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Study Looks at Effect of Parenthood, Gender on Conference Attendance and Early Career Satisfaction

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Key Points

  • Nearly half of women said having children interfered with attending meetings, while only a third of men did.
  • Women reported spending about 10 hours more each week than men on parenting and domestic tasks.
  • Nearly three times as many women as men said having childcare onsite at meetings would be extremely important and would help enable them to attend.

For oncologists in the beginning of their careers, scientific conferences present an opportunity to network, share research, gain new knowledge, and advance in their career. However, many women find themselves skipping these conferences because of family obligations, a new research letter published by Knoll et al in JAMA Oncology reports.

Findings

Researchers surveyed 248 early-career oncologists practicing at National Cancer Institute–designated cancer centers. Women were less likely than men to attend scientific meetings, although both genders noted that conferences were important to career advancement. Nearly half of women said having children interfered with attending meetings, while only a third of men did.

About three-quarters of both the men and the women surveyed had young children. While 74% of women had a spouse employed full-time, only 45% of men did. Women reported spending about 10 hours more each week than men on parenting and domestic tasks.

“Amid concerns about gender inequity in advancement in medicine, it is especially important to identify innovative and visible actions that target the mechanisms fueling inequity," said study author Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, Newman Family Professor and Deputy Chair of Radiation Oncology at Michigan Medicine and Director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan. "Our society continues to embrace a gendered division of domestic labor, whereby women bear the greater burden of responsibilities at home, even when they're highly committed to their careers. Facilitating work-life integration is essential, and this study provides concrete data to support this need.”

The authors cite onsite childcare and women's networking venues as essential elements to improve access for women. Nearly three times as many women as men said having childcare onsite at meetings would be extremely important and would help enable them to attend.

The 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting offered professional onsite childcare for children 6 months to 12 years. Dr. Jagsi said this example shows that onsite childcare is feasible.

“Women want to attend these meetings. They offer critical opportunities for leadership, networking, education, mentorship, scholarly dissemination, and so much more,” she said. “For our profession to access the full talent pool and reap the demonstrated benefits of diversity, we need to figure out ways to promote work-life integration.”

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit jamanetwork.com.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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