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Women in the News: Weekly Highlights: December 30, 2009
by Julie Norwell

Women ski jumpers are denied entry in the Olympics; Female-run company stocks soar; women are more intense players of online role-playing games…Here are highlights of recent women-related news our readers should note:

Canadaapostrophes Supreme Court ended the legal bid of more than a dozen women ski jumpers from around the world who were seeking to pry open the last Olympic door shut to women when it refused to hear the women’s case. They were hoping to compete in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. The skiers argued that it was against Canadian law for 2010 Olympic host Vancouver to allow men to compete in ski jumping if women were barred as they currently are. Lower courts acknowledged the women faced discrimination, but ruled that the local organizers of the Vancouver Olympics were not empowered to decide which sporting events to include at the Games. That decision belongs to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is not bound by Canadaapostrophes Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the courts ruled. In 2006, the IOC chose not to include women ski jumping at the Games, explaining that there were too few top women ski jumpers in the world to hold an Olympic event. For more information go to

Pregnant women hospitalized with swine flu were 4.3 times more likely to die or require intensive care if they waited more than two days to take anti-viral medicines, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found. Swine flu, or H1N1, disproportionately affects pregnant women, causing enough severe complications that it may raise the overall death rate of expectant mothers in the U.S. this year, researchers said in the study. As many as 1 in 8 deaths from swine flu are among pregnant women, previous research has shown. Only half of pregnant women who had swine flu received early treatment with Roche Holding AG’s Tamiflu or GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Relenza, which is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the study conducted by the California Department of Public Health. The drugs are used to reduce severity of flu and work best when taken within 48 hours of symptoms, according to the CDC. “The evidence is very strong that the risks of not starting early treatment are quite high,apostrophe said Janice Louie, lead author of the study and chief of influenza and respiratory diseases at California Department of Public Health. “Likewise vaccination; vaccination protects not only the pregnant woman, but also the fetus when it’s born, for the first couple of weeks.apostrophe For more information go to

With stocks soaring, this may go down as the best year yet for large companies with female CEOs. The year after Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin fell just short of becoming the first female president or vice president, and heading into 2010 when women will begin outnumbering men in the workforce, stocks of the 13 Fortune 500 companies that had a woman at the helm for all of 2009 were up an average 50%. Thatapostrophes a significant outperformance. The S&P 500 is up 25%. Xerox, the 147th-largest company by revenue, became the first to transition from one female CEO to another when Ursula Burns, the first female African-American CEO in the Fortune 500, followed Anne Mulcahy on July 1. Burns is the 44th woman to make it to CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The Washington Postapostrophes Katharine Graham first broke the ceiling in 1972, followed by Marion Sandler of Golden West Financial in 1973. It wasnapostrophet until 1986 that another female CEO came along — Linda Wachner of Warnaco. This is the seventh-consecutive year USA TODAY has reported on the stock performance of women-led companies, and 2009 is similar to 2003, when the eight female CEOs at the time led their stocks up 52%, vs. a 26% rise in the S&P 500. For more information go to

For pregnant women involved in a traffic accident, the impact of an airbag does not seem to raise the risks of most pregnancy complications, a new study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology finds. Airbags, used along with seatbelts, are known to cut car-crash victimsapostrophe risk of death and severe injury. However, concerns have been raised about the impact of an airbag on a pregnant womanapostrophes abdomen; there have been, for instance, case reports of uterine or placental rupture leading to pregnancy loss. But until now, large-scale studies had been lacking. In the new study, researchers analyzed data on 3,348 collisions involving pregnant women in Washington State between 2002 and 2005. They found that for most pregnancy complications -- including placental detachment from the uterine wall, fetal distress and Cesarean delivery -- there was no evidence of a higher risk for women whose crash had involved an airbag deployment. There was a higher rate of fetal death in accidents involving an airbag - 1 percent, versus 0.3 percent among women in accidents without an airbag deployment. However, there were only two fetal deaths in each group, and the small numbers make it difficult to draw conclusions, the researchers note in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. In the U.S., itapostrophes estimated that nearly 33,000 pregnant women are involved in car crashes each year. These accidents are a leading cause of fetal death. Because airbags can help save lives, groups such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have long advised pregnant women not to deactivate their vehicle airbags. For more information go to

When it comes to online role playing games, women spent more time playing than men, according to a University of Southern California study of gender differences among gamers. Among those who played EverQuest II, a game developed by Sony Online Entertainment, women spent 29 hours a week in the game, compared with 25 hours for men. "The women play more intensely than the guys," said USC economist Dmitri Williams, who co-authored the study with Nick Yee of the Palo Alto Research Center and Scott Caplan of the University of Delaware. "Theyapostrophere less likely to quit, and theyapostrophere happier playing." The discovery is one of several stereotypes refuted by the study. Contrary to the image of the overweight nerd glued to his computer, gamers in the study were no less fit than the general population. In fact, women who played EverQuest II tended to exercise more and weigh less than the average American. For more information go to