Article Date: 4/1/2010

What Happens When You Put A Woman In Charge?
o.d. to o.d.

What Happens When You Put A Woman In Charge?

If she runs her practice the way the majority of women executives run their businesses, the answer is massive success.

BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

Through the years, I have heard about several things that were going to either ruin optometry or change it forever — and not in a good way. Think back with me to the first days of “commercial optometry” and then to the rise of alternative channels for patients to purchase contact lenses. I've heard that managed visioncare plans would be the end of optometry as we know it. And then of course, we can't leave out the claims by some that optometry could be done in by our own professional associations.

And let's not forget the women issue. Yes, it's true — I've even heard it said that the number of women in optometry are a problem and will become more of a problem in the future. Really?

They want balance

So what's the rationale for this concern of women ruining optometry? The short answer is that they are responsible for the proliferation of commercial optometry.

The logic, or lack thereof, goes something like this: Commercial optometry needs large numbers of optometrists to fuel their expansion, and women optometrists — who seek a life-work balance — don't have the same commitment to optometry as men. This logic says that women want to work part time, or flex time, or job share, and they probably won't practice as long as their male counterparts. Because of that, they'll work for lower levels of compensation than men, thus driving down the earnings potential for all optometrists.

Let's break back to reality for a moment so blood pressures can normalize.

Reality check

In an effort to identify and understand the drivers of change in optometry, I read as much as I can about business topics that relate to paradigm shifts, different perspectives and life in general. Most of my reading has nothing to do with optometry per se, but rather with the national or global market place. The book I'm currently reading is Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success (Harper Business, 2009) by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay. Let me share some of what I've learned.

According to the authors, “women executives are delivering some of the highest profits, making the workplace more efficient. Further, they are leading companies to outperform their competition. A new study from Pepperdine University shows that companies with the best reputation for promoting women beat industry averages by 116% in equity, 46% in revenue, and 41% in assets.”

In addition, women have earned more educational degrees than men. In fact, women have earned 57% of the undergraduate degrees in the United States and 58% of the graduate degrees.

So, according to the rest of the business world — the Fortune 500 type folks — it seems that women add significant value to business, business leadership and business ownership.

Male Vs. female

If a male O.D. works three days a week or less, society views him as a master of time management, lucky and a role model for this relatively reduced work schedule. If a female O.D. works three days a week, however, society views her as a slacker.

I call your attention once again to the Pepperdine University study, and I suggest that the profession of optometry in general, as well as individual practices, can use all the increased equity, revenue and assets possible. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2010