Sunday, September 27, 2020

RBG and Gender Equality

I have been thinking a lot about RBG's death and her legacy. I did not realize that so many rights I have were new to women in my lifetime. By the age of 22 I had my own credit cards, a car and an apartment without male co-signers. I have never thought of that as revolutionary until now even though those changes came for women in the US after I was born.

The university I attended only became co-educational a couple years before I was born. I would suspect if I went back and looked all of the schools I applied to have similar histories, yet by the time I went to school they were 50/50 female/male. Integrated, co-educational institutions are what I grew up with thanks to RBG and others and I definitely took that given for granted.

While at university, the fliers for getting a credit card were everywhere for men and women. As the poor college student I was, who was an Econ major, I knew I should build credit by using my credit card and paying it off monthly and I needed the cash float.

When I graduated from college, I had a good job lined up. With the credit I had established and the job I had lined up, I was able to buy (or rather finance) a car on my own. My first car was a Toyota Corolla that I put no money down on and charged the tax and title fees, but I had a car, a credit card and I had a job that would provide me with income to cover the monthly payments, and my rent and other living expenses.

By the time I got married a few years later I added my husband to my credit cards and we consolidated our accounts into my bank account (since I knew how much was in mine and he did not know what was in his and both were equally low balances).  Something that would not have been possible the decade before I was born.

I was lucky that I chose a place to work that strove to be a meritocracy. However, Corporate Finance and Corporate leadership are male dominated. Women last year held a record high number of CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies and still just 7.4% Fortune 500 CEOs were women. Yes, that is right, less than 10% still - 50 years after higher education opened up to women. While my employer worked deliberately to improve retention and promotion of women across levels, when I left after 20+ years the percent of woman at each level in Finance and Accounting was similar to when I joined the company.

Over my career, I was regularly the only woman in meetings. Around the year 2000, one meeting sticks out in my memory.  We were living in Geneva, Switzerland at the time. I was the only women in a meeting of about 15 people to get approval for the launch of Swiffer in the Balkans. The President of the region turned to me and asked, "since you are a housewife, I am curious what you think about this launch reco".  My first reaction was to think I am a Finance Manager and since I am here working full time I am most certainly not a housewife. I quickly realized I should take advantage of any opportunity I was given to share my business thoughts and establish my credibility as a strong thinker and leader which I did, but I felt like what I was bringing to the table intellectually and professionally was secondary to my assumed role as the primary house cleaner. 

Like so many, I admire and am thankful to Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her legal acumen, her strength, her perseverance and the changes she enabled that I have benefited from.  I read an article recently where someone had asked RBG what number of female Supreme Court justices she thought would show that women had reached equality. Her response was 9, and that men had filled all 9 roles for a very long time. I have been conditioned to think about equal as 50/50, but she makes a good point: history has not been equitable.  I also admire RBG's vision and ability to think expansively about equality, without which I think far less progress would have been made towards equality in many different areas. 

I am down to just two more treatments, so in slightly more than two weeks I will be finished with chemo. I'm looking forward to feeling better and having energy and figuring out what I can do with it to drive positive change.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Mortality Tracking

The other day one of the nurses at NIH called me. I thought she was calling to follow-up on some email exchanges about my last bone marrow biopsy and what NIH had received (and had not received) from my local lab.  The purpose of her call was to go over some changes in the consent form for the last trial that I was in since I am still technically in it for "mortality tracking" purposes. Well, I'm still alive so that is good for that trial. Morbid though to think about.

I asked the nurse while we are on the phone about getting a flu shot because I had read a few different threads online that suggested if you were taking rituximab, one of the drugs I am getting, that you should not get a flu shot. She clarified that it would not be harmful to get one, but it would also not be helpful. My body does not have enough of an immune system to react to what is in the vaccines to create any effective protection. That makes it that much more important that people around me are vaccinated to lessen their chances of getting the flu virus and passing it along to me. Please get your flu shots!

Rituximab stays in your system for several months after you stop receiving it so it continues to suppress your lymphocytes in your white blood cells that fight viruses for months. So we are going to be hunkered down this flu season for sure. 

The good news we talked is that this is the first time I have gone completely negative for hairy cells in both my aspirate and core samples from my bone marrow biopsy so hopefully will get a bit longer of a remission.  They are also going to give me a few days of steroids post treatment to help with what they think are drug side effects causing "inflammatory toxicity". 

Three more doses to go. I will not be sad at all to be finished with chemo!!