JAN 25, 2022
In the first assessment of the gender distribution of major ophthalmology and subspecialty society awards during the past 50 years, investigators looked at trends that may have had an effect on gender disparities.
This was a retrospective, observational study that used data on gender distribution of recipients of major ophthalmology awards from 9 primarily North American ophthalmologic societies between 1970 and 2020. (The Cornea Society was the only international society represented.) Primary assessments were gender distributions by society, award year, award type (i.e., accompanied or not accompanied by a lecture), award category (e.g., achievement, research contribution, service to society), and award level of training.
In total, women received 25% of awards given by the 9 ophthalmologic societies between 1970 and 2020; the proportion of awards given to women increased from 0% in 1970 to 33% in 2020. Representation by women varied by society, ranging from 0% of the American Uveitis Society awards to 41% of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery award. Women received a greater percentage of research-related awards than service- or achievement-related awards. Awards for trainees and early-career ophthalmologists were given to a greater percentage of women than awards to more senior ophthalmologists, reflecting the trend toward more women in ophthalmology in the past decade.
Gender imbalances were reported in award recipients, but the gender distribution of the society’s members was not always known. In addition, certain awards and societies were not included in this analysis, as their award recipient data were not made available. In addition, awardees were unable to self-report their gender.
The percentage of women in ophthalmology has grown significantly during the past 10 years, and this is reflected in the awards given to trainees and early-career ophthalmologists. There is a much lower representation of women in achievement and service-to-society awards, as well as named lectures. This lack of recognition impacts career development and may contribute to the underrepresentation of women at senior academic ranks. The criteria for these awards are not standardized, and hence selection of recipients may be influenced by both implicit and overt bias. Clarification of criteria for these awards may help to standardize selection of awardees.