C/Can and ASCO to Advance Gender Equality in Oncology Leadership With new Program

March 8, 2022

Marking International Women’s Day, ASCO and City Cancer Challenge Foundation (C/Can) are announcing their Leadership Programme for Women in Oncology. The program seeks to address the specific challenges and barriers faced by women leaders in oncology and aims to strengthen leadership mindsets and skills of women working to improve access to equitable, quality cancer care in C/Can cities.

“The theme of International Women’s Day this year is ‘Gender Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,’ which reflects C/Can’s dual commitment to creating long-term, resource-appropriate cancer care solutions and increasing the number of women in senior leadership positions in oncology,” said C/Can Director of Global Public Affair Isabel Mestres, explaining that the programme is intended for women oncologists from 10 C/Can cities.

C/Can’s experience in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has demonstrated the importance of local leadership, ownership, and capacity development as key enablers for the long-term sustainability of projects developed through the C/Can City Engagement Process.

Furthermore, across C/Can cities, women oncologists have played a key role in the City Engagement Process[1], for example, as crucial members of the Technical Working Groups, representing participating institutions, providing and analysing needs assessment data in their respective area of expertise, among others. Yet, while women represent almost 70% of the global health and social workforce, it is estimated they hold only 25% of senior roles.[2]Some of the barriers that women working in the healthcare sector face include reduced capacity due to career disruption and external responsibilities; credibility assumptions around women in leadership and perceived capability and confidence.[3] 

“This programme will help us begin to explore and analyse strategies for investing in women oncologists for the sustainability of C/Can’s work in the cities,” said ASCO Chief Medical Officer Julie R. Gralow, MD, FACP, FASCO. “We also hope to learn about effective ways to support leadership roles for women and contribute to closing gender disparities in the health care sector.”

Investing in a sustainable future

By investing in a group of women oncologists who are key to local cancer care efforts in their respective cities, C/Can and ASCO seek to ensure the continuity of their work and to generate a multiplier effect. Through the programme, C/Can also aims to further explore opportunities and effective ways to support leadership roles for women and contribute to reducing gender disparities in the healthcare sector.

“Inferring from what we know about the innovation and insight women leaders bring to science, this program will help leverage investments in women oncologists as leaders in LMICs for the sustainability of C/Can’s work in the cities, as well as contribute to closing gender disparities in the healthcare sector to the benefit of all humanity,” said Verna Vanderpuye, MD, of the ASCO International Affairs Committee.

The Leadership Programme for Women in Oncology is part of C/Can’s efforts to enhance the capacity of local healthcare professionals to lead change in the healthcare sector. Applying a transformational learning approach, the programme aims to contribute to increasing local ownership to drive and sustain change.

Program Overview

The Leadership Programme for Women in Oncology will help to prepare mid-career women oncologists in LMICs to lead change in the cancer care sector by increasing their leadership impact and creating lasting personal and professional change. At the same time, it will foster the creation of a network of women leaders in cancer care who can pave the way for a new generation of women.

Bringing together 10 women oncologists from C/Can cities: Cali (Colombia); Asuncion (Paraguay); Kumasi (Ghana); Kigali (Rwanda); Tbilisi (Georgia); Porto Alegre (Brazil); Greater Petaling (Malaysia); Leon (Mexico); Arequipa (Peru) and Nairobi (Kenya), the programme will be a blend of in-person and virtual meetings focusing on strengthening key power skills for change-makers such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, leadership, adaptability, and emotional intelligence, many of which have been referred to in the past as soft skills.

The LPWO will start with a face-to-face meeting at the World Cancer Congress, October 18–20 in Geneva, where participants will get to know the rest of the cohort, sit down with mentors, and start working on their projects. The program will close the following June at the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting during which participants will join a number of virtual sessions hosted by ASCO covering a diverse range of topics to strengthen leadership mindsets and power skills. During these sessions, participants will have the opportunity to engage with inspiring experts and leaders selected by C/Can and ASCO. A final in-person workshop at this meeting will bring participants together to present their group projects and receive certificates of completion certificates.

After finishing the program, graduates will have the opportunity to enrol for intergenerational mentorship support with ASCO members, during which graduates will receive expert guidance and advice on how to put their knowledge into practice, as well as feedback and support on ideas, innovative approaches, and projects to advance cancer treatment and care in their cities.

[1] An implementation framework whereby local stakeholders lead a staged city-wide process over a 2- to 3-year period to assess, plan, and execute locally adapted cancer care solutions.

[2] World Health Organization. “Closing the leadership gap: gender equity and leadership in the global health and care workforce.” June 2021. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240025905. Accessed March 7, 2022.

[3] Mousa, M. “Advancing women in healthcare leadership: A systematic review and meta-synthesis of multi-sector evidence on organisational interventions.” EClinicalMedicine, Volume 39, September 2021, Pages 101108. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2589537021003643.