Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “A woman is like a teabag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water”.
I think that we can all agree that both studying and practicing medicine can qualify as “hot water” – made more difficult with the added pressures that women face such as the need to start families and achieve a work/life balance.
It’s unfair, but oftentimes it feels like women are held to a very high standard and are sold a dream of having it all. This unrealistic goal is said to be a cause of ‘burnout’ in many women in medicine (although burnout is prevalent in both sexes and is an issue that must be addressed within the Medical Community as a whole). Also, let’s not forget that the 2017 Pulse of the People report run by a market research company named Ipsos found that women in South Africa earn 27% less than men. However, despite all of this, women still persist and are making waves within the medical profession.
Therefore, in honour of Women’s Month and in light of all that has happened for women this year in terms of the spotlight on issues such as gender inequality in the work-place, we have decided to place our own spotlight on a woman who is studying medicine and is the embodiment of strong and independent. Her name is Mumtaaz ‘Taz’ Emeran and we asked her a few questions about her experiences as not only a student, but a mother and business-owner.
WSSS: Have you experienced any sexism?
Taz: Not really. But there are many times my intentions as a mother get questioned – specifically as to why my son is in Cape Town while I’m in JHB studying. The answer to that would be that I’m studying so I can provide him with the best life possible. The moment I graduate, he and I will be able to be under the same roof 24/7.
WSSS: How do you balance your studies, your life and your business?
Taz: Time management is essential. I ensure that I start my day off with a good morning routine which includes working out. I make time for my family (they help keep me centred). After I’ve taken care of my mental and physical health and after taking care of the well-being of my family I then make time for my books. If everything in my life is at peace it makes balancing my studies so much easier.
WSSS: Do you feel more pressure to have “everything together”?
Taz: Definitely. I feel like it’s expected of me as a mother to have everything sorted out. But, that expectation is eliminated when my son says “Mommy I know you’ll be a doctor soon, don’t worry”.
WSSS: Finally, why did you choose to study medicine?
Taz: Visiting my premature baby in hospital for 3 months and watching the doctors handle him and nurse him back to health was a wonderful thing to watch. I then decided I wanted to have that kind of impact on someone else one day. I looked at my 1kg son and decided I’m going to become a doctor and give him the best life possible.
Not every woman’s experiences is the same because not every woman is the same. However, this Women’s Month, let us start hearing and acknowledging each woman’s stories so that we may both grow and learn from them as individuals and as a Medical Community. We have come too far as women in this profession to not be the protagonists of our own life-stories and careers. So, here’s to strong women: may we know them; may we be them; may we raise them. Happy Women’s Month and Happy Women’s Day.
Taz is a fourth-year medical student, a mother to a beautiful nine year old boy and the co-founder of FlexGrid320 – an outdoor training team that is dedicated to changing the lifestyles of people through fitness.
You can follow her on Instagram on @tazfitness_sa – she’s an open book (as well as all the fitness motivation you’ll ever need!)