My name is Julia. And I am a fighter. I was the first female trainee in my hospital in Lithuania to become a neurosurgeon. Medicine is still plagued with medieval traditions and ways, from bullying to discrimination and plain disrespect from seniors doctors towards their juniors.
The training was very hard, besides the workload at the hospital and the amount of study material to get through, navigating the daily injustices was a tough thing to deal with psychologically.
Because of an old minded hierarchical system and the toxic sexism, I was faced with, I did not see my future in Lithuania. I finished my training and left for the UK. Once here, I was hugely inspired by the #MeToo movement and decided to share my story of emotional abuse and inappropriate behaviours. I wrote a public post exposing the people who treated me the worst: my training supervisor who constantly insulted and belittled me and two other senior doctors who touched me without my consent.
Obviously, they were not happy about me sharing my truth and sued me for slander. They used my mental health and family issues to show me as unstable, unreliable and crazy. They described me as a horrible doctor, said that they regret training me and letting pass the exam. My former colleagues, who suffered similar treatments but decided to stay on to work in the same hospital after the training, lied to protect the senior doctors. They pretended the culture was absolutely fine and that I made it all up.
But I stuck to my story, I fought and I won. Not only for myself but for all the other girls who give up on careers they love because of outdated gender stereotypes or are scared to report any sort of abuse.
During my training I was advised to blend in; "don't bring your baked goods to work", "don't do your hair or nails", "tone down your femininity", "fit in with the boys". To hell with that! I keep hearing that neurosurgery is a male speciality. So you have to assimilate, adjust. But I refuse. I will cry without shame, not because I am a girl, but because something hurts me. I will bring in my baked goods, not because this is something girls do, but because this is my hobby and I want to share with my team. I will remove dirty cups and rubbish from the office, but not because women are made to clean, but because it is common sense and I want a nice work environment. I will argue against all these stupid stereotypes and even more with the stupid advice, I get on how to deal with them. I am a girl. And a surgeon. And I am great at both!