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All change: closing the gender gap in oncology
  1. Josep Tabernero
  1. ESMO President 2018–2019, Medical Oncology Department, Vall d'Hebron University Hospital and Institute of Oncology, Barcelona, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Dr Josep Tabernero; jtabernero{at}

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Two articles1 2 published on 21 September in ESMO Open report on the status of women occupying leadership roles in oncology. Despite the many programmes in place to address this important issue, the findings in these reports confirm that we still have a long way to go if we are to achieve a fair and balanced representation of women at upper management levels. Led by the European Society for Medical Oncology’s (ESMO’s) Women for Oncology (W4O) Committee, the reports shed worrisome light on the gender gap. The problem, with few exceptions, is global.

While we can be encouraged that an increasing number of women are pursuing careers in the healthcare sector—currently accounting for 75% of the workforce in many countries3—access to more senior positions remains largely out of reach for women.

With the significant growth of ESMO’s membership due in part to the large number of young women, we share the responsibility to identify and respond to the needs of our female colleagues. We must strive to bridge the gender gap that exists at the upper echelons of our profession, across management boards, representation as speakers at our congresses, as well as leadership prominence within international and national societies.

As importantly, we all need to act at the local level to ensure that the right programmes and measures are in place to achieve equality. This means appointing talents based on a proven ability to assume a given role totally irrespective of gender and making sure that it happens on hiring for university positions, principal investigators or unit heads at our research and clinical centres.

At the research institute that I direct, the Vall d´Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, 74% of our workforce are female. This mirrors the statistic highlighted in the report.1 I am as …

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