Women of the Moment
The world is (slowly) turning over a new leaf – not on its own, but with our combined commitment to change
Aleksandra Jones | | Opinion
Just when you thought you were done with voting for this year(!), it’s time to go back to the (virtual) ballot box: The Ophthalmologist Power List 2021 is now accepting nominations! But – before you rush off to nominate Ike Ahmed or Eugene de Juan (or both) – you need to know about a significant twist in The Power List plot. For the first time ever, we will be exclusively celebrating women in ophthalmology.
I’ve had quite a few conversations about the change of format for 2021 – all overwhelmingly positive. People have noted that, despite being as fair as we could make it, The Power List system (open nominations rated by an independent and varied panel of judges) has disproportionately affected women’s chances of featuring on the Top 100 Power List. Implicit bias is still hard at work; even in 2020, women made up only 17 percent of our list (1). And only one woman, Carol Shields, featured in the Top 10 – albeit at the very top.
A recent study looked at ophthalmologists’ compensation in the first year of clinical practice and found that women’s mean salary was $33,139.90 less than that of their male colleagues. The authors concluded that such differences can lead to a “substantial loss” of earnings over the course of a female ophthalmologist’s career (2). The problem persists in the good times and the bad; I don’t have to look far to find evidence of the pandemic disproportionately affecting women in terms of income, opportunities, and mental health (3, 4).
But are times changing? According to an ASCRS Clinical Survey, though women make up only 8 percent of ophthalmologists with more than 30 years of experience, the figure is five times higher (40 percent) for those with fewer than five years of training or practice (5). The big question is whether this new generation of female ophthalmologists will stay and rise through the ranks or fall prey to the “leaky pipeline” frequently seen in STEM. Increased visibility of the right role models will certainly play a crucial role; as American civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”
With that in mind, please take a moment to nominate the most influential and inspiring women in our wonderful field – and help make the change you want to see in the world of ophthalmology.
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- The Ophthalmologist, “The Power List 2020” (2020). Available at: bit.ly/3fSEE40.
- JS Jia et al., “Gender compensation gap for ophthalmologists in the first year of clinical practice,” Ophthalmology, S0161 (2020). PMID: 33248156.
- JK Silveris et al., BMJ Opinion, “COVID-19 and the effect on the gender pay gap in medicine” (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/36jquGb.
- M Zarefsky, AMA, “How COVID-19’s affecting mental health of women physicians” (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/2Jl7jTH.
- ASCRS, “Clinical Survey” (2014). Available at: bit.ly/3fXo6Z2.