Women in Oncology: Career Challenges Turned Growth Opportunities

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In Partnership With:

Melinda Butsch Kovacic, MPH, PhD; Elizabeth Shaughnessy, MD, PhD; Sandra L. Starnes, MD; and Susan E. Waltz, PhD, discuss challenges they faced throughout their early careers and how some of those challenges continue to affect the professional lives of female physicians.

Melinda Butsch Kovacic, MPH, PhD; Elizabeth Shaughnessy, MD, PhD; Sandra L. Starnes, MD; and Susan E. Waltz, PhD, discuss challenges they faced throughout their early careers, such as pay discrepancies and double standards, and how some of those challenges continue to affect the professional lives of female physicians.

Kovacic is a professor and the associate dean of Research at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Shaughnessy is an adjunct professor and the vice chair for Patient Experience at the University of Cincinnati Health. Starnes is a professor and the chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and the Dr. John B. Flege, Jr. Chair of surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Waltz is a professor of cancer biology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

In this episode, Kovacic, Shaughnessy, Starnes, and Waltz share moments during their careers when they realized factors of their workplace policies or cultures that were stunting their salaries and career paths and explain the routes they took to advocate for themselves in these situations. The 4 experts express their appreciation for the times when they were able to ask for the pay they deserved and decrease the salary gaps that existed between them and their male colleagues, while noting the difficulties of salary negotiations and their struggles to find the confidence for continued discussions regarding their earnings. They also describe their gratitude for the resources and educational opportunities that are available today to help people with negotiation skills, which give women more tools they can use to address workplace issues.

Kovacic, Shaughnessy, Starnes, and Waltz also emphasize the challenges they have faced in a field where they are often judged against standards typically expected of men. They acknowledge that they have often felt the need to prove themselves throughout their careers to earn the respect and opportunities that many of their male colleagues have. However, they acknowledge that many of their successes as physicians and leaders stem from their willingness to work diligently and put in the effort to improve themselves despite these inequities.

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