Authors: Women Scientist w Brain Image

Marialuisa Zedde & Louisa Christensen, Chairs of WISE

Janica Korv & Phil Ferdinand, Representatives of the DEI Advisory Council

The campaign theme chosen for the International Women’s Day 2024 is “Inspire Inclusion’. It is more current and feasible than ever and inspires all human beings to action, without any distinction of sex, age, country, etc. All the pillars of the 2024 campaign have been already part of the European Stroke Organization and fully supported through the Women Initiative for Stroke in Europe (WISE) working group and through the just born Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Council. If you look at the campaign you might easily recognize the values and principles inspiring these two far-sighted ESO projects. Indeed, “to inspire inclusion means to celebrate diversity and empowerment on International Women’s Day 2024 and beyond”. This is exactly what we have been doing since our foundation and we would like to take the chance of this day not for celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, but for reminding us what still needs to be done to achieve the goal of inclusion and equality. Diversity is a resource for all societies and this is true in the scientific field as well. To inspire inclusion concretely means to affirm the importance of diversity and empowerment in all aspects of the life of a scientific society, being an example for the social life. Gender equality cannot be achieved without addressing inclusion and breaking down all personal, educational, social and stereotypical barriers. The only day we can stop talking about equality will be the day equality is truly achieved.

In particular, WISE feels represented by one of the key pillars of the “Inspire Inclusion” campaign, i.e., the promotion of diversity (and, therefore, equality) in leadership and decision-making positions. WISE has been making a constant effort in this regard, organizing workshops and webinars on leadership education and supporting all its members as a network of women and researchers. WISE provides support, resources and a growing, active network to empower women to achieve leadership positions in the respective fields.

The history and the mission of WISE start with a small group of women within ESO, looking at gender inequalities in stroke care from a dual point of view: the gender inequalities of the patients during the pathway of care and the gender inequalities of the health care professionals. The evidence of these two levels on inequalities prompted the founding of WISE (1) the disparities in treatment, outcome and prevention of stroke across Europe between women and men, and (2) the underrepresentation of women in academic leadership positions.

The specific aims of the WISE are:

(1) to increase awareness of stroke risk factors and stroke symptoms among women;

(2) to promote gender equality in stroke care;

(3) to ensure equal career opportunities for health care professionals so that talent rather than gender influence prospects.

WISE aims to guarantee better stroke care for women by:

  1. Promoting and supporting activities and programs to increase stroke awareness among women
  2. Promoting and disseminating research on stroke in women
  3. Increasing female representation in clinical trials
  4. Promoting initiatives and efforts which emphasize stroke care in women

WISE aims to promote female stroke clinicians and researchers by:

  1. Supporting female leadership in the field of stroke
  2. Increasing the number of women represented at scientific meetings
  3. Increasing the number of women with leadership positions in ESO
  4. Mentoring and supporting young female stroke clinicians and researchers

We are aware that these are ambitious goals in their simplicity, but we believe that they can be reached with a collaborative effort involving the whole society, related-scientific associations, and policy makers.

Gender equality is only one of the several issues in equality. It still holds a strong relevance and it could serve as a good example for paving the way toward inclusion and integration in all the other aspects. For this reason, the DEI Advisory Council was established within ESO as an important component of the main mission of ESO, i.e. to alleviate the burden of stroke. DEI Advisory Council represents an active and conscious effort by ESO to empower inclusion and leverage diversity as a resource. Its activities are perfectly integrated at different levels with the main ESO bodies and projects, supporting them in strategic choices, encouraging participation, and broadening the audience of stroke physicians and researchers from all over the world who feel fully represented by ESO and within ESO.

The declared mission of DEI Advisory Council can be summarized in four points:

  1. Reflect the Communities We Serve
  2. Promote Equity in Stroke Care
  3. Build a Supportive Community
  4. Enhance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in ESO programs

The activity of the WISE Working Group is complementary and integrated with that of the DEI Advisory Council. WISE and DEI are working together towards common objectives with the support of ESO, which has strongly believed in these projects and aligns well with the campaign theme of the International Women’s Day 2024 “to inspire inclusion”.

ESOC is Europe’s leading forum for advances in research and clinical care of patients with cerebrovascular diseases. ESOC 2024 will live up to its expectation, and present to you a packed, high quality scientific programme including major clinical trials, state-of-the-art seminars, educational workshops, scientific communications of the latest research, and debates about current controversies. Learn more.