Jon Sigurdsson, Össur president and CEO, told the group the company was committed to improving the professional lives of women in O&P. “We take our responsibility very seriously,” he said.
Edwards welcomed attendees and speakers. “We are literally a global community,” she said.
That global community heard five speakers discuss the diverse network of women professionals working in O&P, including Marissa Nel, CPO, who in 1993, became the first woman to qualify as a certified prosthetist and orthotist in South Africa.
Nel’s topic, “Advancing Women in the O&P Industry in Third World Countries,” centered on challenges experienced within the sphere of O&P service delivery in low- to middle-income countries, and the limited opportunities and slow pace of transformation for women in O&P in these markets. “In 1993, less than one percent of prosthetists in South Africa was female,” said Nel, who also became the first woman in the country to own a private practice in 1994.
Nel also explored how others can partner with women in less resourced countries to share knowledge and skills through exchange programs across borders and cultures.
Laura Barr, an advanced orthotic practitioner, working within the Orthotic and Orthopaedic services in Scotland, gave her session, “Empowering Professional Development Beyond the Standard P&O Role,” from Glasgow. She discussed an orthotist’s journey from orthotics to orthopedics, saying that there is more than a single route one can take on their journey toward the top of their profession.
Speaker Hildur Einarsdottir tuned in from Iceland. An electronics engineer with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering, she joined Össur in 2009. Her session, “Does One Size & Function Fit All?,” asked that while prosthetics devices have advanced through technology upgrades and innovation, have those product developments addressed the needs and wishes of women with amputations.
The session “Women’s Work? How We Overcome Gender Barriers,” was given by Jennifer Ernst, MD, in Germany. Ernst, a plastic surgeon at the University Medicine Center Göttingen, is the specialist coordinator for the Sarcoma Center and for Amputee Care.
She shared her experiences with a German academic network that set out to empower women professionals. Despite the increasing number of women medical students and surgical residents, the percentage of women who are full professors in surgery is increasing disproportionately, Ernst told the group. A comparable observation is also true and can be made for women in O&P academics, she said. Current leadership, role models, and gender bias are factors responsible for this discrepancy, she said. Ernst asked the group, “Are women professional networks a solution to overcome the glass ceiling and sticky floors phenomena?”
Finally, Nina Bondre, CPO, FAAOP, clinical educator for Cascade Orthopedic Supply in Chico, California, discussed “The Two Sides of Good Enough,” which explored the self-limiting beliefs of settling to be just good enough and learning ways to conquer that restrictive viewpoint.
Two breakout sessions were also held.
The first discussed what needs still exist for women in O&P. The second was a brainstorming session on how to share knowledge and how women can get and stay connected across the globe. In a chat group, participants presented a number of options and suggestions that could help women stay connected worldwide. One suggestion was to use a ready-made group platform. “A WhatsApp group would be great because it’s not time specific,” the viewer wrote.
ÖWLI is a diverse network of women professionals in the field of orthotics and prosthetics.