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The Power List 2021 – Power List

Jeannette Bankes

President and GM, Global Surgical Franchise, Alcon

What path has led you to ophthalmology?

I have had the pleasure of holding various leadership positions in the healthcare space, both in the medtech and pharmaceutical industries. I enjoy leading innovation and device development, so I was thrilled to join Alcon in 2019. What attracted me to ophthalmology was both the company and the people. Ophthalmology is very special: there is a sense of camaraderie in the ophthalmic space – something that was even more noticeable as we navigated a pandemic this past year. People care about one another and about the future of this industry.

You get close to your partners, both industry peers and customers, as you develop the science and innovations in a collaborative way to ultimately help people see brilliantly.

How does Alcon promote gender equality?

Alcon is dedicated to promoting equality and inclusion as well as having diverse talent at all levels. We promote gender equality through our employee resource groups (ERGs), which provide strong development opportunities for our associates. One ERG called WIN – Women Innovating Now – supports the future generation of female leaders through professional development and mentorship opportunities.

At the beginning of 2021, we embarked on a global assessment of Diversity & Inclusion at Alcon because it’s important for us to take a data-driven approach to understanding our current practices and metrics relating to gender globally and protected classes in the US. The results of this assessment will inform our future strategy to ensure we are taking action to deliver gender equality at all levels of our business over time.

How do you ensure equal representation in leadership positions?

Having equal representation in leadership is incredibly important, but we are certainly not there yet as an industry or even a society. The numbers are staggering from even this past year, when women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic – losing jobs or dropping out of the labor force at much higher rates than men.

I believe the solution starts with women supporting women and finding allies – including men – to support and sponsor their ascension into leadership positions. Supporting women in career development and work-life integration will help ensure equal representation in various positions. We must understand individual needs required for success and be flexible in our support and approach, allowing individuals to gain experience that will prepare them for their next career move.

How can wider gender imbalance in the ophthalmic industry be addressed?

I would love to see increased diversity in the boardroom. I think we can continue to move the needle on the current gender imbalance by providing resources for women and their professional development. I can’t say enough good things about organizations like Women in Ophthalmology and Ophthalmic World Leaders who are steadfast advocates for women in this industry.

I also believe we have an opportunity to introduce more women and diverse talent to careers in ophthalmology at an earlier age by encouraging careers in STEM and providing opportunities – as young as in high school – to see what a career in ophthalmology could be.

Having honest conversations around topics like inequality and openly discussing industry challenges helps move that needle in the right direction. Two leading retina specialists in the US, Christina Weng and Audina Berrocal, recently wrote about Women in Ophthalmology. I had a chance to interview them about the book during Women’s History Month in March, and they addressed important topics like work-life balance and seeking out leadership opportunities. For these two career-driven, respected women to be so candid about their own experiences is inspiring for other women, industry peers, and future leaders.

What can we expect from your company in the next five years?

It’s an exciting time for Alcon! We are proud of our diverse portfolio of products, our new product launches, and our truly global footprint in implantables, consumables, and equipment. We have launched more than 26 products in the past two years in cataract, vitreoretinal, and refractive.

As we think about the near term, our two big areas of focus are presbyopia-correcting IOLs, which include our PanOptix and Vivity IOLs, as well as our Alcon equipment ecosystem for cataract, retina, and refractive surgery. We are focused on bringing our expertise to every step of the procedure – end-to-end.


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