My experience of sexism in the workplace

I was on a placement in orthopaedics and was due to spend the morning in theatre. I arrived with my male medical student colleague and we introduced ourselves to the (male) orthopaedic registrar who said we could take turns scrubbing in to get a closer look at the surgery. I went first. As i was scrubbed i was able to watch the surgery from close up whilst the other medical student watched from further back. I had not been in theatre many times before so did not expect to do anything other than watch the surgery. Towards the end of the procedure when the registrar was closing the wound the scrub nurse suggested that the registrar allow me to assist with this. The registrar declined stating it would be quicker if he did it himself. Not being a budding surgeon myself I didn’t think too much more of it. However as we switched roles and my male colleague scrubbed in for the next operation when both the consultant (also a man) and registrar were present there was a big difference. My colleague was included in the operation to a much greater degree and allowed to assist including manipulating the hip (under a great deal of guidance, obviously). He was asked questions (I had been simply ignored) and when those were answered he was asked about his interests and the three discussed sports. Although I was included briefly in the questioning and explanations, due to proximity (I was further away as I was not scrubbed in at this time) I was ignored again. After this operation our time in theatre was finished and we left for lunch. Immediately after leaving the theatre my male colleague apologised profusely that he had been given such a better opportunity than i had had and offered to ensure I had a better experience next time we were in theatre together e.g. by allowing me to scrub in with the consultant.

Reflecting on the experience it could have been simply that the registrar was not interested in teaching and hence my experience suffered in comparison to my colleague who scrubbed in with the consultant who had more time for teaching and confidence in allowing others to assist in the operation. However I did feel there was an element of sexism in the way I was treated and the lack of opportunities I encountered in this situation.