Women's health and women's leadership in academic medicine: hitting the same glass ceiling?

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2008 Nov;17(9):1453-62. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2007.0688.


The term "glass ceiling" refers to women's lack of advancement into leadership positions despite no visible barriers. The term has been applied to academic medicine for over a decade but has not previously been applied to the advancement of women's health. This paper discusses (1) the historical linking of the advances in women's health with women's leadership in academic medicine, (2) the slow progress of women into leadership in academic medicine, and (3) indicators that the advancement of women's health has stalled. We make the case that deeply embedded unconscious gender-based biases and assumptions underpin the stalled advancement of women on both fronts. We conclude with recommendations to promote progress beyond the apparent glass ceiling that is preventing further advancement of women's health and women leaders. We emphasize the need to move beyond "fixing the women" to a systemic, institutional approach that acknowledges and addresses the impact of unconscious, gender-linked biases that devalue and marginalize women and issues associated with women, such as their health.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Career Choice
  • Career Mobility
  • Faculty, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Planning Guidelines
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Prejudice*
  • Research
  • Research Support as Topic
  • Sex Factors
  • Women's Health*
  • Women's Rights* / methods
  • Women, Working
  • Workforce