“Balance is not a women’s issue. It’s a business issue.”
This quote comes from the global International Women’s Day movement, which we celebrate today and should keep in mind all year.
This year’s theme is ‘Balance For Better’. Optometry happens to be an industry that sees more gender balance than some. Canada’s National Household Survey shows women represented 49% of ODs in 2011. Some 42% of American ODs were women in 2016, according to Women in Optometry.
Even though the profession enjoys almost equal gender participation, there is still progress to be made on business balance.
For example, just one in four Canadian ophthalmologists were women in 2016. That number is headed in the right direction, up from 16.3% in 2010, according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
This year’s theme has also made me reflect on other versions of balance that can help make our businesses and our world better. Tiffany Dufu’s book Drop the Ball comes to mind.
Women have made massive strides forward in the 118 years since the first International Women’s Day. And while we’ve earned greater acceptance and support in the working world, our new roles haven’t necessarily replaced old ones. As Dufu explains, modern women often remain the CEO of the home as they set their sights on rising through the ranks professionally. Just as we think of balance as a business issue, we should think of it as a familial one too.
There are ways optometry owners can help. While eye health appointments need to take place in the exam room, your recalling doesn’t have to. I remember working with one practice that allowed their recaller to work from home part of the time. Not only was she incredibly productive, she was thankful: that flexibility was a huge perk, and one that allowed her to better balance her work and family worlds.
I’m also reminded that this isn’t a numbers game; that we shouldn’t chase balance simply to claim a 50-50 workforce split. We should pursue balance and diversity because it makes good business sense; because it gives us diverse perspectives, opinions, leadership styles, ideas.
I have had the good fortune to work with female ODs and support staff throughout Canada, and I’m most passionate about the engagement and empowerment lessons I’ve been able to share.
To the women who help us see our changing world with healthy eyes, and to the professional and personal partners who support them, Happy International Women’s Day.