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On recovering from trauma: “Let yourself feel grief. But you’ve also got to find something good in the situation.” — Geralyn Ritter

derailed on a curve at high speed, flinging its cars sideways and turning Geralyn’s car into a crumpled heap. Unlike some passengers near her, she survived, but just barely. With shattered ribs, other broken bones and massive internal injuries, she had to be pieced back together in numerous surgeries over several years, amid constant pain.

Not until recently did she feel fit to resume professional life. And luckily an ideal opening came along. Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA, was spinning off a unit called Organon as a separate women’s health company. Geralyn is now Head of External Affairs and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) at Organon. Her interview with World Woman Hour provided up-close insights on personal trauma as well as career advice and healthcare issues.

Q: Could you start by sharing some of the main things you’ve learned about experiencing and recovering from severe trauma?


Geralyn Ritter: Trauma is very alienating. You wake up on an ordinary day and the next thing you know, your life will never be the same. And trauma recovery isn’t a straight line. I spent two and a half years in very intense recovery, but I’ve had multiple major surgeries since then, some of them on a no-notice emergency basis, some of them planned. But if I can be open about the challenges that I have faced, to stay strong during the ups and the downs, then hopefully I’m helping others as well.

Also, I’ve done a number of public speaking events—for church groups, for women’s groups, for disability rights groups. And one thing that always comes home to me after these talks is that everybody is dealing with something. Maybe they didn’t get hit by a train, but everybody has to deal with great loss or severe pain of some kind, at some point in their lives. I think the more that we are comfortable sharing those things—sharing the vulnerability, showing empathy—the better leaders that we can be, and the better that we can help each other through those times.

Q: If you could directly counsel someone who’s recovering from trauma or great loss, what advice would you give?


Geralyn: I would say two things. Number one is to let yourself feel grief. I think sometimes there’s pressure on women to smile through it and get right back at it. I learned the hard way that in trying to deny how I was feeling, I fell even harder when I did fall. Letting yourself be sad and regretting a loss is part of the process, and we need to give ourselves permission to do that.

But we’ve also got to find something good in the situation—some new opportunity that becomes available, some new memory that is unearthed, some new possibility. For me, as I started to recover, I was grateful to be at home every day when my three teenage sons came home from school. I had worked for pretty much their entire lives, and although it was not a joy to be on disability leave for so long, it was a joy to be there when they walked in the door.

Another example of finding something good is that I used to downplay the efficacy of practices like mindfulness and meditation. But as I went through periods of intense acute pain, along with long-term chronic pain, I opened myself to the idea that some practices that I had never put much faith in could actually help me. And it’s made a tremendous difference in my life. So it’s okay to let yourself feel grief, but you may also have to look hard to find something good in it— something new that could be a fresh beginning.

Q: Now here is a related question. Aside from your accident recovery, what advice would you have for younger women about dealing with setbacks and failures in their careers?


Geralyn: One thing I learned about avoiding setbacks is this. When you have a great idea and you really want to go for it, but there’s that little voice in your head that says “ooh, it might not work,” or “somebody might not think it’s my place to put this forward”—be bold and go for it, 100%. The analogy I like to keep in mind is that I was a springboard diver in high school and college, and whenever you’re out there on the end of the board trying a new dive, you can’t do it halfway. There’s no way it’s going to end up well if you take a little bitty jump and try to do a double flip. It’s 100% or not at all.

So in my work, while it’s obviously important to listen to input and feedback, I know that I can’t be like a tightrope walker who looks down and suddenly thinks, “Whoa, what am I doing here?” More often than not, if you trust your instinct and really follow through on an idea, you’re far more likely to end up with a great result than if you start to water it down or back away. I think that success means being bold. It means not letting temporary setbacks or fears or insecurities stop you from where you’re going.

Q: Let’s talk about Organon and your position there. The company’s vision statement is “a better and healthier every day for every woman.” Could you share a bit about this focus and what it means to you?


Geralyn: Women’s health care needs have been insufficiently met, insufficiently addressed, and insufficiently appreciated for a very long time. In many areas of women’s health there has been tremendous unmet need, and zero new treatments introduced for decades. It’s as if some of these conditions—like menopause, which can be very disabling— are things that women are simply expected to deal with.So I am thrilled to be part of a new company dedicated to women’s health. My roles include leading outreach, leading efforts for public policy change, leading our corporate citizen citizenship efforts. I feel extremely fortunate and excited to be where I am.

Q: Zooming out beyond Organon, what changes need to be made in the health space generally to provide better support for women?


Geralyn: Access to health care for women is a systemic problem, both in the world’s developed countries and certainly in many less-developed countries, and women need to raise their voices. Increasingly they are, and increasingly they are being heard, but we have a lot of ground to make up. If you look at legislatures around the world, only a small percentage of parliamentarians are women. If you look at national health ministers, very few are women. So I think the starting point is that we recognize the unmet needs, speak out, and make sure that policy makers are listening.

Q: Any particular issues you’d like to see addressed?


Geralyn: I think we have a tremendous opportunity to have real impact on the problem of unintended pregnancies. Sometimes an unintended pregnancy is a joy, but often the woman is too young or the family is not financially prepared to care for the child. We can make a tremendous difference by helping women take charge of their family planning, so that children come at a time when every child can be best supported to live life to the fullest.

And   this comes back to why I’m excited to be at Organon. These issues are where my heart is.

Q: Looking to the future of women’s health care, are there dominant trends emerging?


Geralyn: I am optimistic that the future will be better, and I don’t think it’s going to take decades to get there. I think there is a growing realization that changes are overdue. There is also exciting scientific potential in new treatments, in digital technologies, and in telemedicine and innovative ways to deliver health care to women and girls. For example in many of the poorest regions of the world, there is still cell phone access, and a midwife who is having a difficult delivery might be able to text for advice to a tertiary hospital. So, combine all of that with women and girls raising their voices, and I see a future that is much brighter than what we’ve been seeing. It’s not automatic. I don’t think we can take it for granted. But I’m very optimistic.

— xxx —


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Sandrine Bender and Alizée Gottardo inventor of Meyko for children with Asthma

s 1 in 10 children around the world! This illness is accountable for 250,000 annual deaths worldwide and is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children in the US.

Asthma treatment is characterized by a daily controller medication and an emergency treatment (quick relief medicine like Ventolin). Long-term controller treatments help stabilize the disease and are the basis for an improved daily health condition for asthmatic children!

Meyko is your child instinctively takes care of them-selves by taking care of their little companion
Meyko is your child instinctively takes care of them-selves by taking care of their little companion.

However, 50% of this controller medication is not properly followed, leading to discomfort, attacks and other health complications.

Meyko accompanies asthmatic children to improve controller medication adherence.He’s an amusing and an interactive companion that encourages your child to follow their daily medicine routine. By adopting this little animal, your child is reassured every day.Meyko is also connected to a mobile appintended to reassure parents daily. It allows parents to monitor the medication routine andprevent exposure to asthma triggers. Meykooers a relaxed everyday life for the entire family!
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Women are Disrupting Traditional Brands One Post at a Time

ely undisturbed right up until 2010 when the internet began to mix up how folks searched for and purchased brands (think Amazon and online-purchase/subscription). In this past decade we have seen the rise of the “Disruptor Brand,” that is, products offered online directly from the manufacturer to consumers via the internet. (Warby Parker vs. Lenscrafters, for example). These brands are competing with the biggest and baddest of the traditional brands while fostering a new type of consumer who is engaging with brands in completely new ways.

 Marketers are identifying direct brand (or disruptor brand) loyalists and are discovering a small segment of purchasers who we term “super influencers.” We know that women make or influence the lion’s share of purchases–about 85% of all purchases in fact. So how women are using social media, the internet, and their own influence to drive purchases cannot be underestimated.

 Who are the big disruptors? The major direct brand consumers? They are younger (13-40), they have higher household incomes than average, and they are driven by a need to self-express. Their brands are vehicles for cross-channel communication and self-promotion. Roughly 18.5 percent of consumers are “super influencers” who are strategic, deliberate and prolific in their online communication about their favorite brands.

While television is still the most influential medium for brand discovery, the internet and social media have largely caught up with TV. Interestingly, Facebook is still the number one online vehicle for brand sharing (with Instagram a distant second), even though the application is largely used by an older demographic.

 Young female consumers are utilizing Facebook and Instagram, as well as blogs (both ads posted to influencer blogs and the blogs themselves) to research these new direct brands. Then they turn to expert reviews, celebrity influencers, and consumer rankings to determine their decision to purchase. They are very receptive to online offers, subscriptions, and encouragement to share or post.

 Are you a brand disruptor? Have you subscribed to your favorite brand’s newsletter? Purchased a product that comes directly from an online source to your doorstep? Shared or posted about a new purchase that you love? Or found a new product or service through an effective Facebook ad?

 Or perhaps you are considering starting a business to market your product directly to consumers online rather than opening a storefront as your point of interaction. Whatever the case, be aware of the rising power of social media advertising, influencers and “super influencers” to drive brand loyalty and marketing success today. And know that your voice as a woman has incredible power in this dynamic, social and global marketplace.

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Are Women to Blame for Gender Inequality?

out my experience to others, similar stories came out of the woodworks. I began to realize the magnitude of how many intelligent and ambitious women drop out of the workforce or sideline their career goals due to issues relating to their gender. I also learned first-hand all the reasons why they keep their stories quiet. They are forced to sign confidentiality agreements when they get severance offers or settle a lawsuit. They don’t want to be seen as troublemakers to future employers. Companies threaten to sue them for defamation. The lack of women in leadership and the persistent gender pay gap started to take on a whole new light for me.

So often when we read about gender inequality in the workforce, even the best-intentioned messages seem to place the blame on women – as though we just needed to dream bigger or negotiate better to close the gap. I felt compelled to set the record straight and help shift the responsibility to our employers, our government and our culture. So I created a podcast, The Female Fallout, to serve as a platform for women to share their stories and expose the most critical obstacles facing working women today. In this podcast, premiering Tuesday May 4th on all major podcast distributors, we hear stories of discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and more. We also speak with experts to learn how rampant these issues are in today’s workplace and the laws, policies and attitudes that must change to not only close the leadership gap but protect the financial security of our most vulnerable population – women.

The World Woman Foundation has partnered with us to raise awareness for these crucial topics and drive tune-in for the season’s finale on June 22nd, where we speak with New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi. In this episode, Senator Biaggi shares incredible stories on her journey to office and how she was able to reform sexual harassment law in the state of New York. A champion for civic engagement, she takes us on an inside journey into politics and what we can all do to drive real change.

Subscribe to The Female Fallout podcast on your favorite podcast listening app to be the first to hear new episodes.  Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Instagram to join the community. Season one premieres Tuesday, May 4th and new episodes will be released weekly.

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“WomenInnovaWorld” World Wide Platform for Innovation by Women

thoughts and smart elaborations on this topic. My take on this subject – you can invent and create many things but to classify invention as innovation, there are two key questions:

First, it has to be “Usefulness,” what issue or problem it can solve? Second, What “Values” proposition does it create?

I have met many creative, innovative entrepreneurs that aspired and started to materialize their ideas. As a member of the Golden Seeds Angel Investment group, I have met many female entrepreneurs. It became clear that women entrepreneurs focus on innovations that are very practical and aim to improve and simplify different aspects of daily life.

Women innovate all over the world, every day, resolving problems and finding ideas and solutions that can improve their lives, businesses and create new values.

We should enable more women around the world to innovate. We should create an innovation platform accessible globally where women could place their ideas, look for similar ideas and solutions, contribute/comment on thoughts that are shared on the innovation platform. By enabling access globally and ideas placed on an open forum, we could create a “hive mind” of innovation where ideas could be evolved by other women that would comment, elaborate existing or similar problems and solutions.

The platform for this global innovation should be called “WomenInnovaWorld.”

Today there are several global and many localized innovation funds for women. Many VCs started looking into bringing more eligible female entrepreneurs into their portfolios. And there is a reason for it – the vast majority of VC investment is going to male-dominated startups.

All global and local funds for women innovation should be connected to “WomenInnovaWorld,” enabling investors and entrepreneurs insights and opportunities to meet over the platform.

Recognition of women entrepreneurship gives positive momentum to engage the global women population into innovation. The results are going to have a global positive effect – better lives for all, better health, new value creation, better education, and the most important – empowered women around the world – and the world becomes a better place for all.

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Making Bold Choices: How women in data are growing their careers and nurturing new talent

0;”> women held the majority of “professional and related occupations” at 56%. However, when you drill down into specific roles and examine technology careers such as “computer and mathematical occupations,” the percentage drops significantly – to 25%.  This metric has been hovering around 25% since 2001, even despite the increased visibility of STEM and the creation of STEM programs for girls over the past nearly 20 years.

There is also the White House Counsel for Women and Girls, established in 2009, which focuses on creating legislation that supports equal pay and opportunity, issues that women have fought to overcome for most of the 20th century, and now into the 21st.  Getting more women into the technology field may be a small piece of the puzzle, but the fact of the matter is that the foundation is there and has been there for more than a decade. The visibility, initiatives, and programs are all in place – now it’s a matter of making actions speak louder than words. 

Time to Engage

There are many theories as to why the number of women in technology is stagnant. Some articles attribute this reality to a hiring bias or a work-life balance issue. Others say it’s the fear of sexual harassment in a male-dominated field. While all of these issues might factor in somewhere, I believe it also has something to do with a lack of proactive engagement with other women.

As a female leader in technology, I believe it’s critical to be visible and to get involved. In a recent Deloitte study that polled women in the automotive industry, more than 75% of respondents identified “technology” as the top field they would pursue if they left automotive. Those same women noted that one of the most impactful programs to attract and retain women is “identifying and increasing the visibility of key leaders who serve as role models for employees.” Don’t be invisible.  Make the most of your influential status within your organization and let younger women (and men) see you in a place of power. If they see a woman in the boardroom and on the list of executive bios, it becomes less and less of an anomaly. It becomes the status quo.

Supporting the Next Generation

While an influx of women choosing technology as a career path is not going to happen overnight, we can make a significant impact by supporting the women already in these roles as well as those graduating college and entering the workforce. There are several mentorship benefits for women in STEM careers, including feeling “satisfied with their rate of promotion,” and “confidence in asking for a raise.”

Mentorship is a simple step to “send the elevator back down.”  The statistics show that as a woman and a leader in tech, you have already made the bold choice to be one of the 25% to embark on a technology career.  Keep the momentum going!  Provide guidance, share your wisdom, be visible, and continue to break barriers in the tech industry. Together, we can embolden the next generation.  

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Women Leaders Should Create Pink Oceans™ – Not Compete in Gray Markets

ematically make even blue oceans an uphill challenge. Think of industries like insurance, private equity, wealth management – and many others – in which it is well-known that success as a woman will be like running in quicksand.  Let’s call these gray markets. Many of these industries have progressed – but they are based on traditions that hardly form the backdrop for the success of women.

 We pose the following question – in gray markets if the rules and systems are set up with a bias against women, why would a woman choose to compete in a market with someone else’s rules?  Put another way, why would women choose to put their passion, capital, and skills to work in a market that will only slowly accept that their institutional bias is, well, “biased.” We would suggest that while ten percent achievement in a gray market, would be groundbreaking, but why fight that fight?

 We suggest a different approach – that women should actually create what we call “pink oceans.” Pink oceans are alternative solutions to markets that are institutionally biased like gray markets.  And we would suggest that instead of swimming in (or against) the quicksand of gray markets, women possess all the talents, capital and passion to create their own alternatives to these markets.  All of this is easier said than done, but do we believe that PayPal would have ever developed in a bank, or Netflix could have been developed by Blockbuster?

 Women should create pink oceans.  Pink oceans will be hard – but they will be based on foundations that reward achievement without bias.  And it will only be a matter of time before gray markets will give way to pink markets.

 Let’s not forget that women’s strength, ability to influence, ability to trust and successfully lead a business, family or often both, is in fact because of the different roles women hold that makes them more powerful and courageous.

Pink oceans will allow women to embrace their own power and confidence in order to shake up decades of societal pressures and bias and bring forth a better future for all.

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Type 2 Diabetes is Reversible

Additionally, women suffer more severe outcomes after a heart attack. Our sisters, mothers, daughters and friends are also at a higher risk of other diabetes-related complications such as blindness, kidney disease, and depression.

The good news is that we can do something, not only to prevent, but also to reverse diabetes. It is not yet another medication or surgical procedure, it is food.  For years, women have been told that if they just follow the standard dietary advice to eat less and exercise more they can prevent or control Type 2 Diabetes and weight gain.  When women gain weight, cannot lose weight, or develop diabetes, they are blamed for not following the advice.   What if instead the advice has been wron

Hint: The advice has been wrong.

Instead of the old advice, recent research shows that if we decrease carbohydrates in our diet instead of focusing on calories; Type 2 Diabetes becomes a reversible disease.  This means blood sugar can be normalized while getting off diabetes medications, including insulinThis year the American Diabetes Association joined the VA/DOD in changing their guidelines to endorse a low carbohydrate eating pattern for diabetes secondary to all the new research.

Yes, it is possible to take control back from a very controlling disease by decreasing carbohydrates.  Women often determine the food and meals in the house which means they have the power to change health outcomes by altering their own eating habits and breaking the cycle of diabetes in their family. 

However, making sustainable lifestyle changes is difficult and that is why ongoing support is so critical. Our study, which combined personalized nutrition advice with support through technology, found that 60% of completers had reversed their diabetes at a year and 54% maintained this reversal at two-years.  This in addition to significantly lowering, triglycerides, markers of fatty liver disease, inflammation and blood pressure among other metabolic benefits.  By using technology through an app on their phone, patients in our study are able to have “in their pocket” a health coach and physician who get to know them, their preferences and health history.  This enables sustainable success for long term disease reversal.    

Science confirms it.  Type 2 Diabetes is a reversible disease.  Women have the power to change the health outcomes in their family by using Food as Medicine. 

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Women Leading State, Nation to Healthier Future

t: 400;”>The gender ratio in Arkansas, like the United States, is about 51 percent female.

Diversity and Health Equity are UAMS core values; affirming that diversity among faculty, staff and students enhances the educational experience and reduces health disparities. We believe the most effective care is delivered by a health care team as diverse as our patient population.Representation is an aspect of diversity. While it does not supplant merit or qualifications for enrollment or employment, it motivates us to promote an environment that models our world.

Advocating more gender equity in media, actor Geena Davis says, “if she can see it, she can be it.” At UAMS, elementary-age and teenage girls can see career opportunities in health care. UAMS hosts summer programs to promote health care careers or to strengthen math and science skills as students prepare for college. Each year UAMS welcomes female high school students for a hands-on introduction to orthopaedics and engineering hosted by women faculty surgeons and researchers, part of the national Perry Initiative.

Our Women’s Faculty Development Caucus offers mentoring and professional development to help women faculty members advance careers and assume leadership roles.

Momentum toward gender equity is seen in UAMS student enrollment. In fall 2019, 63 percent of 2,768 students are female. Females are the majority in three colleges (Nursing, Health Professions, Public Health) and the graduate school, and are nearly equal in Medicine (46 percent) and Pharmacy (44 percent). To think, our medical school was open 22 years before it had its first woman graduate in 1901.

 Nationally, about 57 percent of pharmacists are women. Women make up more than 90 percent of nurses, a profession traditionally more female.Only 36 percent of active physicians are female. However, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported that 2017 marked the first year more women were enrolled in U.S. medical schools than men.While women make up more than 80 percent of the overall health care workforce, by one count they hold just 40 percent of the leadership roles.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reminds us not to focus only on numbers in seeking equity: “When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

She is not making a demand. Justice Ginsburg reminds us that the right answer is when that question is not necessary.


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Why we cannot do without women on the Frontlines of Public Health

ality.  Many studies have shown that investing in women’s education and building their skills has a measurable impact on health outcomes, especially child mortality[i].  An example of this is the global initiative to eradicate polio, which would make it the second human disease ever eradicated.  This work starts and ends within the community. 

Frontline health workers and vaccinators needed to be trusted by the community to reach every child, in every home, in every village and town.  Women play a unique and irreplaceable role in reaching every child in communities, as they are trusted to enter the homes of families.  In Pakistan, women vaccinators visit each household to identify all children aged under five years and vaccinate them against polio.  In northern Nigeria, women serve as community mobilizers, to sensitize communities to the importance of vaccinating against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases, in addition to providing information about antenatal care. 

In Quetta, Pakistan, female social mobilizers provide polio awareness sessions for students in girls’ schools.   All-female vaccination teams conduct door-to-door polio vaccine campaigns in villages in Afghanistan.  Women also serve in supervisory roles for vaccination teams, and as surveillance, reporters to identify any case of acute flaccid paralysis (which can be a sign of polio) so that the virus can be found – and stopped.

 Many countries have demonstrated that in order to interrupt wild poliovirus transmission, it is important to understand the role of women in different societies. Strategies to hire women health workers and vaccinators are tailored that society, so every child can be reached and vaccinated, resulting in no child being paralyzed and ultimately the interruption of wild poliovirus transmission. 

To achieve program effectiveness, health programs that Include paid women health workers in the development of the strategies and in their implementation ensure that the needs of all members in a community can be met, allowing for increased coverage and uptake of programs such as vaccination, and working towards the ultimate in health equity, such as the eradication of polio. 

To ensure health programs for all, you want a health program to have an impact: don’t leave half your population out of planning and implementing it. 




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