There can be few professions or businesses which are as female friendly as optics, a fact demonstrated by domination of optometry intakes at university with women in recent years.

As the latest gender pay gap figures are published showing lower female pay should we feel sorry for the employers or is optics failing women?

The big employers all give similar reasons for their gender pay gap: for a whole range of reasons men do different jobs, and work in different ways than women, they say. It’s also a fact that the vast majority of non-professional, and lower paid, practice staff are women. The gender pay gap reflects that, not inequality in pay.

Unequal pay has been illegal since the 1970s so it would come as a massive shock to see different pay for the same roles. While optics enjoys a good number of prominent women in senior roles why are not more women moving into those general senior roles?

The AOP’s recent Institute for Employment Studies report charted the bias towards women entering the profession. The same report showed half of pre-regs chose optics for its flexibility of working and that 27% of GOC registrants work as locums. The fact remains that optometry students are much more likely to live at home while studying and completing their pre-reg year and a third would rather not relocate to find employment. Despite all of this 71% of pre-regs chose optometry because of its earning potential.

I suggest the gender pay gap is an outdated measure designed for an era of nine to five working where a simple salary measure indicates reward. Optics can pat itself on the back for being ahead of the curve on flexibility. Optometry is a profession of choice for women because it suits them but more have to find their way into those senior roles.