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ESMO Women for Oncology Forum focuses on power sharing to foster gender equality [ESMO Media Alert]

17 Oct 2018

LUGANO-MUNICH – The Women for Oncology (W4O) Forum at ESMO 2018, Sharing the Power, on Friday, 19 October*, will focus on power sharing between women and men working as a way of fostering gender equality in the oncology workforce. Through keynote presentations, testimonies from national networks, and small group discussions, the Forum will explore opportunities for creating a more diverse and inclusive culture that values differences and collaboration.

“We need to overcome conditioned beliefs about the roles of women and men in the oncology workforce and recognise the valuable progress we can make in scientific innovation and patient care if we embrace our differences and combine our strengths and expertise,” said Professor Solange Peters, Chair of the ESMO Women for Oncology Committee, ESMO 2018 Scientific Chair and President Elect of ESMO.

Since its introduction in 2013, the W4O Forum has become an annual highlight in the ESMO Congress programme. This year’s event has been enhanced to encourage greater interaction and discussion among participants. The W4O Committee recognises that gender equality cannot be achieved by women alone and hopes to encourage input on power sharing opportunities from all ESMO delegates. 

“Through the W4O initiative, ESMO maintains a strong commitment to monitoring and raising awareness about the gender imbalance in leadership positions in oncology, and supports training and career development opportunities for women oncologists in order to promote female leadership in oncology,” explained Peters.

Results will be presented at the Forum from a study, started earlier this year, to monitor and gather data about the representation of women in leadership positions in oncology.

This project builds on evidence from ESMO research, recently published in ESMO Open, (1,2) which identified a clear gender gap in oncology, with female oncologists under-represented in leadership roles in national and international oncology societies as well as in clinical teams caring for patients.  Less than half of female cancer specialists who answered the survey had a leadership role compared to two-thirds of their male colleagues. Only one in four board members of international oncology societies were female and just one in 10 of these societies had a female president.

“These findings are particularly disappointing in view of the fact that at least a third of oncologists are women, rising to nearly 50% amongst younger doctors.(3-6) We need new initiatives, such as those already started by ESMO, and more support for flexible working and a better work-life balance,” said Dr Susana Banerjee, Consultant Medical Oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, UK, lead author of one of the papers.

Note to editors

About ESMO Women for Oncology (W4O)

The W4O initiative is a significant and growing part of ESMO’s response to the need to bridge the gender gap in oncology. In response to the rapid rise in female membership of ESMO, it was established in 2013 to explore the challenges facing female oncologists and to promote equal access to career development opportunities. The W4O Committee has been tasked with generating and disseminating information on the representation of women in the oncology workforce and to raise awareness and advocate for policies aimed at ensuring balanced gender representation in leadership positions in oncology.

As well as closely monitoring the representation of women in oncology to better appreciate the barriers to leadership status, ESMO promotes equal access to career development opportunities for female oncologists and dynamic W4O networks of women oncologists are being set up in multiple countries.

In recognition of the importance of encouraging a new generation of female leaders, the W4O Award acknowledges male or female oncologists who have significantly contributed to supporting the career development of women in oncology.

The ESMO W4O Forum at the ESMO 2018 congress

* At the ESMO 2018 Congress, Sharing the power - ESMO Women for Oncology Forum, will be held on Friday, 19 October (13.30 – 15.30 Room: 24 – Hall B4)

About the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)

ESMO is the leading professional organisation for medical oncology. With 18,000 members representing oncology professionals from over 150 countries worldwide, ESMO is the society of reference for oncology education and information. ESMO is committed to offer the best care to people with cancer, through fostering integrated cancer care, supporting oncologists in their professional development, and advocating for sustainable cancer care worldwide.


  1. Banerjee S, Dafni U, Allen T et al. Gender-related challenges facing oncologists: the results of the ESMO Women for Oncology Committee survey. ESMO Open 2018; DOI: 10.1136/esmoopen-2018-000422
  2. Hofstädter-Thalmann E, Dafni U, Allen T et al. A report on the status of women occupying leadership roles in oncology. ESMO Open 2018; DOI: 10.1136/esmoopen-2018-000423 
  3. American Society of Clinical Oncology. The state of cancer care in America, 2017: A report by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Journal of Oncology Practice 2017; 13: e353-e377
  4. de Azambuja E, Ameye L, Paesmans M et al. The landscape of medical oncology in Europe by 2020. Ann Oncol. 2014;25(2):525-8.
  5. European Society for Medical Oncology. Data gathered from ESMO membership database
  6. Anon. ASCO kicks off strategic planning to support women in oncology, January 2018.
Last update: 17 Oct 2018

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