Women in regional anaesthesia remain underrepresented. Compared to their male peers, they are much less likely to be in academic and leadership positions. The reasons for this are multifactorial and complex. Recent literature cites many barriers. An unconscious bias perpetuated through social norms and cultural upbringing exists; the belief that men are ‘seen’ as natural leaders, with their assertiveness praised and their competency assumed. Studies from Australasia have demonstrated a confidence gap between genders. Male trainees overestimate their competency level, often impacting female training opportunities. As regional anaesthesia requires repetitive mastery, this leads to decreased ‘hands-on’ experience, which is vital to achieving expertise. Women’s progress is further impacted by family responsibilities, meaning they are often part-time and need career breaks for maternity. This results in a lack of female trainers and role models, further discouraging the engagement of women. In the wise words of Prof Edward Mariano, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.
Facing challenges in my own regional anaesthesia career, I pondered what could be done to ameliorate this situation. Despite my maximal efforts, I became increasingly frustrated seeing my male counterparts seemingly achieving much more than me. This inspired a period of reflection and #ThisGirlBlocks was born. It is now just over a year since conception and my resolute commitment to tackle the issue of gender inequality.
#ThisGirlBlocks is a community that supports and empowers women in regional anaesthesia, bringing us together. We provide platforms where women can connect and communicate. This has included social events and meet ups at this year’s ESRA conference. We promote honest conversations about our collective experiences, both positive and negative, in an attempt to challenge the status quo.
In order to move forward on this issue, we need the support of our male colleagues to promote and provide mentorship. Without our honorary #BlockBoys the #ThisGirlBlocks journey would have been impossible. Together we will find solutions to this problem.
We have provided lanyard badges to help start conversations regarding diversity. Over 600 pins have now been sent worldwide. Lots of exciting projects are in the pipeline and we cannot wait to share them. There are incredible women in our community and at #ThisGirlBlocks, we intend to showcase them. In more simple terms, the recognition that your female trainee might need a little extra support is a good starting point.
Whether you are male or female, please come and find us and say ‘hello’. Diversity as a whole is important for creating a more inclusive community and promoting excellence in regional anaesthesia.
You can find us on social media, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, under the handle @thisgirlblocks. We will also be in person at #ESRAworld2023 in Paris. Come along and join the fun. Grab a pin for your lanyard. We are attempting the biggest ever female ‘RA selfie’ to highlight our community – come along and help make it happen.
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