The first ESMO Women for Oncology Award was recently conferred to VHIO´s Enriqueta Felip during the European Cancer Congress, Vienna, Austria, 25 – 27 September, 2015. In celebration, ESMO talked to Enriqueta and selected Spanish experts about the role of women in Oncology:
Spanish experts reflect about the role of women in Oncology
• Dr. Enriqueta Felip, recepient of the First ESMO Women for Oncology Award: “For oncologists entering the workplace, a mentor helping them to plan their academic career is essential, regardless of their gender”
• Dr. Josep Tabernero, President-elect of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO): “Equal opportunities have already been achieved in the education of future oncologists, and it is only a matter of time before women are given positions of more responsibility”
• Dr. Pilar Garrido, President of the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) and member of the ESMO Women for Oncology Task Force: “It is crucial to make the most of talent and support initiatives that promote real equal opportunities. At SEOM we are convinced that excellency in care, teaching and research has no gender”
• The ESMO Women for Oncology initative deals with inequalities that prevent female oncologists from reaching leadership positions during their professional career.
The European Cancer Congress (ECC) 2015, recently held in Vienna, 25 – 29 September 2015, served as a platform for the conferral of the First Women for Oncology Award of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) to Doctor Enriqueta Felip, head of the Medical Oncology Department at Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) in Barcelona. The winner of the award discussed the challenges that women have to face in Oncology together with Doctor Pilar Garrido, President of the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) and member of the ESMO Women for Oncology Task Force (ESMO W4O), and Doctor Josep Tabernero, Director of VHIO and ESMO President-elect for the 2018-2019 term.
ESMO Women for Oncology (ESMO W4O) is a dynamic network of professional women working in Oncology who have challenges and objectives in common: to pursue successful scientific and professional development and position themselves so as to be amongst the leaders of tomorrow, sharing experience, cooperating in new projects and exchanging ideas. The Award conferred to Enriqueta Felip is a tangible form of praise to ESMO members who address inequalities that prevent female oncologists from reaching leadership positions in their professional career.
Doctor Felip sums up: “The challenges faced by women who want a career in oncology are the same as those of their male counterparts. The figure of a mentor helping us to plan where we want to go and the steps to take to get there is essential, as well as being proactive, visibility in publications and research, international networking and cooperation in projects of scientific societies”
She makes an example of these challenges based on her personal experience: “During my career, it was very helpful to be able to work with professionals who guided me and introduced me to international working groups, enabling me to take part in various ESMO initiatives”.
However, in reality women are still underrepresented in positions of responsibility and leadership. As Dr. Garrido explains, in ESMO W4O “we attempt to raise public awareness and promote real equal opportunities for professional development irrespective of gender. We have to reduce existing biases and disparities, promoting talent, merits and true ability. It is crucial to make the most of talent and support initiatives that promote real equal opportunities. At SEOM we are convinced that excellence in care, teaching and research has no gender”.
In this respect, Doctor Tabernero is optimistic in the medium term, because real equal opportunities have been achieved in access to education of future oncologists in the Spanish “MIR” system (Spanish system for the selection of residents), and believes that it is only a matter of time before women have access to positions of responsibility, because “there are more female than male residents, so the proportion will change in the near future”. VHIO, directed by Doctor Tabernero and where Doctor Felip is appointed as Principal Invesigator of its Thoracic Tumors Group, has been a pioneer in promoting women in oncology and currently there are more women than men in the Oncology Department.
Doctor Garrido supports the claim with percentages: “In the report Future Plans for Medical Oncology, recently drafted by SEOM, we have seen that 62.8% of specialists in Medical Oncology between the ages of 41 and 45 years are women, and that the percentage increases to 64.4% in the bracket between 36 and 40 years of age and up to 71.7% in the bracket between 30 and 31 years”.
The situation is similar in Europe according to the data related to ESMO members, which show that the participation rate of women has not stopped increasing since the year 2000. At the end of 2014, 38.6% of ESMO members were women. However, when the data were divided by age bracket, 51.1% of members younger than 40 years of age were women, whereas female representation shrank to 31.0% in the age bracket of people over 40 years of age.
In the year 2013, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) invited Doctor Felip to give a presentation on the challenges that women face in their academic career in oncology. “In oncology, women have many opportunities to pursue an academic career. It is important for them to put in applications for research grants and to take part in executive committees of scientific societies. Moreover, it is important to give visibility to the professional contributions of women”.
At the end of the same year 2013, Doctor Pilar Garrido, Head of the Medical Oncology Department at Ramón y Cajal Hospital in Madrid, became the first female president of SEOM, a fact “that should not remain an isolated case in a profession where 57.6% are women. In fact, at the next presidential elections of SEOM, a man and a woman are candidates for the first time, and I suppose that in the not too distant future there will be many more women in leadership positions in our Society”.
With these data and this trend towards change, Doctor Tabernero points out that prizes such as the ESMO award that Doctor Felip has just received in acknowledgement of the role of women may be short-lived. Tabernero reasons that “Women can access equally the rest of the awards on offer. Awards have not been given to more women, because prizes are usually given late in life and, if we look at the proportion of female oncologists of such an age, it is not the same as the proportion of men. Perhaps now there are fewer women because of their number, but over time a balance will be achieved”.
Notes to Editors
Info on all ESMO awards is available at: http://www.esmo.org/Career-Development/Awards