Welcome to my second post for Women’s History Month!  This month is a celebration of women’s accomplishments, the significant personal and societal roles they have always played and how they inspire others today and throughout history.  This month is meant to remind us of the achievements of women in our culture and society.  It’s important to note that none of my posts are meant to minimize the role of men vs women in my life or business career.  In fact, the most influential mentors that I have had in my career, were men who guided me and showed me that I could succeed in a field where women were the minority in leadership and ownership positions.

You can’t talk about Barbie without talking about her creator, Ruth Handler.  My husband also gave me the book “Barbie and Ruth – The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman who Created Her”.  The book talks about Ruth and how she was a creative, ruthless and a passionately competitive visionary along with being a mother and wife who wanted it all!

Ruth had her share of legal troubles late in her career and was ultimately forced out of Mattel.  Was she guilty?  We honestly will never know because she pleaded no contest to the charges against her and never really talked about it but what she did say is “that when something starts to go wrong to get out…because if it isn’t going right, it probably will never go right.”

Ruth thought that sexism was responsible for her treatment by both Mattel and the government.  She felt that the fact that she was a woman, a famous woman, who had the nerve to succeed would probably make others famous for bringing her down!

I think Ruth’s biggest “accomplishment” though was the way she dealt with her breast cancer.  In 1970, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having a mastectomy in that era was a “secret”!  Even during all the adversity of her legal troubles, when Ruth was forced out of Mattel, being a strong woman in business she couldn’t just sit back and do nothing.

So, Ruth set her sights on making prosthetic inserts for woman who had mastectomies.  She talked about her mastectomy as a “matter of fact” event and was trying to give women their dignity back! She wanted to give other women relief and give them a way to be open about their feelings and their needs.  She helped women with their pain in a way that was natural to her – designing a product to sell and market.

The company that she started, Nearly Me, still exists today and sells prosthetics for women.  She knew that in the mid 70’s that breast cancer struck 1 out of 14 women in the US and she also encouraged men to come to the fittings for women.  She knew (from her own experience) that men went through their own hell when their wives had mastectomies and that it needed to bring out of the closet.

The current statistics about breast cancer are that 1 in 8 women will develop it sometime in their life.  But there are also over 4 million breast cancer survivors in the US!  Maybe we can credit Ruth for making it more acceptable to discuss so that we can all help each other when we have a diagnosis of breast cancer…or any other serious illness where we may need to support each other!