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International Women’s Day: Yumiko Kadota

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International Women’s Day: #BreakTheBias

Celebrating women in healthcare

March 8th marks International Women’s Day – and it’s a day we always make sure to celebrate here at Salt Medical.

Healthcare as an industry is driven by women, and as a business we’re driven by women too. As a women-led business, our Founding Directors, Kelly and Veronica, both work incredibly hard to buck the trend and build a strong, female-led business that has empathy and compassion at its heart.

The theme for this year’s IWD is #BreakTheBias – which to us means breaking down the often still pervasive idea that women are nurses and doctors are men. Women’s rights in healthcare are better than ever before – but there’s still a huge amount of work to do!

Today, we want to celebrate one woman who is doing an incredible amount of work to #BreakTheBias in healthcare in Australia: Yumiko Kadota.

Yumiko Kadota: celebrating the “emotional female”

Driven by a desire to combine her passion for helping people with her enjoyment of science, Yumiko Kadota, who grew up in New South Wales, studied medicine at the University of New South Wales and became a plastic and reconstructive surgery registrar after years of study.

With high hopes and bright spirits, Yumiko entered the world of surgery – and very quickly started to experience micro-aggressions in the mostly-male workplace. The hours were long, the stress was high, and Yumiko’s mental and physical health began to suffer. She stuck it out for a while, but in 2018 she resigned.

In Australia, only 12.8% of surgeons are female. The environment is heavily male-dominated, heavily clinical in its approach, and leaves little room for empathy, compassion or actually caring about patients.

“When I quit, one of my former colleagues said, ‘I’m so glad you’re alive’ – and she wasn’t being dramatic.”

Near the end of her surgical days, she was called an “emotional female” by a male colleague – and that phrase summed up the entire surgical approach. The surgeons around Yumiko were adamant that there was no place for emotion in the surgical arena – and that just didn’t seem acceptable to Yumiko.

‘Knife before life’ & surgeon burnout

If you’ve not heard the phrase ‘knife before life’, you’re lucky. The idea is that, for surgeons, there is nothing more important than the knife (the work) – and that will always come before living their lives.

In our recent piece about work-life balance for Australian doctors, we discussed this issue and how the healthcare industry as a whole tends to make it difficult for doctors to find a balance that prevents burnout – and Yumiko experienced that first-hand.

“There’s a lot of ego, bravado, and toxic masculinity in certain sub-cultures of surgery, and it’s extremely harmful even for the heterosexual cis-gender men in it.”

For Yumiko, realising she had reached burnout was a tough thing to do. The surgical industry is driven by over-working, under-living and putting ‘knife before life’ at every single turn – and for women in that overly-masculine environment, accepting long hours and high-stress often feels like a must, in order to ‘keep up’ with the male surgeons.

What needs to change to #BreakTheBias in healthcare

What Yumiko experienced in the world of surgery is not unique – but what is unique is that Yumiko went on to share her experiences far and wide and has been flying the flag for female doctors, surgeons and healthcare professionals ever since.

Her bestselling book, Emotional Female, is well-worth a read. It’s a no-holds-barred look at the reality of surgery in Australia – and Yumiko shares her unfiltered opinions about what needs to change to move the needle forward for women.

Yumiko hopes that Emotional Female will give us all courage: “I think a lot of people are trapped in difficult situations, whether they are work-related or not. I hope reading the book might give someone the courage to stand up for themselves.”

Outside of her writing, Yumiko is incredibly active in the advocacy space. Constantly calling out microaggressions on her social media accounts (like this, where she was referred to as a ‘beauty therapist’, despite having been a doctor for over 11 years) and sharing health, fitness and lifestyle thoughts on her blog, Mind Body Miko. There are also some rumours of a new book in the works, which we’re very excited about! Make sure you’re following Yumiko over on Twitter and Instagram.

Yumiko’s work is incredibly inspiring for us at Salt Medical, and we will continue to #BreakTheBias in every way we can. Our recruitment processes are always free of gender bias (and any other sort of bias!) and we love helping healthcare professionals of any gender find the perfect role for them – in a working environment that supports their mental health, physical health, and that allows them to show compassion and empathy through their vocation.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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