Who Speaks When Ophthalmologists Listen? Exploring the gender diversity of presenters at ophthalmology conferences worldwide
Authors: Seema Emami, Jenn Qian, Nupura Bakshi.
Author Disclosure Block: S. Emami: None. J. Qian: None. N. Bakshi: None.
Purpose: Gender diversity has increased among ophthalmologists in recent decades. However, previous studies have reported under-representation of women in academic authorship and leadership roles,
surgical volumes, and financial compensation. We report the gender distribution of speakers across major ophthalmology conferences worldwide to analyze whether gender parity has been achieved at the speaker podium.
Study Design: Cross-sectional observational study.
Methods: An internet search determined the largest ophthalmic conferences comprising 8 subspecialties across 10 regions between 2020-2021. Review of publicly available programmes identified the number of conference sessions, keynote speakers, panel moderators, and paper presenters. We noted speaker gender according to self-identified gender pronouns used in professional biographies or, if biography was unavailable, by review of first name and/or photograph.
Results: We reviewed 49 conferences comprising 951 sessions and 7788 speakers. Fewer conferences occurred in 2020 (n=16) compared to 2021 (n=33). Gender was identified in 7713 (99%) speakers. Men were more frequently identified by use of gender pronouns in biographies (79.2%) compared to women (73.7%; x2=29.5, p<0.0001). One speaker (0.01%) used non-binary gender pronouns. Men accounted for 66.8% of all speakers and represented a larger proportion of keynote (77.6%), moderator (66.2%), and paper presenters (61.7%) compared to other genders. Men held significantly more keynote and moderator roles compared to women (x2=5.49, p<0.02). Women speakers were significantly under- represented compared to men across all conference subspecialties (x2=153.42, p<0.0001), with the least representation at cataract/refractive surgery, retina, and cornea conferences. Fewer women presented in 2020 (n=490, 28.3%) compared to 2021 (n=2021,33.4%; z=-3.99, p<0.0001). We identified 109 sessions (11.5%) featuring all-men speakers compared to eight sessions of all-women speakers (0.8%). Cornea, retina, and glaucoma conferences had the highest rate of all-men sessions (37.3%, 16.7%, and 14.1%, respectively).
Conclusions: Women presenters are under-represented compared to men at ophthalmology conferences across all subspecialties and speaking roles. This disparity was particularly striking in 2020, when many conferences were cancelled or reduced in size due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All-men panels remain common at ophthalmology conferences, especially in surgery-intensive subspecialties. Women speakers were also less likely to have online professional biographies or incorporate gender pronouns in their profiles, suggesting reduced use of narrative biography compared to men. Finally, only one speaker used non-binary gender pronouns. Further research is required to understand the spectrum of gender diversity among ophthalmologists and factors underlying gender disparity, especially in keynote and moderator roles. To our knowledge, this is the largest study of gender representation among ophthalmology conference presenters to date.