It may come as a surprise to learn that in the disproportionately male-dominated world of the super-rich, no less than 197 women are worth at least a billion dollars.
But within this select group there’s an even more rarefied subset — the 29 females who, according to Forbes’ list of the mega-wealthy, are self-made billionaires.
Julie Zeilinger, founder of a popular online community for young feminists, insists Elizabeth Holmes is not only “free-spirited” and “ambitious”, but is “already changing the world”.
How is Holmes making such a difference? By “creating affordable medical solutions with the potential to save lives”. Her entrepreneurial company, Theranos, produces technology that makes blood-testing widely affordable — at $2.99 from a local pharmacy, as against $50 for a typical lab test.
Despite her burgeoning success, the multi-billionaire lives in a modest apartment and is clearly devoted to the task in hand: the democratization of healthcare.
“I found what I loved. I found what I wanted to spend my whole life doing,” Holmes told KQED’s Michael Krasny.
Her devotion to innovation, connectivity and a desire to give back instead of just taking from the system is inspiring many.
These are characteristics often associated with the generation Holmes and Zeilinger both exemplify. They are millennials — cutting edge innovators with a conscience.
Of course, such qualities aren’t the preserve of a single generation. Innovative people through the ages have combined an openness to creative ideas with a heartfelt desire to serve the greater good. What seems different today is the context of the digital age in which good ideas circumnavigate the globe in an instant.
While that might be regarded as an upside of this era, a downside is a host of health issues associated with the millennial generation.
“Health issues and health care are likely to be the single biggest issue of Gen Y’s lives’” wrote one commentator. Depression, suicide, substance abuse, STDs, obesity, eating disorders, anxiety, stress, cyberbullying, and unhealthy relationships have been pinpointed as top health concerns crying out for creative solutions.
One possible answer that has been steadily gaining traction is to take a less technological, more spiritual approach to solving health problems.
That might seem counter-intuitive in a world where developments in healthcare and lab science are sometimes seen as synonymous. But health researchers have been increasingly exploring the value of a spiritual or religious life, according to a longtime champion of such studies, Dr. Harold Koenig. The Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center recently told a conference there have been more studies on the subject in the first years of this decade than in the previous six decades put together.
While the volume of research might be unprecedented, the desire to understand the relationship of spirituality to health is not. It’s a central theme of the Bible, culminating in the extraordinary record of healing attributed to Jesus and his early followers.
And it’s a question that knocks on the door of many a sufferer’s thought in their hour (or years) of need — especially when conventional means aren’t bringing relief.
One such sufferer was Mary Baker Eddy, a woman who devoted decades to pondering and probing the connection between spiritual and physical wellbeing. Finally, a turning point freed her from years of invalidism to found a global religious movement and a publishing company — at a time when women were all but excluded from spiritual leadership roles and from the top echelons of the business world.
And in the field of health Eddy was, in contemporary terminology, a real disruptor. Like Holmes, she sought a way to ensure universal access to good health but she saw the need and the solution in spiritual terms. To her, the necessity was to go beyond analyzing or fixing a material set of conditions to uncovering and healing the root cause — identifying and addressing a deeper sense of alienation from divine Spirit which she saw as underlying health concerns.
Taking this spiritual approach to healing has proved to be a problem-solver to many in the years since her discovery, including bringing freedom from depression and suicidal tendencies and reversing the physical and emotional consequences of substance abuse.
Above all, a consistent effort to understand how we relate to the Divine has proved to be a daily stress-buster and anxiety-calmer to people of all generations.
Practical innovations in our era are astounding and often arise from unselfish motives pushing forward problem-solving agendas. But they don’t always solve the underlying issues needing to be discerned and addressed.
But there is more going on than meets the eye. A 2010 Pew report on American millennials found virtually half of Gen Y pray at least once a day while almost two thirds believe in God. So why shouldn’t inventiveness, unselfed love and spiritual/religious conviction come together in a perfect storm of disruptive innovation that shifts us beyond creative symptom-fixing to the unearthing and resolving of deeper issues?
Why shouldn’t this generation of innovators evolve into a generation of healers!