Download a PDF of the 20th Anniversary Most Influential Women in Optical Luncheon.

LAS VEGAS—Courage and empowerment fueled the atmosphere at the 20th Anniversary Most Influential Women in Optical luncheon at Vision Expo West on Sept. 16. The event brought together current and past female change makers and influencers who were recognized by their peers for making significant contributions to the optical industry.

Between 2003 and 2022 more than 740 women have been honored for their work in all facets of eyecare. Marge Axelrad, senior VP and editorial director of Vision Monday welcomed attendees, noting this event is a true representation of the modern optical industry. “These women have made amazing contributions as their careers have progressed. They represent all sectors of this incredible business we are in. They are shaping the arc of the eyecare field and present so many opportunities for the future. They are creating change and a fresh future for our business.”

The event also recognized a number of companies, sponsors and organizations who have also been making strides to create more inclusive and female-driven workplaces. On hand were representatives of the Optical Women’s Association, the OD Divas and Global Ophthalmic Women.

Sherianne James, chief marketing officer and senior VP wholesale marketing at EssilorLuxottica North America noted that the face of the optical industry is changing, with 70 percent of new optometry students being female. James said, “This is why this award is so important. To give us a voice and to celebrate each other. When you are being tenacious and pushing through, you are doing it for the ones coming behind you. When you reach the top, send the elevator down and grab up some more and bring them up with you.”

Dr. Millicent Knight, SVP of Customer Development, told the audience, “While I was busy running my own practice and caring for my patients, I also became the youngest optometrist and only black female in history on the board of trustees at the Illinois College of Optometry and served on the state board on Illinois. When my local hospital refused to grant me privileges on the basis that no rules existed for optometrists, I went ahead and wrote the rules myself and they are still used to this day.”

She added, “I recognize that when practitioners and industry work together, we can do so much more in advancing patient care, which is why we are all here. When you are leaning in to create space for yourself and your female colleagues to be heard, remember that you are not alone, this can be done, and your work will shape the future of this industry.

The event was capped off by a special presentation by keynote speaker Gina Rudan, director and cultural alchemist at Google X. She shared her personal and professional journey with attendees, noting it is important to take note of the women in your life who have demonstrated fierce courage and use that as a model for personal and professional growth.

“You have to look at what shows up in your personal life that’s holding you back and what is amplifying you forward,” she said, noting that failure should never be seen as a negative but a chance to continue to grow and learn. “You have to keep experimenting and finding what’s new.”

Sponsors of the Most Influential Women 20th Anniversary event include: Visionary: Johnson & Johnson Vision, EssilorLuxottica; Partner: Safilo, The Vision Council, Vision Expo, VSP Vision; Supporting: Modo, Mondottica, OWA, PECAA,Vision Source, Walman Optical and Zeiss.