Is There a Gender Pay Gap in Corporate Optometry?

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By Maria Sampalis, OD, of Cranston, Rhode Island

Corporate optometry can be a great career for the young entrepreneurial OD. There is a plethora of wonderful opportunities to embrace your business ambitions and pursue multiple locations. There has been a shift over the years with 70 percent of the optometry class graduating being female. Is there a gender pay gap in corporate optometry that involves ODs, opticians and even leadership?

Is there a gender gap in the number of locations that a female OD can sublease? The survey from the group Corporate Optometry on Facebook displayed that many sublease holders who are female have one location and if a second location was offered it was a slower non-profitable location. Further conversations illustrated that Walmart offered female ODs an opportunity to take on another very profitable sublease.

Differences in Wages

According to the AOA, “even with its changing demographics, optometry hasn’t escaped the gender pay gap. The latest AOA Survey of Optometry Practice (2015) found female practice owners earned about $41,000 less than their male counterparts in 2014, or about 33 percent less.

As mentioned by Women in Optometry, the 2011 ECP Compensation Study led by Jobson Optical Research found that among employed ODs there was a pay gap of more than 18 percent and ODs who were owners and partners had a pay gap of more than 26 percent. Interestingly, those employed ODs who saw the 18 percent pay gap had been employed less than 10 years. Showing that particularly newer female ODs were experiencing a struggle with the wage gap. But that hasn’t stifled women’s interest in the profession. On the contrary, it’s emboldened them toward changing it.”

What can account for this gap?

• Working less hours/part time
• Not focusing on sub specialties in optometry
• Small volume sublease opportunities
• One corporate location—not having the opportunities to expand and take on multiple locations

The survey taken in the Corporate Optometry Facebook group found that a majority of ODs including females work five to six days a week.

Opticians

Depending on the state, there needs to be a licensed optician in every corporate optical. According to Glassdoor, “Women opticians make 17.3 percent less than their male colleagues. While this field has a better gender balance than some others, women account for about 38 percent of the profession, according to the American Optometric Association.” Generally, many of the opticians are working in corporate opticals as employees. Of that 38 percent how many are managers and what is the gross revenue of that optical?

Leadership

There are so many corporate opticals but what percentage have females as leaders within that company? If they do, what brands within the company do these executives represent? As they say in corporate its all about the numbers, if those numbers are far exceeded isn’t a promotion entitled to anyone? With 70 percent of the new ODs being female wouldn’t an Eye Care Director or President of a company that was female be able to engage ODs a little more? Across all levels, the study Women in the Workplace 2017 found that women are 15 percent less likely than men to get promoted. Any business is driven by hard work and the motivation to succeed. The more diversity in a corporate optical the better the future performance of the company.

Overcome the Wage Gap

While the problem may still be prevalent for many, there are ways to attempt to close the wage gap.

Continuous improvement. Always take the time to improve upon your knowledge, experience, and skillsets. Keep up to date with the latest trends in optometry and stay communicated about important topics. If there is a specialty that you’ve always wanted to explore then take the time to do so. Furthermore, you need to market these constantly to make sure that opportunities are always available to you. LinkedIn can be an incredible medium on which to display your proficiencies. More people than we think check LinkedIn to find information about professionals including potential employers, coworkers, competitors, and students.

Negotiate. Understand your capabilities, your successes, and your skillset. You have worked hard for your reputation and your merits. You are constantly marketing yourself and building your professional resume. Use these to your advantage and don’t be afraid to ask for a raise based on these. Make sure to understand the data and be prepared with facts and statistics on competitive pay for your services. Understand what value your skillset brings to the company and its growth. With a positive attitude and the clear desire to help the company benefit from what you bring to the table you can get one step closer to closing the gap.

Join the discussion as a member of the Corporate Optometry group on Facebook or visit the original posting of the article.