The woman you should aspire to be

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Nawaal Wajeeh is an MS1 at Fatima Jinnah Medical University, Pakistan. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


For the longest time, the term “bossy” has been used to describe determined female leaders. While male counterparts are defined to be “authoritative” or “assertive”. There is a clear disparity here; bossy seems to be an antagonizing term, one that suggests that the leadership is undue and irritating.

Over the years this term has become gender-specific – used to describe a strong female that is in charge. Is that a bad thing? Why is a villainizing term used to define a quality that is appreciable? This culture has resulted in young girls suppressing their leadership qualities in fear of being called bossy.

This thought-mechanism follows them from middle school, all the way into the workplace. More than half of women are going into the medical profession now, but we see a very tiny percentage at executive levels. We look at the likes of Dr. Julie A. Freischlag, one of the first few women to enter the field of Vascular Surgery, and Dr. Nancy L. Ascher at UCSF, a world-renowned surgeon known for her demand for absolute perfection, both of them are part of the rare group of women that have executive roles in surgical, male-dominated departments.

Dr. Nancy talks about the worst advice she’s ever been given in the following words “ We don’t have any women who are doing this or that’s not the usual path for a woman” Dr. Julie A Freischlag in her article “Resilience and Women in Academic Medicine” mentions that on her first day as a surgical resident, the hospital staff was looking for a tall male doctor called Dr. Freischlag completely oblivious to the fact that the petite female that stood before them was the, in fact, Dr. Freischlag.

There are countless examples of women in healthcare that have had similar experiences, women that are continuously scrutinized and told that their leadership is simply not appreciated. Hence this Women’s History Month let us honor these priceless pioneers that have opened the gateway to leadership for women in medicine.

Let us teach young girls that if “bossy” means being categorized with the likes of such heroes then every girl should in fact aspire to be “bossy”.

“I think realizing that you’re not alone, that you are standing with millions of your sisters around the world is vital.” -Malala Yousafzai

About the author

Nawaal Wajeeh is an MS1 at Fatima Jinnah Medical University, Pakistan (One of the oldest and the only women exclusive medical school in Pakistan). She is an active member of  IFMSA-Pakistan.

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