The week I turned 18 I boarded a one-way flight to Amsterdam. A midwestern Wisconsin girl from a small farming community—this was the beginning of numerous travel adventures. I believe the experiences beginning at this young age not only cemented a love of travel, but also an appreciation of different people and cultures. I’ve continued to explore the world and, as of today, I’ve been to around 85 countries. This exploration of the world energizes me; it allows me to live in harmony with my personal values, including an emphasis on courage, competence, caring/kindness and curiosity.
Sometimes courage is involved in travel, trying new foods, or sorting out getting from point A to point B in a third world country, and learning how to speak and connect with people very different from oneself. Curiosity drives me wanting to look around the next corner, to go beyond appreciation of natural beauty or architecture to seeking to learn from who and what I see. I have watched women, and noticed vast differences in our clothing, languages, mannerisms, but I’ve also seen similarities. We share many of the same challenges of daily life, work, love, health, and family. Women everywhere represent the heart of their families, where much is required of them, and they rarely get the recognition they deserve. That seems to be nearly universal. So, with sincerity, I present to you my deep appreciation for International Women’s Day and propose a novel way to celebrate.
Celebrating with Action
Women solve dire social problems and make ground-breaking discoveries. Households rely heavily on them to raise families, companies rely on them to produce, healthcare providers rely on them to heal, and schools rely on them to educate. But society has not sufficiently prioritized women’s health. Women are almost always in charge of the home health care of their family members, but their own health is often the lowest priority!
Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death for women around the world. This International Women’s Day I encourage each of us to prioritize reaching out to a woman we love and asking her to put her health first with three easy actions:
- Schedule her annual mammogram or help make sure she is up to date with her screening schedule
- Collect her family cancer history to better inform her understanding of her hereditary risk (and consider genetic testing if appropriate)
- Ask her physician if her breast tissue is dense and if she is eligible for additional imaging like ultrasound to ensure she has access to the best technology for detection
Breast cancer detected early is nearly always curable. By the time you feel a lump, it is usually a more advanced stage, and harder and more involved to treat. The above small actions are designed to detect cancer early, when it can be cured. Following them is empowering and can help make sure our female friends can be celebrated for many years to come.
Today I also reflect on how fortunate I am to helm a global company committed to saving women and families. I split my time between two continents, at our headquarters in New Zealand and the United States. Writing this today I’m in our second-largest market, Australia. Our diverse international team and board of directors is nearly 50 percent women and I have pleasure of being both the company’s first female CEO and managing director.
I am proud to say that approximately 17 million women around the world have had their breast density assessed by Volpara software and that every year over 2 million women have their breast cancer risk assessed by Volpara. This results in about 600,000 women being identified as high-risk for breast cancer annually. This will hopefully lead to them being directed to additional imaging or genetic testing, increasing their chance of early cancer detection and longer, healthier lives. Back to living in harmony with values, in my job I get to listen to our customers, with intense curiosity about what new things we can deliver, how we can help them do ever more for their women. My team is competent and has the courage to challenge each other, and the status quo. For all of us, working at Volpara is not just a job – we are driven to make a difference in the lives of women around the world. That ability to show caring and kindness to women, including many we will never meet, is a privilege.
Happy International Women’s day to the kind, courageous, competent women the world over.