Previous studies have demonstrated that gender disparities exist for invited speakers and expert moderators for various medical specialties. In the field of otolaryngology, the number of women pursuing careers in Head and Neck surgery has been steadily increasing. In the last decade, the number of women matching into Head and Neck oncology fellowships rose from 17% (4/24) to 28% (15/53) (cycle year 2010 and 2020). While there are more women going into the field of Head and Neck oncology, there is little information regarding whether the presence of women at American Head & Neck Society (AHNS) Meetings has similarly increased. This study aims to determine whether there is an increasing trend for the presence of women speakers at national meetings.
Thirteen final meeting programs from AHNS annual meetings and International Head and Neck Cancer Conferences were surveyed from 2007 to 2019. The number of men and women participating in different roles throughout the meeting was tracked. The specific roles evaluated included scientific session abstract oral presentations, moderators for scientific sessions, invited keynote and named lecturers, expert panelists and miscellaneous moderators (including debate, symposium, video session, poster and “best of” moderators). Each final program was reviewed individually and the number of women and men was counted for each of the mentioned categories. Gender was determined by use of pronouns from internet profiles.
Overall, there were 4059 speakers for the categories of oral abstract presentations, moderators for sessions, invited keynote/named lectures, expert panelists and miscellaneous moderators in the last 13 AHNS meetings. Women comprised of 22% (902/4059) of all participants in these categories. Oral abstracts presented by women ranged from 35.2% (18/51 in 2008) to 69% (33/48 in 2019), with an overall increasing trend. For all national AHNS meetings since 2007, there have been 27 invited keynote or named lecturers all of which have been male (27/27). At international meetings, female lecturers for named and keynote lectures were observed at 17% (year 2008; 1/6); 14% (year 2012; 1/7); and 0% (year 2016; 0/5). Invited expert panelists that were female ranged from 5.6% (year 2009; 1/18) to 37% (year 2018; 24/65). Lastly, in the surveyed programs from 2007-2019, there were 401 total miscellaneous moderators and similar invited roles, of which 20% were women (82/401; range from 0% to 39%).
Over the last 13 years the gender gap in scientific oral presentations has narrowed from 2007 to 2019. However, a strong disparity remains for the number women that are invited in more significant roles during annual conferences, such as keynote and/or named lecturers. The participation of women in scientific session and miscellaneous moderator roles has fluctuated over the last decade with some years with no women participating in some categories. Further research is needed to evaluate barriers to sponsoring more women to greater roles at national meetings to ensure that the proportion of women visible is representative of the current head and neck surgeon workforce.