Friday 15 December 2017

Trainees should comply with sexual advances? Ignore this doctor's advice

Gabrielle McMullin
Gabrielle McMullin

My little girl isn't even three. But it doesn't stop me wondering what she'll end up doing in life.

When she's 'making me dinner' I imagine her as a chef. When she's 'taking my temperature' I wonder will she be a doctor.

The latter's unlikely given that even if you added together the points her daddy and mammy got in their Leaving Certs, they still probably wouldn't be enough for medicine today.

But it has never crossed my mind that medicine mightn't be a career you'd want your daughter to go into, because some people in that line of work might expect her to accept unwanted sexual advances from superiors.

This week an Irish-educated doctor said it would be better for the careers of women trainees to comply with sexual advances.

Dr Gabrielle McMullin, who was schooled at Trinity College and is now based in Australia, said: "If you are approached for sex probably the safest thing to do in terms of your career is to comply with the request."


Now while the surgeon might have thought she was imparting some straight forward advice, what she actually did was only serve to perpetuate sexual harassment.

The other inference is that this is what successful female medics have done in the past to get to where they are now.

I also think McMullin has done a massive disservice to colleagues, men as well as women, by suggesting that they would all shun a female trainee who made a complaint.

McMullin has since tried to backtrack saying she just tried to point out the grim realities faced by many young women doctors in a sexist environment.

But that's not what she did initially. She advised women to comply with demands.

What she should have done was advise women not to comply, so that nobody felt the need to choose between keeping their self-respect and their career.

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