Mentorship and self belief key to advancing the careers of women in oncology


28 Sep 2019

Choosing the right institution and seeking out the support and mentorship of female role models is key to advancing the careers of women in oncology, the winner of the ESMO Women for Oncology awards says.

In her acceptance speech Professor Cristiana Sessa from the Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland said that gender disparity in the field of oncology was still alive and kicking, with latest figures showing that only 30 percent of board members of oncology societies were women, and 16 percent were Presidents of oncology societies.

A survey published in ESMO Open by Dr Susanna Banerjee and ESMO President-elect Professor Solange Peters and colleagues in 2018 revealed that the main barriers preventing gender parity in the field of oncology were a lack of work life balance, societal pressures, unconscious bias of managers, a lack of role models and low self esteem.

According to Prof. Sessa, for women to progress in their career it was important they found a mentor early on to support their growth into leadership roles.

“What we should do is provide women with the means and the tools they need to grow, first of all, education is the key, the other thing is mentoring… mentoring is important early in a career but also mid-career to encourage retention and train for higher leadership roles,” she told Congress.

Participating in national and international networks were also pivotal to career growth.

“In ESMO we have Women for Oncology which is a network of women oncology professionals who support the growth of women in the field,” she told delegates.

Her advice to young female clinicians just starting out in the field was to commit early and look for the right institution that will support them.

“Take risks because any failure is a lesson, and look for other women to support you and above all believe in yourself because self confidence is the key… and remember that science can only benefit from diversity and from different voices,” she added.

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