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ESMO Women for Oncology: Past Initiatives

A long-term commitment to support the development of women oncologists into leaders

In 2013, ESMO started bringing to the attention of the international oncology community the limited presence of women oncologists in leadership positions, compared to the increasing number of women entering medical school and working in oncology teams.

What are the key challenges and what can ESMO do as a professional society? The ESMO Women for Oncology initiatives aim to address these challenges.


ESMO Women for Oncology Forum at ESMO 2018, Munich

Welcoming more than 100 attendees, the ESMO Women for Oncology Forum at ESMO 2018 brought together keynote speakers' perspectives, testimonies of national networks of women oncologists, and small group discussions with participants. The common challenge addressed: improving collaboration between men and women to achieve gender balance.​

Could “Sharing the power” foster gender equality in oncology?

The 2018 Women for Oncology Forum explored the topic of “Sharing the power” between men and women as a possible solution to foster gender equality by creating a diverse and more inclusive environment.

Solange Peters, Chair of the Women for Oncology Committee, set the scene by giving an update from the Women for Oncology Monitoring study: results showed that advancements in gender balance in the oncology field are currently at a standstill.

The stage was then left to the two keynote speakers. Manjit Dosanjh, Senior Advisor for Medical Applications at CERN and UN representative for GWI (International Federation of University Women), shared her personal story conveying the very important message that, while huge changes are needed for gender equality to be a reality, every small step is important to achieve big results. Francesco Panese, Professor of Sociology at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, brought forward an interesting sociological perspective on the topic of gender, revealing how gender stereotypes have a very ancient origin in medicine.

Representatives from the German, Italian and Greek Women for Oncology national networks then presented the activities organised to raise awareness and support women in oncology at the local level.

The Forum ended with a moment of sharing and discussion. Divided in small groups Participants looked at concrete ways to implement the concept of sharing in the oncology field.


ESMO Women for Oncology Session at ESMO 2017, Madrid

Women oncologists worldwide: current situation and challenges

The Women for Oncology Session 2017 aimed to raise awareness about the current situation of women medical oncologists and the challenges they face worldwide.

After an update on the results from the ESMO Women for Oncology survey on gender-related challenges presented by Solange Peters, Women for Oncology Committee Chair, the session continued with three round-table discussions led by oncology experts and women leaders. Discussions tackled hot topics such as gender disparities in the medical field, how gender opportunities are treated at a political level, and how ESMO could play a pivotal role in driving the change to reduce the gender gap.  To conclude the session, Frances Shepherd, Co-Chair of the Session, was celebrated on winning the ESMO Women for Oncology Award 2017 as an acknowledgement for being a role model for all women in oncology and promoting equality in oncology careers.


ESMO Women for Oncology Session at ESMO Asia 2016, Singapore

Women for Oncology Session at ESMO Asia 2016 Singapore

Solange Peters and Sumitra Thongprasert, Co-Chairs of the ESMO W4O Session at Asia 2016

The role of mentors and sponsorship in women’s careers

The session focused and addressed the role of mentors and sponsorship in women’s leadership careers development. During the session, the 2016 results on the representation of female oncologists as invited speakers at international oncology congresses and within boards of oncology societies have been presented, together with the results of the 2016 survey on challenges for women leadership development in oncology. Data were aimed at putting into perspective the situation of women oncologists in the Asian region and at providing useful insights on the situation at the international level.

ESMO 2016 Women for Oncology session – 9 October 2016, Copenhagen

Presentations and discussions about women's career challenges in oncology
Women for Oncology Session at ESMO 2016 Copenhagen

Sumitra Thongprasert, recipient of the 2nd ESMO Women for Oncology Award

The session focused on the role of mentorship and sponsorship for women oncologists in order to support their career development. 

The results of the 2016 exploratory study on the gender-related challenges of medical oncology professionals were presented by Solange Peters, showing that the lack-of work-life balance is one of the main barriers in reaching gender parity.

Sumitra Thongprasert (Thailand) received the 2nd ESMO Women for Oncology Award thanks to her contribution to address the inequalities faced by women oncologists seeking leadership positions.


ESMO Women for Oncology Session

27 September 2015

peters solange

Solange Peters

Women oncologist leaders met at the ESMO Women for Oncology Session on Sunday 27 September during ECC 2015 to discuss challenges women face in their career development, to network and inspire future generations.

Solange Peters (Switzerland), Chair of the ESMO Women for Oncology Committee and Martine Piccart (Belgium), founder of the initiative, guided the discussion on these important topics.

Frances A. Shepherd from the Princess Margaret Cancer Center, Toronto, Canada, gave important hints to women for developing a successful career. Eva Thalmann from Jannsen Europe, Austria reported on challenges faced by women in the industry sector and on interesting initiatives to face them.


ESMO announces the creation of the ESMO Women for Oncology Committee and of the ESMO Women for Oncology Award

28 September 2014

During ESMO 2014, acknowledging the need for a continuous effort in supporting the professional development of women oncologists, ESMO announced the creation of the ESMO Women for Oncology Committee with the aim of promoting initiatives that underpin the career needs of women oncologists.

To recognise those leaders who contributed to the career development of women oncologists, Rolf Stahel announced the creation of the ESMO Women for Oncology Award to be presented for the first time at the 2015 congress.

ESMO President, Rolf Stahel, announces the new ESMO Women for Oncology award during the Opening Session of ESMO 2014


ESMO Women for Oncology Forum

28 September 2013

Women for Oncology forum 2013

In 2013, ESMO launched the first ESMO Women for Oncology forum, an initiative to build a network of women in oncology, with the aim of promoting a dialogue about opportunities and strategic solutions to common problems in the field and to support female oncologists’ access to leadership positions.

Under the guidance of Martine Piccart (Belgium), founder of the initiative, and a group of international panellists, forum participants discussed their significant efforts to achieve their career goals and the important ways in which they contribute to the profession.

Lack of, and need for, role models and mentors, and flexible career options to allow for a better professional/personal life balance were some of the requests addressed by the participants.

We want to find innovative ways to ensure that we have enough female oncology leaders to care for the rapidly increasing cancer patient population and to work in the best way to address the needs and interests of our highly motivated and qualified members.

Martine Piccart, Women for Oncology initiative founder

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

Summer 2013

What are the major challenges that female oncologists face 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 these question and to gather information not previously available for the medical oncology field, ESMO launched the first exploratory study on the career challenges face by female oncologists.

Almost 700 female oncologists participated in the study, providing an invaluable insight into their career challenges. This was the basis for the ideas exchange and constructive discussion during the first Women for Oncology Forum. Read the full survey results!

Take a look at the pictures of the ESMO W4O Session’s past editions

ESMO Asia 2016 - Women for Oncology Session

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