Going Viral

Life imitates art: Women surgeons are recreating a magazine cover to challenge stereotypes

The inspiration came from The New Yorker’s cover art featuring four women surgeons.

It all began with the the cover of the April 3 edition of The New Yorker magazine – a illustration of four women surgeons in surgical masks and gowns looking down at a patient in an operating theatre. French artist Malika Favre who drew the “operating theatre” for the magazine’s health, medicine and body issue was trying to capture a patient’s feeling of being watched as they lose consciousness under anesthesia. Favre was drawing form her own experience of being operated on when she was a child.

When endocrine surgeon at the University of Wisconsin Dr Susan Pitt saw the image, she immediately wondered what it would look like to recreate the image. “The instant I saw it I thought about how cool it would be to replicate in real life,” Pitt told BuzzFeed. While attending a meeting of endocrine surgeons, Pitt gathered three other women surgeons and took a photo. She tweeted it out using the the hashtag #ILookLikeASurgeon and challenging other women surgeons to do the same.

Women surgeons across the United States and in other parts of the world – Mexico, Brazil, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – have quickly stepped up to take photos of their own recreations of the magazine cover. The challenge has now been trending on Twitter as the #NYerORCoverChallenge.

While the New Yorker cover challenge has certainly thrown up some great photos, the women taking part are hoping it will help challenge assumptions women in medicine. Surgery is a male-dominated profession around the world. Only 19% of surgeons in the US are women, according to statistics from the American Medical Association.

The Association of Women Surgeons of India contends that only 700 of 25,000 Indian surgeons are women. In March 2016, the Times of India reported that women surgeons were a “vanishing tribe” in Hyderabad. Records from corporate hospitals across the city showed that only 10% of their surgeons were women and almost all of these were restricted to gynaecology and obstetrics departments. There were few women in ophthalmology or general surgery. There were even fewer in super specialities within surgery like cardio-thoracic surgery, oncology, urology, paediatrics, plastic surgery, neurology and gastroenterology.

This is largely because surgery has mostly been an all-boys club, points out Dr Sristi Sharma, a surgery policy researcher and founder of the Association of Women Surgeons of India. “It is difficult for a woman to break in and be a part of that club not only because of their own fears but also because there is an inherent bias against women from the existing male surgeons as well as general public,” said Sharma. “Rampant sexist comments including ‘how will you manage?’, ‘You will destroy your family’, ‘Who will replace you when you are pregnant? We will be short staffed.’ Ask any woman surgeon-at some point of her life she has heard one of these cutting remarks.”

Sharma recounted a story from her time at NRS Hospital in Kolkata, where the head of surgery was a a very capable and experienced woman. However, when she did her rounds in the wards with other surgeons, patients would always direct their questions to the male surgeons.

With so few existing women surgeons, the newer generation of medical students have few women mentors and role models.

The social media campaign #ILookLikeASurgeon started much before The New Yorker’s April cover this year. It took off on Twitter in August 2015, with women surgeon using the hashtag to draw attention to problems of gender, racial and ethnic diversity in the profession of surgery. The tweet and the hashtag have brought together women in surgical and other medical organisations and is fast becoming a movement with goals to address problems of diversity in surgery, the wage gap, leadership barriers, work-life integration, burnout, surgical and workplace culture, and surgical stereotypes.

Trauma surgeon Jamie Jones Coleman writes in The Huffington Post that she took part in the #NYerORCoverChallenge to counter the predominant assumption of what a surgeon should look like. “Let’s say every surgeon you have met in your life is male and every nurse you have met is female. Therefore, when a male walks into the examination room you mistake him for the surgeon when he is, in fact, your nurse. This doesn’t make you a bad person, again, a good portion of this is unconsciously done... his is how we unconsciously send messages to our children and young people that women shouldn’t be surgeons because we don’t expect them to be, and that a person’s appearance, race, or gender should dictate who they are and what they become.”

Indian women surgeons do not want to be left behind in this movement. The Association of Women Surgeons in India has asked their members to join in the highly visible New Yorker Cover Challenge on social media. “Currently, the state of affairs is such that women surgeons in our country do not even realize the biases they face,” said Sharma. “Sexist comments are normalised, being passed over for leadership positions are accepted, even patient attitudes are tolerated. However, things will not change unless the 700 or so women surgeons stand up and say ‘Look at us-we do exist. And we are no different from you.’”

Here is their first #NYerORCoverChallenge photo.

Photo: Association of Women Surgeons of India.
Photo: Association of Women Surgeons of India.
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How technology is changing the way Indians work

An extensive survey reveals the forces that are shaping our new workforce 

Shreya Srivastav, 28, a sales professional, logs in from a cafe. After catching up on email, she connects with her colleagues to discuss, exchange notes and crunch numbers coming in from across India and the world. Shreya who works out of the café most of the time, is employed with an MNC and is a ‘remote worker’. At her company headquarters, there are many who defy the stereotype of a big company workforce - the marketing professional who by necessity is a ‘meeting-hopper’ on the office campus or those who have no fixed desks and are often found hobnobbing with their colleagues in the corridors for work. There are also the typical deskbound knowledge workers.

These represent a new breed of professionals in India. Gone are the days when an employee was bound to a desk and the timings of the workplace – the new set of professionals thrive on flexibility which leads to better creativity and productivity as well as work-life balance. There is one common thread to all of them – technology, tailored to their work styles, which delivers on speed and ease of interactions. Several influential industry studies and economists have predicted that digital technologies have been as impactful as the Industrial Revolution in shaping the way people work. India is at the forefront of this change because of the lack of legacy barriers, a fast-growing economy and young workers. Five factors are enabling the birth of this new workforce:

Smart is the way forward

According to the Future Workforce Study conducted by Dell, three in five working Indians surveyed said that they were likely to quit their job if their work technology did not meet their standards. Everyone knows the frustration caused by slow or broken technology – in fact 41% of the working Indians surveyed identified this as the biggest waste of time at work. A ‘Smart workplace’ translates into fast, efficient and anytime-anywhere access to data, applications and other resources. Technology adoption is thus a major factor in an employee’s choice of place of work.

Openness to new technologies

While young professionals want their companies to get the basics right, they are also open to new technologies like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. The Dell study clearly reflects this trend — 93% of Indians surveyed are willing to use Augmented/Virtual Reality at work and 90% say Artificial Intelligence would make their jobs easier. The use of these technologies is no longer just a novelty project at firms. For example, ThysenKrupp, the elevator manufacturer uses VR to help its maintenance technician visualize an elevator repair job before he reaches the site. In India, startups such as vPhrase and Fluid AI are evolving AI solutions in the field of data processing and predictive analysis.

Desire for flexibility 

A majority of Indians surveyed rate freedom to bring their own devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones etc.) to work very highly. This should not be surprising, personal devices are usually highly customized to an individual’s requirements and help increase their productivity. For example, some may prefer a high-performance system while others may prioritize portability over anything else. Half the working Indians surveyed also feel that the flexibility of work location enhances productivity and enables better work-life balance. Work-life balance is fast emerging as one of the top drivers of workplace happiness for employees and initiatives aimed at it are finding their way to the priority list of business leaders.

Maintaining close collaboration 

While flexible working is here to stay, there is great value in collaborating in person in the office. When people work face to face, they can pick up verbal and body language cues, respond to each other better and build connections. Thus, companies are trying to implement technology that boosts seamless collaboration, even when teams are working remotely. Work place collaboration tools like Slack and Trello help employees keep in touch and manage projects from different locations. The usage of Skype has also become common. Companies like Dell are also working on hi-tech tools such as devices which boost connectivity in the most remote locations and responsive videos screens which make people across geographies feel like they are interacting face to face.

Rise of Data Security 

All these trends involve a massive amount of data being stored and exchanged online. With this comes the inevitable anxiety around data security. Apart from more data being online, security threats have also evolved to become sophisticated cyber-attacks which traditional security systems cannot handle. The Dell study shows that about 74% of those surveyed ranked data security measures as their number one priority. This level of concern about data security has made the new Indian workforce very willing to consider new solutions such as biometric authentication and advanced encryption in work systems.

Technology is at the core of change, whether in the context of an enterprise as a whole, the workforce or the individual employee. Dell, in their study of working professionals, identified five distinct personas — the Remote Workers, the On-The-Go Workers, the Desk-centric Workers, the Corridor Warriors and the Specialized Workers.

Dell has developed a range of laptops in the Dell Latitude series to suit each of these personas and match their requirements in terms of ease, speed and power. To know more about the ‘types of professionals’ and how the Dell Latitude laptops serve each, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.