International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”   #IWD2019 #BalanceforBetter

Since 1911, March 8th has marked International Women’s Day.  VOSH/International celebrates women’s achievements in the profession and their contribution to the important work we do.  Optometry is a profession that is changing along gender lines across the world.   When I graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry in 1995, my graduating class marked the first time in the college’s 123-year history that the graduation class had more women than men.  In the USA, the 2015 job task analysis carried out by the American Board of Optometry had 45% female respondents and with about two thirds of students enrolled in optometry school being female, this gender shift trend will continue.  However at leadership and decision making levels women’s presence is still under-represented.  VOSH/International is proud to continue working towards a good balance of female representation and leadership within its structures but it recognises that there is still some way to go.

During our community clinics we are constantly reminded of the unequal access to eye care services experienced by vulnerable groups especially women and girls across the world.   It is estimated that of the 253 million people in the world who are visually impaired, 55% are women (139 million). Some contributing factors include women living longer than men and therefore more at risk of eye conditions as they age. In many developing countries women and girls face more difficulties accessing eye health services due to economic or cultural factors such as lack of information due to illiteracy or their inability to travel unaccompanied just to mention a few.

On this International Women’s Day let us take a moment to remember that women as optometrists or as patients require equal access to opportunities and services that enable them to thrive.  VOSH/International’s commitment to facilitate the provision and the sustainability of vision care worldwide for people who can neither afford nor obtain such care has special resonance on this important day.

Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International