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In June 2020 ESMO W4O undertook a survey to assess the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns on gender inequalities.  Both women and men in oncology were invited to participate to get a comprehensive picture of the widening gender divisions that were progressively becoming apparent in the course of the pandemic. 

Questions focused on the working (hospital tasks, lab tasks, science) and home (household management, childcare, parent care, personal care) lives of oncologists during and after COVID-19 related lockdowns.

The aim was to identify and address possible issues to help develop appropriate response strategies to minimise the repercussions of the pandemic on the gender gap in oncology in the near and long-term future.


The results were published in ESMO Open in May 2021 in the paper Has COVID-19 had a greater impact on female than male oncologists? Results of the ESMO Women for Oncology (W4O) Survey by Pilar Garrido et al.

The study clearly showed that the COVID-19 pandemic has been taking a toll on women’s career development in oncology.

In fact, findings from the ESMO W4O survey demonstrated that the COVID-19 pandemic had adversely affected the professional and home lives of oncologists, especially women.


Female oncologists were significantly more affected than men by COVID-19 in multiple aspects of their working and home lives. In particular, reduced time available to female oncologists for research activities compared to their male colleagues may have long-lasting career consequences.


In addition, women were also underrepresented in advisory committee or groups set up to deal with the Covid-19 health crisis. This suggests the gender gap for promotion to leadership positions may widen further as a result of the pandemic.


The ESMO W4O survey findings are supported by other studies reflecting a disproportionated impact of the pandemic on women and female under representation in research as an indirect consequence. This implies greater awareness is needed about gender inequalities in career development in oncology. At the same time, gender transformative policies and strategies are needed to minimise the long-term impact of Covid-19 on the female oncology workforce and to improve responses to possible crisis situations.

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