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Business & Profession Professional Development, Other

Fighting the System from Within

When I was a first-year resident, I won the SOS ‘Best Research Award’. The opening ceremony was to be held in Jeddah, a city far from Riyadh, where I lived at the time. I was invited to receive my certificate with recognition. I remember sitting in the elegant conference hall, waiting for my name to be called per the ceremony announcement card – but it never was. At the intermission, I asked the person in charge what happened, why was my award not announced? I was informed the agenda had been made before they realized the recipient was a woman. Rather than presenting the recognition and award during the opening ceremony with all the officials, they would present it in the scientific meeting the following day instead. I asked why. He said: “There are cameras and we don’t think it’s appropriate for a woman to be broadcasted on stage.” I asked to speak to whoever was next in charge, and he pointed me to the head of the Ophthalmic Society, a royal. I introduced myself and explained that I had come all the way from Riyadh per the society’s invitation to receive recognition during opening ceremony. I had a family member with me who would be reporting to my parents, parents who had paved the way for me be there. I said I deserved to get my award. He asked what he was supposed to do with the TV broadcasting. I replied: “There is no need for my part to be televised.” So it wasn’t. I got on stage and collected my award. There were no lights, no cameras, no photos – no one would even shake my hand.

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About the Author

Phoebe Harkin

Associate Editor of The Ophthalmologist

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