Women in Research: Breaking the glass ceiling

February 27, 2020

Women in Research:
Breaking the glass ceiling

Catalina Vladut is a young Gastroenterology specialist affiliated to the Clinical Emergency Hospital ‘Agrippa Ionescu’, Bucharest, Romania. Her interest in research led her to enroll in her PhD in pancreatology. She is member of UEG’s Young Talent Group and their cross-representative on UEG’s Equality & Diversity Task Force. This is her unique perspective on the session ‘Career Chat: Women in Research’ at UEG Week 2019.


Watch the Facebook live video of the Career Chat session.



The ‘glass ceiling’ is used as a metaphor to describe the frequent and undefined barriers in the workplace that exist for women, but also (other) minorities such as ethnicity, age, or social status. Introduced in 1839 by French feminist and author George Sand, the metaphor was first used in 1978 in a speech by Marianne Schriber and Katherine Lawrence [1,2]. In 2018, an article in the Economist reported on a gender pay gap of 14% (in decline), with a higher equality rate in Northern Europe, whilst Japan, South Korea and Turkey remain at the bottom of the list [3].

Although we see an overall increase of female researchers, a number of problems remain: women in research receive less funding, take longer to apply for leading positions, and have less representation in research institutions. In health care, diversity among providers brings solutions to patients that have specific needs. Sometimes it is easier for patients to speak to a healthcare professional of the same gender,  e.g. when being referred to colonoscopy. Diversity among staff brings new and different approaches, leading to the best possible care for all patients.

Taking advantage of UEG Week 2019, UEG’s Equality & Diversity Task Force together with Young Talent Group organized the session "Career Chat: Women in Research" to highlight the hot topic of research gender bias and encourage women to enter and advance in research careers. 

The audience and the panel were both male and female, with Dr. Luigi Ricciardiello acting as the moderator alongside Iris Dotan, Patrizia Burra, and Julia Mayerle. These three powerful female role models offered different perspectives on careers in medical research and the work-family conflict. Iris Dotan is director of the Division of Gastroenterology at the Rabin Medical Center, Petah Tikva, Israel. Patrizia Burra is head of the Multivisceral Transplant Unit at Padua University Hospital, Italy. Julia Mayerle is Professor of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Munich University Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilian-University, Germany. Currently, Julia is member of UEG’s Research Committee. Luigi Ricciardello is Associate Professor in the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, Gastroenterology Unit of the University of Bologna, and chair of UEG’s Research Committee. All speakers agreed that while the interest in research required a lot of time and effort, the output was extraordinary; and although the work-family conflict occurs early in a woman’s GI career, it is not absent in the male GI career either and should therefore not be disregarded. Moreover, the panel agreed that diversity in a department offers different solutions for developing unique areas. 

The lounge setting allowed for free discussions between senior and young GI’s and an open dialogue with somewhat difficult questions to be asked out loud. However, the feedback from the panel was positive and provided essential take-home messages.


  1. Federal Glass Ceiling Commission. Good for Business: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor, March 1995.
  2. Harlan, Elizabeth (2008). George Sand. Yale University Press. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-300-13056-0.
  3. The glass-ceiling index, The Economist


No comments

More Education News