The answer lies in making the environment conducive for women to participate more actively
As I sit and pen these thoughts which are my personal opinions based on my experience of more than two decades in radiology in a large metro city i.e. Mumbai, I realise someone else thinking about this in a different setting and city may have a different take on this. So here is my two cents on this subject.
I am known to be a staunch feminist (who as a teenager managed to argue and convince her advocate grandfather to add daughters and daughters-in-law names in the family tree). I can confidently say that radiology is a branch of medicine where I have never faced any discrimination as a female, both as a resident and lecturer in a municipal hospital as well as a practising consultant in private hospitals.
To begin with, earlier the number of women joining radiology was much more than men. When I joined radiology residency 22 years back, my batch had five women and a single guy (you can imagine the joke in the department as to how he was dominated by females). The department itself had approximately 75 per cent of residents as females. But over the years, this distribution has slowly changed. In my hospital, in the last three years, we had eight male and four female residents. The reason for this, in my opinion is more men wanting to join radiology rather than women not wanting to take up this speciality. As radiology has evolved over the years from being limited to X-rays and ultrasound, to include CT, MRI and interventional radiology, it has become a truly clinical speciality with active involvement in patient management as well as financial stability, leading to the increase in males opting for this speciality.
Radiology is a branch where there have always been enough women who have been successful in teaching as well as private practice. I have not come across women being discriminated against when applying for radiology residency or jobs neither have I seen a difference in the pay based on gender. In fact, I have always been part of departments with women majority. At one point of time, except for the head of the department and the peons, rest entire staff including radiologists, technicians, receptionists and typists consisted of women! There are challenges that we women face, but they are the same that any woman faces in any profession anywhere. We all find it a challenge to balance work, home and children. I have been lucky enough to sometimes work from home when needed but I realise this is not always practical in all situations and circumstances. But as radiologists, most of us have the freedom to adjust our work timings especially when we are in a group practice. We, as women do not want any concessions; we just need the flexibility to work around our timings while doing our full share of work. Uniformity with respect to maternity leave (maybe short paternity leave too…as after all, we are talking of equality!) is something the radiology fraternity can consider as a step forward in the right direction. The areas in radiology where women are under represented are as office bearers in the local and national radiology associations and in the upcoming branch of interventional radiology. But I believe this again is a matter of choice and not discrimination. Women are equally encouraged to actively participate in the association activities which they do to the best of their ability. But when it comes to taking up positions of responsibility in the office and administration, although nobody is stopping them, most of the women choose not to as they feel they will not do justice due to lack of time and energy in discharging these additional responsibilities.
Interventional radiology is a sub speciality that women radiologists are hesitant to take up as difficult work-life balance and radiation risks are the challenges that are tough to face. On the other hand, there are more women in academic institutions where they have an excellent opportunity to play an important role in training the residents who are the future of radiology.
I believe radiology is a sub speciality that women have always had a strong and equal presence in. Yes, there are few areas where some change would be welcome. We need to discuss and debate the ways in which women interested in these areas can be encouraged and promoted. And by this, I do not mean any reservation or concessions for women, as that is never a true solution. The answer lies in making the environment conducive for women to participate more actively by choice.
It is a level playing field and no one is stopping us. We need to decide to go and play!
As Mercedes Joubert rightly said, ‘True equality is not the superiority of women, but the equal status of man and woman.’