Celebrating Women in Optometry

HIGH STREET opticians Specsavers Ópticas is committed to ensuring diversity in its workforce and strives to offer flexible working arrangements to encourage women to follow a career in optometry.

Out of its nine stores in Spain, four have female store directors, and several have female store managers, with women making up nearly 60% of the overall workforce. For International Women’s Day, the optician is highlighting just a few of its fantastic female team members and celebrating their achievements.

Ilona Quadflieg is an optical assistant in the Calpe Store and has worked there for more than seven years. Originally from the Netherlands, she speaks five languages and is passionate about women’s rights including equal pay. She has always supported International Women’s Day and the 25N campaign to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

She says that thanks to strong women through history, so much has already been achieved.  

‘Although there’s still a long way to go, I believe we’re making good progress and will continue to push for equality for myself, my 15-year-old daughter and future generations. I have always attended the 25N events with my daughter since she was born and am proud to now support the initiative as part of my role with Specsavers Ópticas. This year, we collaborated with Calpe Town Hall to show our support for this campaign. As a team where 75% of the staff are women, it’s a cause which is very important to us.’

Fellow optical assistant, Nerea Churiaque Almenara, agrees. ‘Across the world, we must push for equal pay and flexible working conditions for mothers. As a mother of two, I only work 29 hours per week, which enables me to earn an income, while still having time to bring up my children and I work hard to educate and inform my children about equality and set them a good example.’

Sheymae Hansali, optometrist at Specsavers Ópticas Fuengirola feels that optometry is an excellent career choice for working mothers and has definitely seen a positive change in the number of women working in the field. ‘In our Fuengirola store 70% of the staff are female and we also have a female store director. The profession has changed considerably and I’m glad women can play leading roles. At school I always enjoyed maths, physics and biology. I originally wanted to go into medical school but I also knew that a career in optometry will allow me to have a better work-life balance, while working in a field that I am passionate about.

‘Now that I’m a mother, that balance is even more important for me, as I want to continue my career development and also be at home to support my young family. I feel like women can have it all. Although it is difficult, with focus, hard work, determination and a little sacrifice you can achieve what you want. I feel empowered by being a working mother and think that working definitely makes me a better mother and motherhood makes me a better worker.

She adds: ‘I’m fortunate to work for Specsavers Ópticas, a company that also values a positive work-life balance. It’s always easier when your company offers support during pregnancy and the transition back to work. Having such understanding directors, who care about its employees’ family life and needs is crucial.’

Optometrist Susana del Barco has worked in the optical industry for more than 20 years, after obtaining her qualification from the University of Alicante. She chose a career in optometry as she felt it offered excellent professional opportunities and wanted to help people look after their vision. She has worked at Specsavers Ópticas in the Guardamar store for the last nine years, under the guidance of female store director Lisa James. She has always felt supported to develop her knowledge and skills and to take on more responsibility throughout her professional career.

Nerea Galdos-Little is the store director of Specsavers Ópticas in Marbella, which she opened in 2012. Nerea, originally from San Sebastian in Spain, moved to the UK in 1996 to complete a Masters degree in International Relations, Politics and Law at Sussex University and completed two degrees. After graduating, Nerea started a successful career in banking in the City of London, but decided on a change of career after a decade in the job. It was then she set her sights on becoming a Specsavers store owner in Spain, climbing the ladder until she could become director of her own store and return to Spain.

‘It is gratifying to be able to create jobs in Marbella. The optical industry is a great career choice, as people will always require the services of an optician. While being a female business owner has its own challenges, I have been very happy with the way that I have been received into the Marbella community and how Specsavers as a brand has been accepted and am proud to be setting a positive example to other women as a female business owner.’

Recommendations for women on International Women’s Day

These excellent female role models have some great advice for women looking to succeed.

Optometrist Susana del Barco from the Guardamar store recommends that women looking to succeed should start by ‘focusing on the goals they want to achieve and be passionate about reaching them’.

‘Then learn and improve your knowledge and skills in any way you can and look for a company who will support you and offer you ongoing training and development to help you to reach those goals.’

Guardamar store director, Lisa James, adds: ‘Be proud to be a woman. Be strong and work harder to be successful, things are improving and more women are rising to positions of power and responsibility. If you want to, don’t let being a woman hold you back.’

Nerea Galdos-Little the Marbella store director says, ‘I’d definitely encourage any women with dreams of owning their own business to be brave and step up to the challenge. It’s definitely worth it!’

Store director Judith Borland from the Fuengirola store agrees, ‘My advice for young women wanting to climb the ladder and become either a manager or director of a business is to seize every opportunity that you can. If you are offered an opportunity to learn more, take it. If you are offered more responsibility, carry this out to the very best of your ability. I can honestly say that I have never been held back by being a woman. Although there have been challenges at times with the demands of having your own business and a young family, I feel that these challenges have been worthwhile and have helped me to fulfil my potential.’

Sheymae Hansali, also from the Fuengirola store, would encourage women to go for it and follow their dreams and not let being a woman, or a mum hold them back. She says that, ‘the recipe for success is to work smart and hard, prioritising what matters to you and focusing on your goals. Don’t give up, make it happen and don’t forget that difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.’

There are Specsavers Ópticas stores on the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and Mallorca. Find your nearest Specsavers Ópticas store at www.specsavers.es