#BreakTheBias in Eye Health Together: Envisioning a Movement of Inclusive Collaboration

The International Women’s Day theme this year asks us to imagine a “gender equal world” – a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. A world where differences and uniqueness are valued and celebrated.” This is the world Women In Ophthalmology (WIO), Seva Foundation and Orbis envision, partnering together to create opportunities for the ophthalmic community to collectively #BreakTheBias.

Bias and gender discrimination remain barriers to creating a more equitable and equal world within the eye health community. Women disproportionately experience visual impairment at higher rates than men, in part because they live longer, making them more likely to experience age-related eye conditions, but also due to less access to eye care services. This lack of access has a direct link to the bias women encounter. Within the medical field, women represent 25-30% of ophthalmologists and 25-45% of trainees globally, yet they are underrepresented in key positions. This is not an uncommon pattern within the medical community, where there are clear examples of underrepresentation of women physicians across numerous specialties and among professional award recipients. To acknowledge these statistics and findings is to see both the need, and potential, for change. But it will take a movement – a collective, collaborative, and inclusive human movement to #BreakTheBias effectively.

Women around the world are disproportionately impacted by blindness and visual impairment

As a step forward to realize this new world, WIO, Seva and Orbis formed a partnership to create gender-specific content for a global eye health audience. In May 2021, we launched a four-part webinar series, “Women Leaders in Eye Health.” It featured 32 global panelists and over 530 participants from 79 countries. Sessions addressed a broad range of topics, including global gender inequities in eye health, gender bias in the workplace, and how women ophthalmologists could catapult their careers and seek out growth opportunities.

While the sessions only scratched the surface of the need to address these and many other issues faced by women globally, they confirmed interest in opportunities to help support and empower women to #BreakTheBias they face, both at home and in the workplace. The series also showed how eager women ophthalmologists around the world are for additional networking opportunities, mentorship, and global training opportunities. As one participant shared “Great presentations. So inspiring. It is good to know we are not alone in this. Thank you.”

Women in Ophthalmology Webinar Participant

Great pre­sen­ta­tions. So inspir­ing. It is good to know we are not alone in this. Thank you.”

Building on this demand, in February 2022, WIO, Seva and Orbis launched a new series, “Coffee Hours,” bringing together global audiences to informally share, discuss and strategize on solutions to address gender bias in eye health, and to help support career growth and networking opportunities for women.

Learn more about future Coffee Hour events

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This partnership illuminates the value and power of collaboration and of sharing and learning together. With a mission to explore how best to empower women eye health professionals – and, ultimately, all women needing eye care around the world – one thing is certain: we are stronger and more united in partnership.

WIO, Seva and Orbis teamed up to create a four-part webinar series addressing global gender inequalities in eye health. Photo credit: Visualiza Clínica de Ojos

With a common vision and shared commitment for systemic change, collective leadership and collaboration to prioritize equity are crucial to the sustainability of change of this magnitude. Together we are working to grow the movement, to listen and learn, side by side, and to do our part to #BreakTheBias.

This blog was originally published on the IAPB's website.

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