Glass ceiling being broken into pieces

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Talyta Thibes Tecilla and Ms. Bruna Braga Kapusta, two 21 year old medical students in the 8th period of medicine at Unicesumar, Brazil. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The term “glass ceiling” was used by Marilyn Loden in the late 1970s in a speech that approached the related barriers of advancing women in leadership positions, although these impediments cannot be touched or are officially instituted. Bringing this term to the current academic environment of medicine, despite being a discourse of more than 40 years, it’s clear that the institutionalized gender of women reflects the way in which she is still in a position of lesser professional prestige, often being marginalized in the women’s health process by the historical heaviness brought by gender. This view allows the medical student, within this environment that for a long time met only male expectations, changes that accelerate and correct defects that hinder the advancement of women.

Entering the scope of professional medicine, we see that there’s a high rate of women in the medical field, despite the fact that leadership and higher valuation positions are commonly occuped by men. The number of male physicians is greater than women physicians, 64% to 36%, according to 2019 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted in the United States of America. However, this scenario will change, as, according to studies by the Association of American medical colleges (AAMC), there are currently more women matriculated in medical school. In this sense, there is a greater union of the female gender, and a proof of this is the ‘medbikini’ movement that emerged after a study carried out in the United Kingdom, which reinforced patriarchal ideas relating the behavior of female physicians and their ways of dressing with their professional potential.

This situation reverberated not only among doctors, but also among medical students, especially female students who demonstrated, through social networks, that women are still the target of unequal criticism between genders. This reinforces the role of the future doctor in combating this inequality, considering that among medical students, according to data from AAMC 2017, one in seven students reported having been commented on offensive sexist comments or names and about 6% believed who got a low rating or grade due to gender and not performance.

In view of the scenario, September appears as a commemorative month for women in medicine, and therefore, despite being a “traditionally” male environment, it is essential that the medical student is aware of the inequality that still exists between genders. This can be accomplished through access to information about this topic, support for the movements mentioned, for example, in addition to the greater focus of the medical school on this during medical training. In addition, it is necessary to introduce these ideals from an early age so that these future doctors can assume and accept positions of leadership and recognition for merits and excellence, and not for prejudices related to gender. In this way, the so-called “glass ceiling” starts to take on a simplistic function: only that of reflecting and remembering promising and prestigious attitudes made daily by women health professionals.


  1. Jagsi R Sexual harassment in medicine—#MeToo. N Engl J Med. 2018; 378: 209-211
  2. MURPHY, Brendan. #MeToo in med ed:: 1 in 7 students subjected to sexist remarks. 1 in 7 students subjected to sexist remarks. 2018.
  3. Carnes, M., Morrissey, C., & Geller, S. E. (2008). Women’s health and women’s leadership in academic medicine: hitting the same glass ceiling?. Journal of women’s health (2002), 17(9), 1453–1462.
  4. Mauvais-Jarvis F, Bairey Merz CN, Barnes PJ, Brinton RD, Carrero J-J, DeMeo DL, de Vries GJ, Epperson CN, Govindan R, Klein SL et al: Sex and gender: Modifiers of health, disease and medicine. Lancet in press.

About the author

Talyta Thibes Tecilla, 21 years old and in the 8th period of medicine at Unicesumar, Brazil. Currently, She is the president of Academic League of Forensic Medical of Maringá (LAMFMA) and member of the Academic League of Angiology and Vascular Surgery (LAMACIV). She has always been fascinated by the possibility of taking care of others and bringing information to those who never had the opportunity to have it. 

Bruna Braga Kapusta, 21 years old and in the 8th period of medicine at Unicesumar, Brazil.  Nowadays, she is the president of League of Pulmonology (LAMAP), director of Academic League of Intensive Medicine in Maringá (LAMIM), participate of scientific department of Miguel Nicolelis Academic Center (CAMN) and member of the Academic League of Angiology and Vascular Surgery (LAMACIV).

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