It’s not the hardware. It’s the midlife women running the company. This October’s annual Women in Technology International Silicon Valley Conference is being keynoted by life coach Wendy Wallbridge, above. 15 years ago, Wallbridge founded her executive coaching/leadership development company On Your Mark after years in the business — as well as a dance with a chronic illness.

Wendy Wallbridge, a pioneer in the coaching field, has worked with individuals for over two decades to help them gain clarity of purpose, unlock their power and creativity, and make their mark in the world. In her early twenties, Wendy was diagnosed with lupus, a life-threatening blood disease. Her talent in guiding others to reinvent themselves was sparked by her fourteen-year struggle with lupus and subsequent kidney transplant. Today, Wendy coaches leaders to become their own best advocates, and to champion the expression of their values, passions and talents to make a difference wherever they work.

Wendy founded On Your Mark Corporate Coaching & Consulting in 1993. Wendy and her partner, Randy Methven provide leadership and team development to Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies such as Disney, Wells Fargo, HP, SBC, Intel, Vodafone and Providian Financial as well as technology, financial and educational institutions including Ameritrade, Network Appliance, Nvidia, Alcatel, Silicon Valley Bank and University of California, Office of the President.

Not so surprisingly, Wallbridge’s address is entitled “Inner
Authority: The Key to Empowered Leadership.”  Such leadership is a
theme of the conference, which also features Wake Up Women cofounder and media mogul Ardice Farrow, 59, guiding attendees in using storytelling as  leadership tool:

No stranger to the technology world, Ardice is a former media designer
and Executive Producer responsible for many ground breaking products
for companies like The Walt Disney Company, Apple Computer, LucasArts
Entertainment and the Smithsonian Institute. In addition, Ardice served
as a Director of Technology for the development of major internet and
software initiatives for publishers such as McGraw-Hill and Thomson
Higher Education…

Today she impacts women across the globe as she brings together the
creative processes used by entertainment studios and cutting edge
technology companies with her insightful, unique approach to producing
outstanding business results. In addition, Ardice hosts the internet
radio show “Smart Thinking Smart Talking Women”. She is the creator and
co-publisher of the up-coming “Wake Up Women”, a co-authored book
series for women by women published by Wake Up Live the Life You Love
Publishing Group.

We’ll forgive the WITI
organizers for using “impact” as a verb, while we set our dial for
Farrow’s radio show — and perhaps our travel schedule for their
conference in Santa Clara.

Not so universal: While across the U.S. business and political leaders wrestle with how to achieve universal health care, researchers in Great Britain have
found that even where it exists, not everyone hs equal access to care.
And sadly if unsurprisingly, it’s people in midlife, mostly in
communities of color,  who bear much of the brunt.

Age is important in shaping access to services and therapies and
treatment by staff. Although people aged 65-85 report a relatively
favourable impression of the National Health Service, there are variations in access to
treatments by age. For instance, a 2005 study on differences in access
to preventive therapies found that older men were less likely to be
prescribed aspirin, statins, ACE inhibitors and beta blockers following
a myocardial infarction than younger patients.

Healthcare can be unequal in different ways. The inverse care law, [the
more you need treatment, the less you get it], operates in other arenas
of the NHS – for instance in access to treatments and mental health
services, some secondary care and even preventive services, such as
vaccinations and screening.

From 1998-2002, 19 survey studies of cancer screening were published
which appear to have confirmed that cancer screening services are
underused by minority ethnic women. Moreover, several studies found
that low income, less educated and older women are less likely to
attend for screening. A 2005 DH report on inequalities in vaccination
uptake shows that babies from the most deprived groups were less likely
to receive childhood immunisations than babies from wealthier groups.
Take-up of flu jabs too shows a slight socio-economic gradient.

In the UK it has been found that the uptake of breast cancer
screening among minority ethnic groups is persistently low. Perhaps
unsurprisingly, surveys of patient opinion show some minority ethnic
groups are least satisfied with health services. On average, scores
were lowest among South Asian respondents. In all the surveys,
Bangladeshi respondents had the lowest score.

We knew it helped. But 85% is a lot of help: This week’s Journal of the American Heart Association reports an overwhelming reduction in stroke risk
due to a few lifestyle factors: 81% fewer strokes for women, 85% for
men. Using themselves as the test subjects, health professionals found
those reductions for those who….you know, ate right, exercised and
closed the wine bottle after two drinks:

In a large cohort of health professionals, those who didn’t smoke,
were lean, exercised 30 minutes or more a day, consumed no more than
two alcoholic drinks a day, and ate a healthy diet had about an 80%
reduced risk of ischemic stroke compared with those who didn’t meet any
of those criteria ….

Our results suggest that a low-risk lifestyle that is associated
with a reduced risk of multiple chronic diseases, including coronary
disease and diabetes, also may be beneficial in the prevention of
stroke, especially ischemic stroke,
” the researchers said.

…All participants were free from cardiovascular disease and cancer
at baseline and self-reported diet and lifestyle factors using
questionnaires administered every two to four years for about 20 years.

The low-risk lifestyle was defined as not smoking, having a body
mass index less than 25 kg/m2, exercising with moderate to vigorous
intensity for 30 minutes or more per day, consuming a half to one drink
daily for women and up to two drinks daily for men, and eating a diet
emphasizing increased intake of fruits, vegetables, cereal fiber,
chicken, fish, nuts, and legumes, reduced intake of trans and saturated
fats, and the use of a multivitamin for at least five years.

During follow-up there were 1,559 strokes (853 ischemic) among women and 994 (600 ischemic) among men.

Among both genders, smoking, exercise, diet, and BMI were
significantly associated with risk of any stroke and ischemic stroke.
Alcohol consumption was also associated significantly with stroke risk;
light drinkers had a reduced risk and heavy drinkers had a greater risk.

“Moderate alcohol may be considered part of a healthy lifestyle for
overall chronic disease prevention, including stroke, when consumed
responsibly and not contraindicated by other factors,” the researchers

Midlife or baseline BMI was more strongly associated with stroke risk than that measured closest to the stroke.
“The association between obesity and risk of chronic disease is
complicated and can be obscured by a reduction in body weight as a
result of preclinical or chronic disease,” the researchers said.

Among women, 47%  of total strokes and 54% of ischemic strokes were
attributed to not adhering to the healthy lifestyle. Among men, the
percentages were 35% and 52%.

In addition, [the authors] said, because the study participants —
health professionals — were likely to be healthier than the general
population, the burden of unhealthy behavior may have been
underestimated. “Greater benefit is likely to be gained by
adherence to healthy lifestyle choices in populations with a less
healthy lifestyle than in these populations of health professionals,”
they said.

OK, then you deal with the diapers: Shirley Manson, the 42-year-old lead singer of Garbage (seen above), told reporters recently that the last thing she wants to hear is that to be fortysomething and childless is somehow a sign of selfishness.

“What I find incredibly funny is people who say,
‘Oh, you must have children otherwise you’re being incredibly selfish.’
As if having children stops selfishness. I know hundreds of parents and
some of them are the most selfish people I’ve met. As wonderful as I
think child-rearing is for some, it’s not for everybody.”

Manson’s far from alone in being happily child-free. According to the
numbers, more and more women still “childless” in their 40’s have
actually happily chosen that status:

“We are constantly being
told that women are having more children, but in fact the reverse is
true,” says Madelyn Cain, author of The Childless Revolution. “We are
bombarded with pictures of pregnant celebrities, but the figures prove
that in every post-industrial European country in which women have
access to education and safe methods of contraception, the birth rate
begins to fall. It is a phenomenon that is prevalent in Europe, with
Britain at the forefront.

The UK statistics, collated by the
Joseph Rowntree Foundation, speak for themselves: among women born here
in 1946, only 9% remain childless; of those born in 1952, 16% are
childless; for those born 20 years later, in 1972, that figure has
grown to 25%. In Scotland, almost a third of Scottish women in their
early 40s were child-free by choice, according to an NHS study in 2005,
and only around 7% of those without children were unable to have them
because of medical reasons.

Moreover, this wasn’t some social
blip, such as a small minority of women foregoing families for the sake
of their careers. Rather, it was an indication of mass social change,
suggesting that in the next generation – those born between 1970 and
1973 – as many as 40% will choose not to have families….

Dame Helen Mirren, pictured recently
looking fantastic in a bikini that celebrated her stretch-mark-free
belly at 63, is clear about lacking a maternal instinct. “It’s just not
something that interests me. An awful lot of women don’t want children,
but go ahead and have them because there is such pressure to do so.
They think there’s something wrong with them if they don’t want kids.
It’s not right.”

By Chris Lombardi

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