NEW YORK—International Women’s Day came and went this Tuesday, March 8, but with Women’s History Month spanning all of March, there’s still an abundance of time to celebrate and honor women in all walks of life—including in the optical world. Women’s history and optical history have long been intertwined, but the future of the field is also closely intertwined with women’s future. In fact, the number of women in the optical profession has been rising steadily over the past 10 years. Women In Optometry reports that in 2019, 7 out of 10 students entering optometry school were women.

Still, the rise of women in optometry does not mean women always have the same opportunities or resources as men when it comes to optical care and access. Of the 1.1 billion people worldwide with vision loss, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) reported that 609 million, or 55 percent, are female. Women are 12 percent more likely than men to experience vision loss, and are also more likely to experience barriers to eyecare services due to cost, low levels of health literacy, rural habitation, older age and more. 

The eye health sector has also not yet achieved gender parity, the IAPB reported. Despite the prevalence of women in the profession, only 28.3 percent of eye health organization boards are held by women. Women of color hold the fewest leadership positions, including in positions of senior management, boards, CEO and chair.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Optical Women’s Association, which has been working tirelessly since 1997 to support and promote the professional development of women in all facets of the optical industry. With the support of the OWA and organizations like it, women in optical professions can network, join together and support one another—creating actionable, tangible change for women in the optical world. 

Earlier this week, the OWA celebrated International Women’s Day by hosting a special event with keynote speaker Judge Karen Gauff. And while organizations like the OWA and IAPB work passionately to close these gender gaps, the data shows that there is still plenty work to be done for all of us—and there’s no better time than Women’s History Month to begin doing it. 

If you or your team have something planned to celebrate Women’s History Month, please tag us on Twitter or Instagram (@VisionMonday)—we would love to see it!

IAPB shares its year-long initiative for 2022: Focus on Gender Equity. Image via iapb on Instagram

Companies across the eyecare and eyewear fields, including Zeiss Canada, celebrated International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month by spotlighting the women within their organization. Image via zeissvisioncare_canada on Instagram

Others, like Eyes on Trade in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, celebrated being women-owned this International Women’s Day. Image via eyesontrade on Instagram

Other women-led businesses, like 20/20 Onsite, took a moment on International Women’s Day to reinforce their commitment to women’s equality every day of the year. Image via 2020onsite on Instagram

To bring International Women’s Day down to a local level, some ECPs, like the team at Optical Heights in Roslyn Heights, New York, spotlighted remarkable female clients. Image via opticalheights on Instagram

This month, the OWA is celebrating Women’s History Month and its 25th anniversary. Image via opticalwomen on Instagram