I t’s the time of year when every periodical worth its salt trots out its year-end top-ten lists and wrap-ups, and 2010 was so eventful that we couldn’t resist joining in. We asked members of the WVFC community to speak from their areas of professional expertise and interest, answering one question:

From the perspective of women over 40, what was the most important event, development, or high point in your field in 2010?

Their responses below are a mosaic portrait of the year—by no means comprehensive, but insightful and thought-provoking. One contributor, Alexandra MacAaron, was so prolific on the topics of movies and television that we’re running her responses as stand-alone posts later in the week.

If you have thoughts on the year in areas we haven’t covered here, feel free to join in. And check back next week for a look ahead at 2011.

International Events

I think whatever one’s political background, one cannot help but be impressed by the performance of Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State. It may seem now like Clinton was born to this role, but the skills of being the nation’s top negotiator in a mind-boggling catapault around the world are very different than the kind of jousting that comes with holding office, or defending it. I will be looking to see, too, if Clinton has any more success than her predecessors in South Korea/North Korea,  the Sudan, and the Middle East. She has a talent for making the extremely difficult look easy—something I believe Nancy Pelosi also did.

Jacki Lyden


U.S. Events

For me, the event that leaps to mind for 2010 is the BP Gulf oil spill. I think we’re going to feel the consequences of those millions of gallons of oil as well as the huge quantity of toxic dispersant for years to come.

Wikileaks is a big story too—not only for the information leaked and the vast amount still to come, but to serve notice to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention that in this digital age no information is safe. Communication has been vastly sped up and simplified, but not without cost.

The importance of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” cannot be overstated. While “all men are created equal” referred only to white men, the majority of Americans did not have equal rights, and many had no rights at all. We now have laws that guarantee full equality to women and people of all colors; only when gays and lesbians enjoy all the same rights will we be a true democracy.

Diane Vacca

Law

First and foremost: Elena Kagan made it to the Supreme Court, which is now one-third female for the first time in history.

Other 2010 high points: parts of the Affordable Care Act, which now prevents insurance companies from charging women more than men; and the confirmation of more power women attorneys in government, like Patricia Smith at the Department of Labor. Of course, there were some deep disappointments, chief among them the failure of the Equal Pay Act in the Senate, even in the final, frantic lame-duck session of Congress.

Chris Lombardi

Women’s Health

For women over 40, the most important medical story is the continued ongoing controversy concerning the frequency of screening for breast cancer with mammograms. The newly published recommendation to screen women with mammograms less frequently has not generally been well accepted in the medical community. Its widespread dissemination with authority reinforces the fact that we must all be proactive about our health, closely scrutinize broad sweeping recommendations, and be educated consumers of health care.

This will be more important in the future, as health care insurance companies’ financial constraints could negatively impact the delivery of women’s health care—especially as recommendations such as these are typically utilized by insurance companies to establish coverage policies for medical care. These financial constraints may be manifested not only in limiting women’s access to important therapeutic and diagnostic strategies, but also in less time with the physician at office visits and increasing over-reliance on non-physician providers. All of us, health care providers and the women that we care for, must be vigilant.

Elizabeth Poynor, M.D.

Women’s Heart Health

What stood out in cardiology – and what I want women over 40 to think about – is this: The 2010 American Heart Association Survey on women and heart disease found that 53 percent of women in this country who believe they are having a heart attack will call 911.  That means that 47 percent of women who believe they are having a heart attack will not!

Why wouldn’t we immediately seek help if we thought we were having a heart attack? Too busy? Can’t put ourselves first right now? Even if we are having a heart attack? Heart disease is the number one killer of women in this country, and now in the world. A delay in treatment could be the difference between life and death. You may have daughters who are independent, authoritative, and highly accomplished, but when they become mothers they do what you do. So we need to do better.

On the research front, a long-anticipated, major advance in cardiology that occurred in 2010 was an FDA-approved alternative to Coumadin (wafarin) to reduce stroke risk in the vast majority of people who are in atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm abnormality, occurring in approximately 1 in 136 Americans, or 2 million people in the U.S. It significantly increases one’s risk of stroke and until now, the best medication to protect these individuals was Coumadin (warfarin). The new drug is called Pradaxa (dabigatran). Dabigatran is superior to Coumadin in preventing strokes, and the bleeding risk was similar. (More serious bleeding into the brain occurred with Coumadin.) Unlike Coumadin, Dabigatran does not need monitoring with frequent blood draws, it’s taken twice a day, and is relatively well-tolerated. But it’s currently far more expensive than Coumadin (warfarin) therapy. Another medication, a-once-a-day drug, is currently being studied and may get FDA approval this year.

Holly Andersen, M.D.

Tech

In 2010, women were finally recognized as a major market for games and portable computing, driven in part by the successes of the iPhone and iPod touch. (There’s even an iPod-versus-Android gender gap.)

Rachel Rawlings

Fashion

Chloe, fall 2010.

The big news for this past year in fashion, especially for women over 40, was the welcome return of modern classicism. I don’t know that there was a single event that stood out, but from Chloe and Celine setting the bar with their streamlined classics to Lambertson & Truex’s ladylike line of bags for Tiffany’s to the return of leopard and fur in a big way, this year was the most fun many of us have had shopping and dressing in a long time.

Stacey Bewkes

Art

Ilse Bing, Self-Portrait in Mirrors, 1931.

In modern and contemporary art, women artists—especially overlooked older artists—have been gaining ground for a while now.  One 2010 high point: the roll-out of MoMA’s “Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art.”   Reflecting the growing number of women curators at MoMA and in the field at large, this ambitious initiative has so far included a book, a scholarly symposium, and several exhibitions and film and video series. Most have come and gone, but through early April you can still catch Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, a wide-ranging show that traces the history of the medium entirely through the work of women artists.

Susan Delson

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