Women for Oncology: Women Oncologists Today

What are the key challenges women face in accessing leadership positions? What data are available in the oncology field? How is the situation in various countries? To support the dissemination of information on this phenomenon, ESMO launched its first initiative in 2013.

W4O monitoring study

A three-year long study to monitor the representation of women in leadership positions in oncology was launched in January 2018, as a follow-up of the W4O studies conducted in 2015-2016.  Results from the first year have shown that gains achieved between 2015 and 2016 did not increased significantly in 2017.

This trend emerged both with regards to female oncologists invited as speakers at congresses as well as to female board members of oncology societies. In fact, women were still confined to well under a third of seats on top decision-making committees.

Read here the study executive summary.

W4O authorship study

The W4O authorship study was started in 2018 to monitor the representation of women as authors of publications in major oncology journals. It complements the W4O monitoring study about the representation of women in leadership positions. Together, the monitoring study and the authorship study provide a detailed picture of the situation of women in oncology both in the clinic and in research.

Read here the study executive summary.

Updates from the second year W4O monitoring and authorship studies will be presented during the W4O-YOC joint Forum at ESMO 2019.

W4O Publications

Two articles about the results of the W4O studies and surveys were published in ESMO Open in September 2018, as a result of the W4O Committee’s effort to closely monitoring the gender gap in oncology, and to disseminate information on the representation of women in the oncology workforce:

Among the findings reported in the two studies are the fact that less than half of female cancer specialists have a leadership role compared to two-thirds of their male colleagues, and that only one in four board members of international oncology societies are female. Also, work and family balance resulted to be the biggest challenge to career progression for women.

Following the publications, ESMO President Josep Tabernero highlighted how gender related issues must be a shared responsibility within the Society in an editorial published in ESMO Open.

 With the significant growth of ESMO’s membership due in part to the large number of young women, we share the responsibility to identify and respond to the needs of our female colleagues.

Josep Tabernero

2016 ESMO W4O Exploratory study on the gender-related challenges of medical oncology professionals

Do you agree that women working part-time are seen differently by fellow employees? Or that successful men have a higher likeability factor than successful women?

Following the success of the 2013 survey, the ESMO Women for Oncology committee launched its second exploratory survey on gender-related challenges in oncology. Results have been presented at the ESMO Women for Oncology session at ESMO 2016 and at ESMO Asia 2016.

For the majority of respondents (both female and male: 54.6% and 43.2% respectively), the main barrier that prevents reaching gender parity in the oncology field is the lack of work-life balance.

For half of the respondents (49.9%), the best approach that the oncology field should undertake in order to leverage the benefits of gender diversity is the promotion of work-life balance.

2015 ESMO W4O Study on women oncologists in leadership positions

September 2015

Are women oncologists equally represented as speakers at international oncology congresses and within boards of oncology societies? Or are women still underrepresented? How has this changed over the years and what can we expect from the future?
ESMO addresses all these questions in the “2015 ESMO Women for oncology study on women oncologists in leadership positions” by providing a better understanding of the current representation of women invited as speakers at international oncology congresses and within societies’ boards, and to understand if this representation has changed over years.

Several national and international oncology societies participated in this study and contributed to compose a snapshot of the situation of women oncologists in leadership positions.

Check out the results in this fascinating infographic. Full study results were presented during the ESMO W4O Session at ECC 2015 ( view the Session webcast here)

ESMO exploratory study on the challenges for female oncologists in reaching leadership positions

Summer 2013

What are the major challenges for female oncologists in reaching leadership positions? How can ESMO provide support to channel the abundance of multi-talented female oncologists for the advantage of our profession and the ultimate benefit of cancer patients?

To answer this question and to collect state-of-the art information not available for the medical oncology field, ESMO launched the first exploratory study of the challenges female oncologists face in their career path to reach leadership positions.

Almost 700 female oncologists participated in the study, providing an invaluable insight into the career challenges faced by women oncologists. This was the basis for the ideas exchange and constructive discussion during the first Women for Oncology Forum.

Women for Oncology in Greece: Exploring common challenges. Survey of the Hellenic Society of Medical Oncology among women oncology professionals

H. Linardou, A. Christopoulou, S. Agelaki, E. Galani, Z. Saridaki, A. Psyrri and A. Athanasiadis Ann Oncol (2014) 25 (suppl 4): doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdu438.38

Helena Linardou

A questionnaire adapted from the ESMO survey, was distributed to women members of the Hellenic Societies of Medical, Radiation and Surgical Oncology and other women oncology professionals. This survey on women oncologists in Greece, the first such national effort in Europe, reveals an increasing presence of women in oncology workforce but under-representation in leadership, similar to the ESMO report.

The W4O initiatives identify common problems but also advocate national/ international actions to bridge career inequalities, promote work-family balance, and recognise and develop women oncology leaders.