View a PDF of #HerStory2021
View an alphabetical list of honorees from 2003 to 2021

As the pandemic continued to upend life in 2021, women, it seems, were bearing the brunt of extended responsibilities, both at home and in their work life. According to a recent Deloitte Global report, “Women @ Work: A Global Outlook,” heightened workloads and household responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic are driving deep dissatisfaction among many women in the workforce.

The report found that these increased responsibilities are having devastating effects on working women as 51 percent of those surveyed are less optimistic about their career prospects today. And on top of that, women surveyed reported a 35-point drop in mental health.

Apparently, the women we profiled in our 2021 Most Influential Women in Optical Report did not get the memo. While COVID-19 presented complex challenges for many women, our honorees persevered and in many cases thrived—their stories of achievement, innovation and sheer determination, as they faced personal and business hurdles due to the pandemic, are nothing short of inspiring.

This edition will mark the 19th year of our Special Report. The VM editors had more than 220 nominees to choose from and we selected 49 very well deserving women. This year’s group of Influential Women is made up of executives, sales and marketing professionals, ECPs, administrators, researchers and teachers.

For this year’s Annual Report, VM considered women who are making a difference in the following five categories: Executive Suite, Mentors, Rising Stars, Innovators and Above & Beyond

We hope you enjoy their stories of success and fortitude as they navigated through the rough seas that were the hallmark of 2021.

To get a handle on what it was like to survive the challenges of the pandemic, as businesswomen, doctors, wives, mothers and co-workers, we asked our honorees how they had to change their business or professional tactics and if there were any positive developments because of these changes. Here’s what some of them had to say.

“The pandemic forced us to embrace technology differently which allowed us to connect differently. Prior to the pandemic, our teammates across the country didn’t have the opportunity to interact or connect with each other. When we reopened following the early pandemic shutdown, we provided video conferencing equipment to all stores. It’s a much more personal way to connect for individual or regional meetings. For me personally, the pandemic offered an opportunity to really get to understand and connect with our workforce in a way I never would have had otherwise.”
– Cindy Moen, Chief People Officer, Shopko Optical

“So much of what I do now involves touching people’s hearts so it’s been challenging to do that all virtually. We’ve worked hard to create these special experiences via Zoom and Webex. For example, we’re striving to provide learning sessions that are extremely real and authentic, and in many areas, especially in the DEI space, we talk about really difficult topics and share a lot of ourselves ... and that’s just hard to do virtually.”
— Jacqueline Grove, Senior Vice President, Talent Development; Culture; Philanthropy; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, National Vision, Inc.

“During the pandemic, we were all forced to find new ways of working. I spent a lot of time nurturing my network remotely to continue learning and sharing. This provided the opportunity to connect more deeply with people and learn more about them. I hope to continue building these connections even as we return to the new normal.”
— Sandra Mohr, Dean of Academic Resources and Administration, New England College of Optometry

“I think IOT was more prepared than many businesses coming into COVID. Most of our team is highly technical. We were already used to working virtually with coworkers on the other side of the Atlantic. Like many other companies, we moved to more virtual meetings and webinars. That felt very natural, like an extension of what we were already doing. There was one change that took me by surprise. It was a new ability and willingness, both by people and organizations, to really set priorities and filter out the noise.”
— Tina Lahti, VP of Sales and Marketing, IOT

“COVID cemented the fact that vision care is essential health care. By securing critical PPE early in the pandemic with help from our parent company and employing [safety protocols], Visionworks was able to stay open and provide services that kept patients from visiting emergency rooms and clinics overwhelmed with COVID patients. This focus on essential care and safety created a true sense of pride.”
— Jacqueline DeChamps, Chief Retail Officer, Visionworks of America, Inc.