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WIN Workshop @ ESMINT Congress 2023

We are all on the same boat

A short story about the WIN@ESMINT dinner on a boat in the harbour of Marseille on 03 September 2023.

Written by Sara M. Pilgram-Pastor

Women in Neurointervention Workshop

More than 30 women working in the huge field of neurointervention were happy to come together. They came together:

  • even if it was on a Sunday evening,
  • even if the congress did not start until the next day, and
  • even or maybe just because it was exclusively women on this boat-restaurant in Marseille
  • (and this should only be mentioned in passing) with a beautiful sunset.

A women’s network led by a WIN@ESMINT team (consisting of Alessandra Biondi, Elisa Ciceri, Franziska Dorn, Anne Christine Januel, Katarzyna Lubkowska, Riitta Rautio and Sara M. Pilgram-Pastor) thought early on about how and when, about who would come and what we could do.

So the venue was found – perfectly – and a supporting program was set up. We are and always have been curious: What are the problems of women in neurointervention? Are you happy? What is expected from a networking meeting like this?

We wanted to capture a picture of the mood of women in neurointervention today, if possible from everyone, as honestly as possible. A survey could be organized online (web-based with a smartphone) in an uncomplicated and anonymous way.

Nadine Hans from Medtronic spoke engaging, honest and opening words, very touching and full of years of experience of her work at and for Medtronic. The company of Medtronic was sponsoring this special event – many thanks for this! Her speech was entitled personal experience and highlight company efforts to Women in Interventional Neuro Radiology.

She gave us three key messages among many others:

  1. Don’t be silent, speak up, speak out, speak out always and everywhere. You are an important part of your environment.
  2. The biggest enemy while following a career path is not a man, not the working conditions or the environment. The biggest enemy you have found along the way is yourself. Don’t look for fault elsewhere, just go on and fight.
  3. Learn the difference between “smart-working” and “hard-working”. She has been doing the latter for years. She learned the former most recently from her male colleagues and thinks it’s great.

We asked our questions during dinner. It was a work-shop with the dinner being the shopping part and the work being the part of fulfilling the questions, analyzing the answers and creating word clouds of spreading ideas.

We asked – for example- the following questions:

  1. Working in the field of neurointerventions, are you happy?
    With an average score of 8.8 out of a maximum of 10, the guests at this dinner were very predominantly happy women working in neurointervention – bravo!

WIN Question: Are you happy?

  1. What are the three most common limitations of your work as a neurointerventionalist?
    See the answer as a word cloud, a word gets bigger with multiple mentions. So time and hours of work seem to play a central theme. It is very interesting and difficult to see here: At the beginning it was still the word money, but in the course of the survey it seemed to become less and less important in favor of other words.

WIN Question about Limitations.

  1. Are there any gender specific reasons for limitations at your daily work?
    These figures are incredibly difficult to interpret. Incredibly, I wanted to rejoice and exclaim: No, we have less of a gender-specific problem in neurointervention. However, if you take the figures for YES and SOMETIMES together, there is a tie between the statements YES/NO we have limitations in our profession. If this is the case, it is sad and in any case still too high. The future will show. I would have preferred a clear NO.

WIN Question on Gender.

  1. What do you expect from a meeting like this and from working on this network in the next 3 years?
    Inspiration seems to be the key to a successful network. In this word cloud, I could only find positive, motivating words. A WIN network is apparently a WIN&WIN situation.

WIN Question on the future.

These answers were grouped into thematic clusters for discussion rounds at the tables. It was almost witching hour when we presented the discussions and ideas in plenary. More or less by chance Zsolt Kulcsar (ESMINT President) and Paolo Machi (Congress Director) came by. They too were probably curious about what we had to discuss here. They were allowed to stay and listen.

Thus, the problem of “time” was discussed at one table and, among other things, different working time models were exchanged. It also became very clear that the working conditions in Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Portugal could not be more different. Only a few people knew that there are such things as research-free days at institutes.

Another table dealt with pregnancy and breastfeeding as well as radiation exposure for women in neurointervention. There is still a need for information and action here. Surely, a central contact person at ESMINT could help here? Why don’t we set up a hotline for these questions? This complex of topics is especially important for younger female colleagues and all too often there is no adequate contact person in their own institute.

When asked about gender-specific problems in our profession, terms such as self-confidence and dealing with complications differently stood out. How could we strengthen and improve these important qualities for women in neurointervention? The importance of a good and supportive mentor was emphasized. Learning from the model (e.g. simulator training) can also help to reduce nervousness and get routine. We women want to do well and always better. Self-confidence does not grow on trees or come automatically to us. However, we have to and can work for it.

Last, but even more important, the last table was dedicated to the expectations of a network. How can I provide inspiration? The answer was obvious: with meetings like this. But also more than that: find a good mentor, believe in yourself and go your way unhindered!

It was an inspiring journey on this boat, which is now sailing on to the next ESMINT Congress with ideas, goals and a vibrant WIN network in its luggage. The captain of the boat?

-Naturally two women: Alessandra Biondi and Elisa Ciceri