Women ophthalmologists have been underrepresented as speakers and presenters at professional meetings, but among ophthalmology subspecialties, retina lags behind most others in the proportion of women to men speakers. 

And since COVID-19, the disparity has worsened, according to a retrospective analysis of 50 ophthalmology conferences with almost 8,000 speakers presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology.1

“We looked at keynote speakers, panel moderators and paper presenters and there was a statistically significant large difference between men presenters and women presenters in each of these categories,” lead study author Seema Emami, MD, senior ophthalmology resident at the University of Toronto, tells Retina Specialist

The study evaluated conferences all over the world and found the disparity in every region and every subspecialty except for pediatric and neuro-ophthalmology. “So it was quite pervasive,” she says.

The study reviewed the largest ophthalmic conferences across eight subspecialties and nine regions in 2020 and 2021, identifying speaker gender by pronouns used in speaker biographies or by first name or photograph. It identified gender in 99 percent of 7,964 speakers.


Disparities at retina podiums

Overall, men held 67 percent of the speaking roles. Nearly half of speaker panels had 70 percent men or greater. Women comprise about 40 percent of ophthalmology trainees in North America, Dr. Emami adds. 

“In retina in particular, over 72 percent of speakers identified as men compared with over 34 percent women (p<0.0001),” Dr. Emami says. 

Retina also had the highest percentage of all-men panels across all subspecialties, 22.3 percent compared with 12.6 percent for ophthalmology overall. Only seven of 966 conference sessions in ophthalmology were all-women, a rate of 0.7 percent. 

Dr. Emami notes that from 2010 to 2019, the trend for more women on speakers’ panels was moving upward, but then derailed in 2020 with the pandemic, with 26 percent of speakers being women. In 2021 that overall percentage rebounded to 33.8 percent. 

“Having women on the ophthalmic podium is really integral to allowing them to continue to reach greater heights and to participate in ophthalmic leadership and ophthalmic societies as they participate in more research and presentations,” Dr. Emami says. “It increases the number of women who are going to be considered for ophthalmic awards.” RS

Dr. Emami has no relevant relationships to disclose.  



1. Emami S, Qian J, Bakshi. Striving towards gender diversity at the ophthalmic podium: How close are we to achieving parity? Poster 220 presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Retina Subspecialty Day; Chicago, IL; September 30, 2022.