Kid-friendly conferences might reduce gender inequalities

Elena Riboldi

Among young oncologists, women encounter more difficulties than men in attending conferences and this may affect their professional satisfaction. This is the key message of a survey conducted by a group of researchers of the John Theurer Cancer Center (Hackensack, New Jersey, US) published on JAMA Oncology.

The survey involved medical oncologists and radiation oncologists working at National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centres who completed their training after 2010.

Unsurprisingly, participation to professional meetings matters to women as much as to men. In fact, the mean score to the question “How important do you think attending conferences to an oncologist’s career advancement?” was 8/10 for both genders. Conferences are universally recognised as a chance for networking, updating, and becoming known. However, women reported to attend significantly fewer conferences in the past year than men. A major reason to skip conferences is parenthood: if the attendance to professional meetings conflicts with childcare responsibilities, women are more likely to give up compared to men.

Most (71.3% women; 75.7% men) of the 248 oncologists 248 (56% males) who responded to the survey had children who required adult supervision. Having children was reported to influence the decision to attend professional conferences by 48.2% of women and only 35.0% of men. In parallel, more women than men scored on-site childcare as “extremely important” (27.8% vs 10.0%). Notably, on multivariable analysis, gender and conference attendance both independently correlated with career satisfaction.

This study raises awareness on the association of gender and parenthood with conference attendance among early career oncologists. Authors conclude that their findings “suggest the possibility that facilitating attendance at national meetings might engage physicians in ways that may improve well-being and professional satisfaction.” Meeting organizers should consider promoting women’s networking centres and implementing the offer of childcare services.

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