far cry from equal representation within our theatres of today. Can we as a profession be happy with a 9% rise in over 20 years? We have come far, but clearly, there is still much more work to do.

So, I pose some questions that I myself am, and was, guilty of before attending this day. Why as women do we think of reasons that we should not do something instead of just saying yes? Why do we apologise for being bold and taking opportunities?  My favourite word that just comes out of my mouth without realising is ‘sorry’ - always assuming I am to blame. When I was asked to write this blog, I decided to jump in and make a contribution. I am continuing to prove to myself that I can indeed do just what I witnessed at the conference and say yes. I am now endeavouring to put myself at the forefront of each opportunity and I implore you as other aspiring surgeons to do the same.

Women in Surgery’s key goals are to engage, encourage and inspire women of today. The Press for Success conference that day encompassed and achieved all of its goals for me. I now only hope that writing about it and giving a small glimpse into what an event like this entails and seeks to achieve has engaged, encouraged and inspired any future surgeon (be that male or female) to say yes to any opportunity that comes their way; including attending a Women in Surgery event in the future.

To end, I would like to echo the most inspirational words I heard that day from Professor Averil Mansfield: ‘When we do get to the top, let us not seek to kick down the ladder we used to get there, but to collectively continue to help one another take further steps up it together, side by side.’ With this in mind, I believe we should continue to keep pressing for success in this ever evolving and incredible career path we find ourselves upon, harnessing the contribution women can bring to this unique career.

 Alexandra Crossland is a Foundation Year 2 doctor at Harrogate Hospital.

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