Dec. 18, 2019
For what is believed to be the first time, the percentage of women who entered North American schools and colleges of optometry this fall increased to the 70 percent plateau, Women In Optometry reported this month.
The publication cited data from the 25 optometry schools surveyed for its report, which also found an overall increase of 28 students in optometry schools this fall compared with a year ago, Mark Tosh writes in Vision Monday.
The fall’s female-male enrollment percentage was an increase of only 1 percent compared with last year’s 69 percent, but the round number “70” does seem to indicate a milestone of sorts. (Women In Optometry has a complete breakdown of enrollment at all of the North American optometry schools HERE.
The data indicate a high point of 78 percent women at the University of Montreal School of Optometry, and a low percentage number of 54 percent at Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry.)
According to the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), the percentage of optometry school enrollees who were women began a notable growth trajectory in the 1980s, climbing from 19 percent of the new student group in 1980 to 44 percent by 1989.
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However, it was the 1992-93 school year that turned out to be a pivotal year for optometry, when for the first time women enrollees outnumbered men, according to a post on the ASCO site earlier this year by Aurora Denial OD, FAAO. (Dr. Denial is chair of the primary care department at the New England College of Optometry.)
“Several of the barriers identified in the 1970s were still present in the 1980s,” she wrote. “However, women in this decade did benefit from fading stereotypes regarding what careers they should pursue.”
While the 70 percent number is a high-water mark, at least for now, Women In Optometry editor Marjolijn Bijlefeld said she is not sure that the percentage will go that much higher. “And this hasn’t been an actual steady uphill shift,” she told VMAIL Weekend. “Some years are higher and some are lower, although this is the highest since we’ve been tracking it. But it really depends on the candidate pool [of overall college students] that year.”