Meet Iowa Women's Foundation president/CEO Deann Cook
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FEBRUARY 27, 2023
Good morning! I’m coming off strong from a warm (if you can call 50 degrees warm) weekend here to tell you that there are fewer than 25 days left until spring! Exciting things are ahead this year, I can smell it.

I believe the news featured in this week’s edition – including the Business Record’s Forty Under 40 class and a number of new women in leadership positions at organizations across the state – is a strong appetizer for what’s to come in terms of fresh starts, ideas and action.

Also, a reminder: Our annual survey on the status of gender equity is open through March 13. Please take a moment or two to share your thoughts with us! While nonscientific, we believe the results illustrate current opinions and experiences that women have across the state in and outside of work, and we’d really like to include a wide variety of responses that reflect the diversity of thought and experiences in the state.

Have a great week!

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

Meet Deann Cook, Iowa Women’s Foundation president and CEO
Anyone who is deeply involved in addressing the child care crisis in the state has likely heard of the Iowa Women’s Foundation.

The Coralville-based nonprofit has been around just shy of 30 years, and works to help improve the lives of women and girls across the state through grantmaking, education and advocacy.

Under now-retired president and CEO Dawn Oliver Wiand’s tenure, IWF focused its efforts on identifying and addressing six key barriers to women’s economic self-sufficiency: employment, child care, housing, education/training, transportation and mentorship.

Following a statewide listening tour in 2015, IWF homed in on the child care barrier, particularly ramping up grantmaking and involvement in the years following the pandemic. The foundation has worked in 56 communities, offering solutions to increase the availability of quality, affordable child care. Oliver Wiand also sat on the governor’s Child Care Task Force.

Needless to say, the Iowa Women’s Foundation has played a key role in the state’s efforts in addressing the child care crisis, and has garnered national attention along the way.

"We just had a call with [someone from Massachusetts]. We’re getting a fair amount of interest from other states saying, ‘What are you doing in Iowa? We're hearing about Iowa, what's happening with child care in Iowa?’" said Deann Cook, who took over as president and CEO of IWF in January.

"Iowa really is leading on a lot of this work. And other states are starting to pay attention. Iowans tend to not think what they're doing is special. We just get on with it and solve it and move on. I think there's an opportunity for us to talk about great things Iowa’s doing and the work and the role that Iowa Women's Foundation has played."

The Business Record recently caught up with Cook about her vision and goals for the Iowa Women’s Foundation, including looking beyond the child care barrier.  

The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

You spent 10 years at United Ways of Iowa. What drew you to the Iowa Women’s Foundation?

At United Ways of Iowa we produced several ALICE reports. ALICE stands for asset-limited, income-constrained, employed. It was about people in our state who are working, earning, doing all the things they're supposed to do and they can't meet a basic-needs budget where they live. In our last ALICE report, about 40% of Iowans lived below the ALICE threshold. My role was to really talk about that and raise awareness. And Iowa Women's Foundation, they're actually addressing those barriers to economic self-sufficiency. The ALICE report and the IWF barriers line up almost perfectly. So this felt like moving into a role where I could put some action into all that energy around ALICE.

United Way addresses many barriers that people face, while the Iowa Women’s Foundation focuses specifically on women and girls. What are your thoughts on going from an organization with a broader mission to one with that is hyper-focused on a particular group of people?

The Iowa Women’s Foundation is the only statewide organization focused on women. So I think first of all, women deserve that voice and that attention. And I know even back from my United Ways of Iowa days that strong women make strong families and households make strong communities. You have to build from the ground up. Women being economically self-sufficient is the building block of a community. To focus on that, and pay attention to that and invest in that, has value for the broader state.

What do your day-to-day responsibilities and role look like?

We're not a huge organization. We’re a five-person team. So it's a mix of relationship-building, coalition-building, operations and fund development for the organization and staff interaction management.

What are your goals for your position?

It's a super exciting time for IWF. They have carved such a niche. We've seen it through the example of child care, but they really carved a niche as a convener, and a messenger and a voice. Watching that unfold in child care has really opened everyone's eyes to what role this organization could play in the other barriers, whether it's housing or employment or education. I think it's really figuring out how we can take the lessons we've learned from the role that we've played in the child care conversation in Iowa and figure out how to replicate that with other barriers.

Were there any particular lessons or words of wisdom that you gleaned from IWF’s work with child care that you are taking into tackling the other barriers?

Let's go back to 2014 or 2015. We had human services organizations saying child care is a problem. We had parents saying child care is a problem. We had schools saying child care is a problem. All these different sectors were saying child care is a problem, but the business community was not involved. And no one was pulling all that together. So really, what IWF came in and did was create that hub of the wheel and get it all working together. They brought convening skills, they brought messaging skills. They captured the attention of all the right people. I think we learned from watching them come into something that was not super cohesive, and bring it together, informed by people from every corner of the state, and message it back in a way that action started to happen. What other issues are out there like that, where there's sort of a fragmented approach right now, and the Iowa Women's Foundation can bring their statewide reach in and their data and their research and make something that's a little fragmented right now come together to move forward?

Announcing this year's Business Record Forty Under 40 class
The Business Record is proud to announce the 24th annual list of Forty Under 40 honorees.

These 40 local business leaders – more than half of whom are women! – who were chosen by past award winners, are under the age of 40 and have demonstrated impressive career achievements and unparalleled community involvement.

Each of the honorees will be profiled in the March 24 edition of the Business Record and recognized at an event on March 30. We’ll feature the women in Fearless later this spring!

Ryan Arnold, director of community engagement, Drake University
Marquas Ashworth, entrepreneur, Center on Sixth
Conor Boffeli, director of financial planning, Bral Niedert Private Wealth Advisors
Lindsay Cannaday, vice president and business development director, GreenState Credit Union
Lacy Covarrubias, senior vice president of treasury management, Community State Bank
Angie Currie, senior vice president and Iowa division manager, Commerce Bank
Chris Deal, partner, Modus Engineering
Luke Elzinga, policy and advocacy manager, Des Moines Area Religious Council
Jose Luis Garcia, assurance director, McGowen Hurst Clark and Smith
Brandon Geib, government relations counsel, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Rebecca Goldsmith, program planner, Iowa Department of Health and Human Services
Janae Gray, vice president of marketing and supplier diversity, Mittera
Gabby Guerra Ceron, interim executive director, Please Pass the Love
Blake Hanson, attorney/shareholder, Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave PC
Katie Hart, vice president and private banking officer, Bankers Trust
Jessica Hendricks, vice president of agency development, EMC Insurance Cos.
Marcela Hermosillo, employee engagement manager, Broadlawns Medical Center
Katherine Hutchison, partner and business owner, Project7 Design
Caleb Knutson, senior planner, Mid-Iowa Planning Alliance
Tanner Krause, CEO, Kum & Go
Carrie Kruse, economic development coordinator, city of Des Moines
Cindy Lande, member, BrownWinick Law Firm
Corey Lewis, clinical health coach, Broadlawns Medical Center
Leah Lint, diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, EMC Insurance Cos.
Blaire Massa, CEO, Ballet Des Moines
Kathleen McGuire, director, finance and capital markets, Invenergy LLC
T.J. Meyerholz, director of preconstruction, Ryan Cos.
Srikant Mikkilineni, director and senior counsel, global privacy and data protection, Vontier
Anna Nalean, community impact coordinator, Delta Dental of Iowa
Mary Katherine Nelson, shareholder, Nyemaster Goode PC
Abi Reiland, senior associate/owner, JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle)/CrossFit 8035
Candice S. Revita-Ramirez, assistant director of events, Des Moines University
Bridgett Robinson, diversity and inclusion mortgage loan originator and outreach coordinator, Neighborhood Finance Corp.
Madison Sconiers, training specialist, Polk County Treasurer's Office
Tony Tandeski, data analytics and SEO manager at DHI Group Inc., owner of the Rook Room
Krista Tedrow, executive director, South Central Iowa Local Workforce Development Board
Katheryn Thorson, member, BrownWinick Law Firm
Elizabeth Van Arkel, shareholder, Dentons Davis Brown PC
Shannon Winters, vice president of finance and human resources, Catch Des Moines
Diana Wright, startup community builder, Greater Des Moines Partnership

Left: Workiva incoming CEO Julie Iskow. Center: SILT Executive Director Breanna Horsey. Right: iJAG President and CEO Wendy Mihm-Herold.
In the headlines
Workiva announced Tuesday that President and Chief Operating Officer Julie Iskow has been appointed to succeed Marty Vanderploeg as chief executive officer, effective April 1. Iskow joined Workiva in 2019 as executive vice president and chief operating officer and was promoted to president in March 2022.

The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust has hired Breanna Horsey as the next leader of the organization, following executive director Suzan Erem’s retirement. A native of Angleton, Texas, Horsey previously served as the executive director of Storm Lake United, where she successfully promoted business, tourism and economic development. She has also served as an urban conservationist and founded a nonprofit organization to get girls outdoors.

Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG), a nonprofit connecting business and education, announced Wendy Mihm-Herold as the organization’s new president and CEO. She most recently worked for more than 10 years as vice president for business and community solutions at Northeast Iowa Community College.

The Iowa Association of Business and Industry announced the appointment of Nicole Crain, executive vice president, to the board of directors of BIPAC, a national organization focused on "advancing economic prosperity." BIPAC works to empower private-sector employees to become pro-jobs voters and advocates through grassroots advocacy, voter education and PAC participation, according to the announcement.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced earlier this month that Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo is resigning, effective March 14. Lebo joined the department on March 13, 2020, days before schools closed for the remainder of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Iowa State University sociology professor Susan Stewart appeared on "Dr. Phil" earlier this month to voice her opinion on the relationship between women and alcohol. Stewart recently published a book, "On the Rocks: Straight Talk About Women and Drinking." According to her research, alcohol abuse among women has increased by 84% in the last 10 years.

Women in Spain who are experiencing period pain are now able to take medical leave, guaranteed by a new government law passed earlier this month. Women will be allowed to stay at home for a few hours during the workday or take medical leave if pain prevents them from working, the legislation said, and it guarantees menstrual health as part of the country's right to gender equality in health.

The West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce has announced the keynote speaker and mentors for its sixth annual Mentoring for Women Conference. The event will take place on March 8 at the Rewind Hotel in West Des Moines and will feature keynote speaker Renee Hardman, who is the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and vice president of human resources at Broadlawns Medical Center as well as councilwoman for the city of West Des Moines.

The Iowa Commission on the Status of Women is now accepting nominations for the 2023 Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. Since 1975, the award has honored contemporary and historical Iowa women who are making or have made history for contributions in a multitude of fields, such as education, arts, science, sports and public service. More information can be found at this link. The commission is also accepting nominations for the Christine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice, which is given to people whose work is deemed outstanding and has made a significant contribution to Iowa’s recognition as a state characterized by equality and justice. Nominations are due by April 1 and materials should be sent to A full list of Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame recipients can be found at this link.

Worth checking out
The new CEO is younger and may even be a woman (Bloomberg News). More mothers want to give birth outside a hospital. Midwives say Iowa makes that difficult (Des Moines Register). New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on being a ‘good enough’ mom (Time). How one female film producer has changed the culture of creating movies (NPR). 7 Des Moines metro women shot in 2 months: What is Iowa doing about domestic violence? (Des Moines Register). Advice on aging by the decade (The Good Trade).
Iowa Women’s Foundation accepting Ovation tribute submissions
The Iowa Women’s Foundation is now accepting submitted tributes for its 10th annual "Ovation: A Tribute to Iowa Women and Girls" publication.

The publication is a fundraising opportunity for the foundation, and it is one of the key sources of funding for its annual grant-making budget.

The publication gives companies, organizations, family members, friends or community members the opportunity to submit a tribute to recognize a woman or girl who has made an impact in her sphere of influence.

"It is a win/win to recognize outstanding Iowa women and support work across the state to improve women’s economic self-sufficiency. Strong women make strong households make strong communities," Iowa Women’s Foundation president and CEO Deann Cook said in a statement.

More than 700 women and girls have been honored with a tribute since its inception in 2014.

The deadline for tribute submissions is March 31. More information can be found at the Iowa Women’s Foundation website.
Fundraiser raising money for mammograms
A fundraiser by Des Moines women Katie Hart and Jenna Brownlee is raising money for a free mammogram program.

The EmpowHER fundraiser is in its third year, and gives people the opportunity to send art prints designed by an Iowa artist along with a personalized message to those you care about in honor of International Women’s Day.

Artists are Ally Frame, Jenna Brownlee and Jimmy Navarro, and each print is $15.

Proceeds will support the Pink Days Free Mammogram Program at John Stoddard Cancer Center in downtown Des Moines. The program relies 100% on philanthropic support and provides free mammograms to uninsured or underinsured Central Iowans.

A statement by EmpowHER said since the Susan G Komen organization pulled out of Central Iowa in 2018 the usage in the free mammogram program at John Stoddard has increased by 300%.

The fundraiser hopes to raise $30,000. Prints can be purchased through March 2.

Be fearless with us
At its core, Fearless exists to help empower Iowa women to succeed in work and life. We believe that everyone has a story to share and that we cannot progress as a society unless we know about one another. We share stories through featuring women in our reporting, featuring guest contributions and speakers at our events.

We are always looking for new stories to share and people to feature. Get in touch with us!

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