Despite more women entering the field of ophthalmology each year, they are underrepresented among most ophthalmology subspecialty societies and in all ophthalmology subspecialty leadership and among award winners.
This retrospective study examined online archives, programs, and member directories from 6 ophthalmology subspecialty societies (ASCRS, AAPOS, AGS, ASRS, NANOS, ASOPRS) for the following primary outcomes: percentage of women in new memberships, societal award winners, executive/director members, and presidents. Secondary outcomes were total membership and proportional representation of men and women during the 2000–2009 and 2010–2020 time periods.
There has been progress toward parity, but inequalities remain. The ASOPRS had a significant increase in female presidents over the time periods (from 0% in 2000–2009 to 30% in 2010–2020), but no other societies showed such progress. The percentage of women as new society members increased from 42.2% to 53.6%. For the full 2000–2020 period, the overall proportion of female members vs male members remained disparate in ASOPRS, ASCRS, and NANOS, but AAPOS achieved gender parity in its membership rolls (data were not available for AGS or ASRS).
This study is limited by its retrospective nature and gaps in data collection. Additionally, gender, when not reported by a member, was deduced from online profiles and pronouns. In this age of increasing gender fluidity, it will be interesting to see how these metrics change going forward.
While this study unveils the increasing role of women in ophthalmology subspecialty societies, including in leadership roles, there is still a need for additional work to improve equality. This will require the support and effort from both men and women to mentor and provide opportunities, whether small or large, in each of our daily lives.