The future of optometry belongs to women

April 10, 2017

I’m also noticing changes at optometric meetings I attend. First, I see lots of young, fresh faces. While I was never the youngest OD in a crowd, now it seems I’m among the oldest. The second thing I’ve noticed is the ever-growing number of female ODs.

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As I “mature,” I’m noticing things I never paid much attention to in the past. For instance, I was once able to go to bed at three and sleep until 10, now I go to bed at 10 and sleep until three.

I’m also noticing changes at optometric meetings I attend. First, I see lots of young, fresh faces. While I was never the youngest OD in a crowd, now it seems I’m among the oldest. The second thing I’ve noticed is the ever-growing number of female ODs.

Previously from Dr. Bowling: It's just us

This shift in our profession’s demographics toward women has been occurring gradually and will continue to grow. In 2014, women made up 38 percent of the profession and 39 percent of AOA members. Now 65 to 75 percent of optometry students are women.1 While male ODs tend to be practice owners (74 percent of owner-ODs are men1), the number of female practice owners likewise will only grow.

So has our profession’s leadership. In 2011, Dori Carlson became the first female president of the American Optometric Association (AOA), followed by Andrea Thau, the current AOA president. Barbara Horn is the current AOA secretary-treasurer in line to move up to president in a few years.

Related: Could there be a dress code for ODs?

Jennifer Smythe was the first female dean of an optometry school as well as the first female president of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). Currently six women serve as deans or presidents of optometry schools.

 

In 1993, Joan Exford was the first female president of the American Academy of Optometry. Karla Zadnik stepped up in 2010, and Barbara Caffrey is the current president-elect.

Forty women from 31 different states currently serve their state optometric associations as president, president-elect or immediate past-president.

In industry, female ODs are assuming leadership roles. There’s Jill Saxon at Bausch + Lomb, Sally Dillehay at Visioneering Technologies, Carla Mack at Alcon, and Cristina Schnider and Millicent Knight at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, to name a few.

Related: Be present with your patients

Women are the future of optometry. Old, bald guys like me are a dime a dozen, and while we’re not ready for the scrap heap just yet, the profession is definitely becoming younger and more female.

It's time to put away tired, old arguments toward women in leadership positions in optometry. Perhaps it’s the circles I inhabit, but I’ve heard them one time too many. It is only natural for women to step up and lead our profession as these women are doing. Our profession is in their good hands.

Reference

Powers MP. The women of optometry. AOA Focus. March 2014. Available at: http://www.aoa.org/news/aoa-focus/march-2014/the-women-of-optometry?sso=y. Accessed 4/7/17.

Read more from Dr. Bowling here