CTA: In your team’s paper,1 you mentioned recent trends of improving representation of women in medical school enrollment, but also persisting gender disparities in faculty and division chair positions.
Dr Duma: Back in the day, women were not allowed to enroll in medical school. But that changed about 172 years ago, when Dr Elizabeth Blackwell was accepted as a medical student by Hobart College (then called Geneva Medical College), located in Upstate New York.
Now we have more women in medical school than men (approximately 52% of medical school enrollees), but we still have a lag-time bias. The majority of the senior leaders are men. We also see that the system has not been friendly to female doctors. We have a ‘leaky pipe’ problem. Women encounter so many challenges that we decide to go on to private practice or specialties that are more friendly. Probably because there weren’t that many women going into medical school 40 years ago and also because things like speaker introductions creates an environment that’s not female friendly.
Fighting unconscious bias and gender equity can be exhausting. Particularly in the case of minorities in medicine, who also need to deal with daily microaggressions in the workplace. This leads to career changes away from academic medicine.
CTA: When your team reviewed the 2017 and 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting speaker introductions, you found that only 41% of speakers at those 2 meetings were female. Is that an improvement on past representation?
Dr Duma: I think it’s significantly better than in the past. I don’t have the data from the previous meetings, but you know we are close to 50% so that was something good; we have increased our representation at the table and at the largest oncology meeting in the world.
CTA: What else did you find in your assessment of the introductions in the 2017 and 2018 ASCO meetings?
Dr Duma: I think the main point is that women are less likely to be introduced by their professional title and most likely to be introduced by first name. That is the key message.
The second message is that we’re all guilty of it. There were women presenting or introducing a woman by first name. But when you examine who introduced who, we noticed that men were more likely to introduce a woman by first name than when women give the introductions.
For female speakers, we’re deleting women’s titles when they’re being introduced.