Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

October —and it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Years ago, who would have thought that awareness of breast cancer would have turned into such a large business? Yet there is a site for which it is possible to buy almost anything “breast cancer.” Pink ribbons, tee shirts and pink clothing of all kinds everywhere. Breast Cancer Awareness events on every public calendar.

As a breast cancer survivor going into my third year of survivorship, I am deeply grateful to a good friend who reminded me that I am pretty good at Internet searching, and that I could certainly research breast cancer treatment centers offering minimally invasive surgery. I am grateful to the friends and family who drove me to my chemo appointments, and who bought me fancy hats I might not ever have bought for myself.  I will be eternally grateful to my husband, who diligently and patiently called the on-call doctor in the middle of the night of the first month of chemo, when I was incredibly sick to my stomach and in terrible pain. And who put up with my food rebellions when I refused to eat so much as a teaspoon of yogurt a day. I am grateful to my surgeon, who educated me and gave me options. I am grateful to the breast cancer treatment team at the Sullivan Breast Center and to a marvelous group at the Holy Cross Radiation Treatment Center.

Here’s what I don’t understand. It’s the pink marketing aimed exclusively at women.
While there are far fewer men than women who get breast cancer, the survivorship rate for men is far less than it is for women. Research has shown that significant numbers of men taking post-treatment tamoxifen stop taking it because of its unpleasant side effects. Where are the options, support, education and specialists for men with breast cancer? Where are the day-long events and Races for the Cure with traffic-stopping crowds of men to raise awareness of breast cancer for men?

It’s time for a blue ribbon campaign.


Susan Ellsworth

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“Thought Leaders” versus Action in Canada

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

Recently, I looked at a lengthy LinkedIn list of “Thought Leaders.” Presumably, these are people whom unspecified others recognize as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. The extensive LinkedIn list included such notables as Richard Branson (2,272,487 followers), Tony Robbins (588,125 followers), Guy Kawasaki (262,572 followers) and so many others that the bottom of the LinkedIn page of 90 notables said “show more” at the bottom.

I was definitely underwhelmed.

For the past four days, I have been trying to figure out what have these thought leaders actually done for me or my family and friends lately? Nothing came to my mind.  

Then DOVE CANADA came to my attention.

According to the August 5 Canadian issue of Huffpost Style,

Dove Canada says it has created a Photoshop Action that reverts edited images back to their original, un-airbrushed state.

The local division of the skincare company went black ops recently for its latest “Campaign for Real Beauty” stunt, going so far as to create and post the downloadable Action file to social media sites like Reddit (the post has since been removed by its user).

While the file promises to beautify images with a single click, in reality it reverts the edits that had been made to the photo, while adding a banner that says, “Don’t manipulate our perceptions of Real Beauty.” 

As a woman in a profession which only relatively recently has included more women, I deeply appreciate the Dove Canada Real Beauty (inner beauty) campaign. Frankly, for a long time, women in my profession who appeared to be physically attractive were often not taken seriously by men in technical training classes and in professional meetings. We often got the message that our questions were less than worth paying attention to, and answers were often short, and not necessarily sufficient. The man next to us was likely to be called on very quickly.

The Dove campaign for girls and women to appreciate ourselves and nourish our self-esteem has resonated with me for many years. I have used Dove products since I was in college. Detractors aside, I find it refreshing to see a large, well-known company take bold and creative action which backs up a campaign of words.

It’s one thing to be a “thought leader” with a list of tens or hundreds of thousands of LinkedIn followers. It’s another thing altogether to lead not only with thought, but also with action to match. Now that’s leadership!

Susan Ellsworth

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Google’s Results…Women as Mentors in the IT Field?

Susan Ellsworth

Recently an experienced Toastmasters friend introduced in a LinkedIn group the subject of mentoring—a much commented on but somewhat less well-developed aspect of the overall Toastmasters program for communication and leadership.

His comments took me back to an experience many years ago shortly after I had passed my CNE exams. Much to my surprise at the time, those who had held similar (or higher) certifications did not appreciate my reading relevant professional background documents ahead of time and citing them prior to major configuration projects to the technicians who presumably were part of my team. Clearly, what they expected was failure—or at least struggle—on my part and rescue on their part. Mentoring consisted of one senior tech telling me that the others did not appreciate my having done my homework in advance.

Fast forward to this afternoon.

I ran a Google search on mentoring and the IT profession in the past year. There were 448 results, several of which mentioned women and our need to be mentored.  Some were studies, some were offers and some were opinions posted in traditional IT press.

What really fascinated me was my next Google search on “women as mentors” and “IT profession” in the past year. Google’s result? Evidently, my query “did not match any documents.”

So I reduced the query by one word and searched for “women mentors” and “IT Profession”  in the past year. The result? One citation at “Ahh,” I thought, “we are making progress.”  I clicked on the link. And what was the opening paragraph? Here it is: “The CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN) and CATA Women in Technology Forum (CATA WIT) announced today a partnership to provide an e-Mentorship program to help women aspiring to be CIOs move into IT leadership positions. ”

Is it really true—as my Google results seem to suggest—that women in the IT field are not mentoring others in the field just yet? Or is it just that Google’s search algorithms are just not bringing me any results that show that women really ARE serving as mentors to other IT professionals?

Whichever is true, I look forward to the day that the search shows women in the IT field mentoring men. The last time I attended a professional technical presentation for computing professionals, it was heavily dominated by men. And I found myself wondering how many of us were actually technical versus how many of us were in sales and marketing. I myself was (and still am) mentored by men in the computing field. It’s just that, in the course of preparing this blog, I learned from a man in another field entirely that one of his mentors is a woman.  When will IT catch up? Or is it Google?


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