Sunday, February 11, 2024, marks the 9th International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This year, the UN has chosen the theme "Women in Science Leadership: A New Era for Sustainability."

To commemorate this event, ESTRO has decided to feature a series of interviews with exceptional women who have played a key role in steering the Society and are shaping the future of Radiation Oncology. Today, we hear from Marianne Aznar, ESTRO Board Member.


What inspired your decision to pursue a career in Radiation Oncology? Were there specific experiences or individuals that influenced your choice?

I come from a family of medical professionals (all my relatives are doctors, nurses, midwives, etc.). I chose to study physics and engineering because I loved abstract thinking and I wanted to distance myself from this tradition. I guess it didn’t work very well:  the attraction of helping people by working in healthcare was too strong!


Do you anticipate that young women aspiring to follow a similar path will encounter the same challenges? How might their experiences differ, and what positive changes do you foresee for them?

My eldest daughter is studying computer science and maths, the youngest is planning to study physics. I can already see that their classrooms are more gender-balanced than mine were, which is a good sign. They have an increased sense of belonging in these fields.

It is important to recognise that medical physics is well ahead of other scientific and technological fields, especially in Europe. Still, the proportion of women shrinks as one advances through career stages, leading to under-representation at senior levels (the “leaky pipeline”). One major positive change for future generations is that the factors behind this promotion gap and the reasons why women leave STEM fields are being increasingly investigated and better understood. I hope that this data will lead us to develop evidence-based approaches addressing those “leaks”, for women and for other under-represented groups.


If you could offer advice to young women aspiring to pursue a career in Radiation Oncology, what key insights or recommendations would you share based on your own experiences?

I would encourage every young woman to ask.

Ask to come and observe in the clinic, ask to join a research group meeting at your local university: people are generally eager to show their work!

Once you’ve joined us as a young radiation oncology professional: ask to get involved, to lend a hand on a research project, to join working groups and taskforces. It might not work every time, but you will be surprised at how many senior people are eager to have you on board!



Marianne Anzar, ESTRO Board Member

Professor of Radiation Oncology Physics, University of Manchester, United Kingdom