OWL Essay 2021 Runners-up

Read OWL Essay 2021 Runners-up submissions on the essay prompt 'Give a girl a hammer'.

Annabel Fraser
Sophie West

Annabel Fraser

Give a girl a hammer
She’ll show you what she can do
A simple tool, the hammer, the catalyst for what will ensue
She’ll start with an idea – from initial experiences and impressions this will form But only with positive interactions, understanding and role models
Will thoughts about a career in orthopaedics become the norm

From a simple idea the thought needs to come to fruition
She’ll need to lay the foundations that will support her ongoing ambition This starts in medical school and residency
Where positive experiences qualm any hesitancy

Yet, unfortunately for some young women and surgeons to be
The opportunity to hold a hammer is a chance they might not see
 Where women comprise 4% of consultants and 15% of Orthopaedic making a training application (1)
This currently reflects a lack of female representation

Deterred early, some prior to any placement or residency term
Due to discouragement about the difficulty and barriers that some hold firm
A RACS survey has found poor culture, gendered advice and a lack of flexibility
To be limiting factors for a career in surgery that medical students and junior doctors see (2)

Why should we address this discrepancy of those using a hammer some might ask Increasing the number of women and cultural diversity is a difficult task
It has been well documented, particularly in the in the corporate space
That diversity improves productivity and profitability within the workplace (3)

There are approaches aimed at improving this parity
So that the number of women holding a hammer is not a rarity
It includes experiences with supportive culture and leadership
Alongside positive encouraging role models and ongoing senior mentorship

It empowers women to envision a balanced career and family life they might uphold
Instead of believing their gender, priorities and hopes do not fit the traditional mould
Thus, with a growing feeling within the specialty of inclusion
Her plan of embarking within the specialty will no longer be a delusion

So, she launches towards an Orthopaedic career
Learning the craft with as much effort as she can commandeer
Once you give a girl a hammer
She’ll show you what she can do
With time she’ll start to show you she has gained further competencies too

Throughout her career she will transition
Demonstrating medical and technical expertise with innate cognition (4)
Furthered by the provision of opportunities to improve orthopaedic finesse
And attributes of decision making, advocacy and collaboration that allow her to progress (4)

Definitely give a girl a hammer, a K wire and perhaps a drill
To improve the care and outcomes of her patients that are ill By providing her with the right knowledge and tools
She can use logic and expertise to excel in bone schools

With time, study and proficiency she will reach her fellowship
Aided by the guidance, support and progressive culture of collegiate mentorship
Now specialist consultant with numerous qualifications
She will continue to inspire more girls of imminent generations

So please, give a girl a hammer She’ll show you what she can do
What she can build might surprise a few
Overall, it will allow her to establish a career and future in orthopaedic surgery too


  1. Catherine McDougall and Australian Orthopaedic Association. Through the looking glass: a glimpse into a career in orthopaedic surgery. Australian Orthopaedic Association. Accessed August 29 2021. https://www.aoa.org.au/for-patients/diversity/articles/through-the-looking-glass--catherine-mcdougall
  2. Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Breaking barriers; developing drivers for female surgeons. Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Published June 2020. Accessed August 29 2021. https://www.surgeons.org/media/Project/RACS/surgeons-org/files/operating-with- respectcomplaints/Break-barriers-report_2020.pdf
  3. McKinsey & Company. Diversity wins: How inclusion matters. McKinsey & Company. Published May 19, 2020. Accessed August 29 2021. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity- and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters
  4. Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Training standards for surgeons. Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Accessed August 29, 2021. https://www.surgeons.org/en/Resources/reports-guidelines-publications/useful-guides- standards/training-standards-for-surgeons.

Sophie West

Not so much an essay as a bit of a rhyme – written for my one-year-old daughter Maggie and her sister on the inside.

Give a girl a hammer – and see what she can do. She will know what it’s for – it’s hardly a new tool in our evolutionary repertoire. She will strike with force and precision – and more consideration than her brother by far.

Give a girl a hammer – and see what she can do. She will build, as well as break, and rebuild anew. She will use it to create, along with other tools, things you never thought of and didn’t think she knew.

Give a girl a hammer – and see what she can do. While she’s still brave enough to use it – and doesn’t recoil, ‘Eww! – That’s a toy for boys, I’m not sure what to do’.

For the truth is she will need it – time and time again – to build bridges on her way and smash the ceilings in. The world is still not geared to value her equal part – it will often consider her too weak to wield a hammer, too concerned with matters of the heart.

It may not be her most useful tool – reliant on force alone. Her life will require negotiations of give and take – for equal pay, for equal say, for equal support to name a few.

And then at the end of the day there’s home – always busy, whether full of family or on her own. The negotiations continue there – in her mind, her relationships too; has she given her family, partner, kids and friends all the time they’re due?

Give a girl a hammer – they’ve been around three million years. They’ve seen it all – from Thor to Floyd – a great remedy to her fears.

Give a girl a hammer – let it amplify her force. Let it express her rage at this frustrating stage, build her confidence – but not too much, of course…

Give a girl a hammer – there’s plenty to go round. She will do more than you to build up those around her, without making much of a sound.

Give a girl a hammer – what is there to lose? Only the creativity and strength of half the planet, if
‘nah’ is the answer you choose.

Why not give a girl a hammer? You don’t think it’s something she needs? Should she be getting on with more feminine pursuits, or undertaking lighter deeds?

Give a girl a hammer – controversial if you please? That idea that this warrants discussion does show far we’ve come – by our leaders no less, an authority, not just by anyone. Progress no doubt, with good intent and responses aimed to ease – but that aside, in this day and age, bloody brings me to my knees.

Dr Sophie West Orthopaedic PHO
Mother of one, with another to go