#BeBoldForChange on International Women’s Day

So today is International Women’s Day.

The theme for this year is to be bold and make a change for women’s rights.

As doctors, we are reasonably lucky that in many regards we are on an even footing with our male colleagues. Although recent amendments to junior doctors contracts in the UK have had my female peers up in arms. Penalising women for career breaks – whether for academic advancement or for children is never acceptable, especially in a profession that at it’s core is non-judgemental to all. Even my latent inner feminist was irked by the governments decisions.

The purpose of International Women’s Day is to reflect on the progress of women’s rights, celebrate those women who have stood up to fight for equality and for our benefit – whether it be in our local community or in the wider world.

Sometimes we can be accused of being cosseted in our own little bubble, immune to the problems “over there”. The sad reality is that the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy here are not universally shared and any chance to shed the spotlight on that cannot be a bad thing.

In honour of International Women’s Day, I would like to share a few of my female heroines:

Margaret Ann Bulkley (a.k.a. Dr James Barry)

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Dr. James Barry enjoyed an illustrious career as a military surgeon, working to save lives of wounded soldiers. He is famed for being the first British surgeon to perform a successful caesarean section in Africa. However all was not what it seemed with Dr. Barry. He was born Margaret Ann Bulkley and pretended to be a man throughout her entire professional career so as to allow her to study and practice Medicine and to be accepted by peers. It was only after her death that her gender was revealed.  She was the first medically qualified female in British history. As a female in medicine, she will always have a soft spot in my heart. To have that kind of guts and determination to strive for success and passion is awe-inspiring.

Michelle Obama

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There is much to say that hasn’t already been said about the former FLOTUS. From her stellar fashion sense to her commitment to advancing education for girls, she is a tough one not to admire. The former Princeton and Harvard grad turned lawyer turned wife and mother turned first lady is a modern lesson for how belief and work can make anyone an unstoppable force. In a speech in 2009, Michelle told us ” One, that as women, we must stand up for ourselves. The second, as women, we must stand up for each other. And finally, as women, we must stand up for justice for all.” #Obama2020

Cleopatra

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Perhaps the most inspiring women in history was Cleopatra.  She beguiles long after her death in 30BC. Depicted by famous beauties of stage and screen, she is credited of using her feminine wiles for the benefit of her country. Her legend is one of beauty, wit, charm, intellect, independence and determination. It is thought she spoke as many as a dozen languages and was a political dynamite. She was also a fierce warrior, having personally led an Egyptian naval fleet to battle. She can be best be summarised by one her most famous quotes “I will not be triumphed over”.  All things considered, what’s not to love about her.   

So on the day when we celebrate women and take time to reflect on the challenges we have yet to overcome, how will you #BeBoldForChange?

-Alex