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Stephanie Watson

The Power List 2021 – Power List

Head of the Corneal Research Group at The University of Sydney, Faculty of Medicine and Health; Head of the Cornea Unit at Sydney Eye Hospital; and Chair of the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia, Sydney, Australia

What is your proudest professional achievement?

As a professor at the Save Sight Institute leading the Corneal Research Unit and Head of the Corneal Unit at the Sydney Eye Hospital, I have translated my research findings into two world-first therapies; developed the “Save Sight Registries” for corneal diseases to hold over 30,000 visits from over 600 patients from 82 clinicians worldwide; conducted 11 clinical trials (five as Chief Investigator); and improved patient care through benchmarking and guidelines. I have trained 70 eye care workers (including 15 corneal fellows) and 25 researchers. Training these “next-generation eye experts” is what I’m most proud of, as this has helped build a workforce with the skills needed to save sight and improve patient care into the future. Guiding emerging eye experts to fulfil their career and personal goals has been personally rewarding.

Outside of ophthalmology, what makes you happy?

I like to spend time with family and friends, and keep fit! A hobby I have is bike riding; it is great to be outdoors and I go on rides with my family. I have three boys who are all very active and they help me keep fit. I also enjoy travelling, but have been doing less of this lately! Learning to speak French is a new hobby that I am looking forward to getting better at.

Why is it important that we celebrate women in the field this way?

Recognizing the Top 100 Women in Ophthalmology allows the celebration and validation of the excellence of the nominees’ work. This in turn can inspire the next generation of female achievers, provide a platform to showcase the achievements of women to the profession and general public, and promote success in ophthalmology. For female surgeons and scientists, there is an urgent need to celebrate success to help prevent the “leaky pipe” in career progression that results in the loss of women from senior positions. In surgery and science, women hold fewer senior positions, apply for and win fewer awards, file fewer patents, and receive less grant funding than our male counterparts. As an academic eye surgeon, I am one of only three female professors out of 34 in Australia.

What can be done to make the field more diverse? 

Action is needed. Without it, unconscious bias will continue to inhibit change. The first thing we need to do is measure performance in terms of the diversity. The data on diversity can inform the conversation. Goals can be set based on the data and evidence-based research on what is needed to achieve diversity employed. Leaders need to communicate their goals for diversity and be held accountable for their delivery. Whilst there are many great programs guiding women in how to navigate their careers, it is important we all work towards common goals, there is no point having women ready to lead to only find there are no doors to open.
It sounds simple, but there are still many examples where diversity is still lacking and action needed. For example, I commonly see conferences where female speakers are in the minority, not present at all, or typically asked to speak on non-surgical subjects or as non-experts despite being excellent surgeons with considerable expertise. If all societies had gender diversity at conferences as a KPI then this could be identified and positive action taken. The conference organizers would be able to deliver a program that caters to the entire audience and provides inspiration to emerging leaders – a win-win.

Part of the Power List 2021

Find out more

One hundred reasons to celebrate women in ophthalmology

Go to The Power List 2021

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