From the Journals

Where women’s voices still get heard less



Despite some gains, new research shows ongoing gender imbalances in hematology and oncology, as reflected in the predominantly male presenters at board review lecture series – where early career faculty are also underrepresented.

“Our study provides the first analysis of gender and early-career faculty disparities in speakers at hematology and medical oncology board review meetings,” the authors reported in research published in Blood Advances.

“We covered six major board reviews over the last 5 years that are either conducted yearly or every other year, [and] the general trend across all meetings showed skewness toward men speakers,” the authors reported.

Recent data from 2021 suggests a closing of the gender gap in oncology, with women making up 44.6% of oncologists in training. However, they still only represented 35.2% of practicing oncologists and are underrepresented in leadership positions in academic oncology, the authors reported.

With speaking roles at academic meetings potentially marking a key step in career advancement and improved opportunities, the authors sought to investigate the balance of gender, as well as early-career faculty among speakers at prominent hematology and/or oncology board review lecture series taking place in the United States between 2017 and 2021.

The five institutions and one society presenting the board review lecture series included Baylor College of Medicine/MD Anderson Cancer Center, both in Houston; Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, Boston; George Washington University, Washington; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York; Seattle Cancer Care Alliance; and the hematology board review series from the American Society of Hematology.

During the period in question, among 1,224 board review lectures presented, women constituted only 37.7% of the speakers. In lectures presented by American Board of Internal Medicine–certified speakers (n = 1,016, 83%), women were found to have made up fewer than 50% of speakers in five of six courses.

Men were also more likely to be recurrent speakers; across all courses, 13 men but only 2 women conducted 10 or more lectures. And while 35 men gave six or more lectures across all courses, only 12 women did so.

The lecture topics with the lowest rates of women presenters included malignant hematology (24.8%), solid tumors (38.9%), and benign hematology lectures (44.1%).

Dr. Samer Al Hadidi, Myeloma Center, Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR courtesy Dr. Al Hadidi

Dr. Samer Al Hadidi

“We suspected [the imbalance in malignant hematology] since multiple recurrent roles were concentrated in the malignant hematology,” senior author Samer Al Hadidi, MD, of the Myeloma Center, Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AK, said in an interview.

He noted that “there are no regulations that such courses need to follow to ensure certain proportions of women and junior faculty are involved.”

Early-career faculty

In terms of early-career representation, more than 50% of lectures were given by faculty who had received their initial certifications more than 15 years earlier. The median time from initial certification was 12.5 years for hematology and 14 years for medical oncology.

The findings that more than half of the board review lectures were presented by faculty with more than 15 years’ experience since initial certification “reflects a lack of appropriate involvement of early-career faculty, who arguably may have more recent experience with board certification,” the authors wrote.

While being underrepresented in such roles is detrimental, there are no regulations that such courses follow to ensure certain proportions of women and junior faculty are involved, Dr. Al Hadidi noted.


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