IWD 2019: Overcoming barriers and confronting professional challenges

In the latest International Women's Day blog, Dr Fahdah Alokaily discusses the ongoing challenges that women face to succeed in professional life. 

Back when I was a little girl, I did not like the fact that girls were treated differently than boys. All around me I saw them getting more chances in life and gaining more credibility than I, or any other girl. I did not like, nor wished to accept, to be a helpless part of the complexity of life. 

As I grew up, I attributed these circumstances to our cultural background and restrictions that we have in our community. However, when I look around at other parts of the world, I see the same differences, only in varied degrees. When I look amongst the credible, accountable members of any society, I find most of them are men. That makes me feel inferior, which is quite a painful feeling.  Despite this fact, there are women who became iconic figures at different fields of science, politics, arts, media and others.

At that point, I had a choice to make. I could either accept my inferiority, continue to be a minor member of society with whatever limited potential that was enforced upon me, or I could stand up, confront those obstacles and grab the power to make positive changes in my community.

I could either accept my inferiority, continue to be a minor member of society with whatever limited potential that was enforced upon me, or I could stand up, confront those obstacles and grab the power to make positive changes in my community

Dr Fahdah Alokaily, international adviser of the RCP (UK) for Saudia Arabia. 

I had always been interested in reading autobiographies of successful women around the world. What challenges do they face? How do they overcome them? What are their drives and motivations? How did they succeed? Even though I may not know the details of their lives, they still inspire me and empower me. The unfortunate truth we must accept is that women are required to work harder than men. Women are required to double their efforts, to be more persistent, more relentless, more determined, and definitely more patient than men in order to succeed. 

I learned that passion in what you do is extremely critical. Having the sense of commitment towards that passion is the main drive in facing and overcoming challenges. Whether male or female, we are all tested every day. How we do with those tests and what we learn from them is what will build our sense of character. The more challenges we face and overcome, the bigger the potential we realize we possess. Hence, the more responsibilities we get to own.

However, it takes time for people to acknowledge and trust a woman’s abilities in a male-dominant society. We should not be let down after our first disappointment. We must keep pursuing our passion through hard work and perseverance in order to develop our community and become an important part of it. 

On a different note, as we all know, being a woman most likely means becoming a mother at some point of time. Motherhood on its own is a full-time job that requires constant care and attention. The motherhood package comes with its own kind of unique challenges and obstacles that each mother must conquer.  

I cannot appoint a particular female idol, but I could say for sure that each successful woman around the world is my idol. It takes passion, dedication and commitment for a woman to become a mother and at the same time strive to acquire higher education in order to reach a higher status in the community. Being able to balance between a career, where we strive to succeed with all the hardships and adversities, and a family, which we aspire to care for and nurture with all its demands and challenges is an achievement on its own. 

Dr Fahdah Alokaily is the international adviser of the RCP (UK) for Saudia Arabia. 

This blog is part of a week-long series celebrating women in medicine and their inspirations, as part of International Women's Day.