The advancement of female representation and leadership within ophthalmology in Canada
Authors: Emaan Chaudry, Deeksha Kundapur, Nadine Cheffi, Sarah Yeo, Adil Bhatti
Author Disclosure Block: E. Chaudry: None. D. Kundapur: None. N. Cheffi: None. S. Yeo: None. A. Bhatti: None.
Purpose: Females accounted for only 3.1% of all ophthalmologists in Canada in 1970. Tremendous growth has been observed in the representation of women in ophthalmology, accounting for 28% as of 2019. Despite this improvement, studies have demonstrated that females in ophthalmology receive fewer opportunities to advance their careers and subsequently represent a small proportion of senior positions. Leadership roles in academia, such as involvement at national conferences, play a crucial role in promoting the progression of a physician’s career. The objective of this study was to evaluate the representation of females over an 18 year period at the Canadian Ophthalmology Society (COS) annual meeting, the largest educational gathering of ophthalmic professionals in Canada.
Study Design: A cross-sectional study using COS annual meeting programs from 2003 - 2021.
Methods: Data from online program schedules between 2003 - 2021 was obtained. Data was extracted for the following variables and classified according to sex (female or male): oral presentation, free workshop, skills transfer course, committee member, moderator, keynote, and panelist. Note that sex was classified based on author name, description, and images. If not immediately available, an exhaustive search of social media pages, institutional pages, and other online materials was completed. The percentage of females and males in each year was calculated and trended for each category and in aggregate. Calculations were completed for both the total conference spots filled as well as with representation based on unique individuals.
Results: From 2003-2021, the total percentage of females involved in any of the seven conference positions demonstrated a positive trend. Over 18 years, there was an 18.2% increase in females filling these positions (24.85% to 43.05%), with an average increase of 0.74% increase per year. Noted was the repetition of females filling multiple roles in a given year. After excluding duplicates and examining unique females in these positions, only a 12.67% increase (27.41% to 40.08%), with an average of 0.60% increase per year was found. An increase in representation amongst all categories was observed, with the most significant growth in female committee members, representing 14.29% in 2003 to 50% in 2021. Of note is that female keynote speakers continue to be the most underrepresented category with 8.33% in 2003 to only 36% in 2021.
Conclusions: This study examines the representation of females in leadership positions at the largest ophthalmic meeting in Canada. While they are still underrepresented, the representation of females at COS continues to trend upwards and has improved significantly from 2003 to 2021. Continuous analysis and awareness of the representation of females in leadership positions such as at COS will aid in limiting gender disparities in ophthalmology.