Beth Shelton on the need for flexible work options
 ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌
View as webpage, click here.
Good morning! We’re continuing our focus on parental leave and flexible work options, this time from the perspective of Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa CEO Beth Shelton. In 2019, she implemented the Infants at Work program, which allows parents, after returning from parental leave, to bring their baby to work with them until the child reaches 6 months. We've also got results on the topic of child care from the Business Record's annual Leaders Survey.  Have a great week!
Recognizing the human side of the workplace
I glanced out the small, square windows, the red flickering lights splashing across the front of my home. I could see the worried faces of my children peeking out our beveled glass door. I was struggling to breathe, my lungs deeply affected by COVID. The air felt thick and warm through my heavy cloth mask; I was praying it worked to protect the brave medic taking my vitals, risking her own life for me, a contagious stranger.
My mind was racing. Not about the physical discomfort or the illness inside me, but about the juggle of life. The leading, the doing, the momming. Lists ran through my head, schedules, groceries, virtual school. The incredible fatigue raging through my body and lungs didn’t slow down the demand of caregiving.

In recent years I’ve shared an impassioned message about recognizing the human side of the workplace. I’ve proudly talked about paid parental leave, the Infants at Work benefit and more. Never did that priority feel clearer to me than in the flashing lights of that ambulance ride to the emergency room, the incredible amount of weight we as human beings carry, and the strong support systems we need to operate at our best.

Eventually, I recovered from my battle with COVID. And we did have support, more than I had imagined. But the many other demands and intricacies of being a loving, caring, flawed, overwhelmed human being on this earth can’t be easily remedied with a vaccine or antibody.

It seems obvious when we say it aloud. As an employer, I want our entire team to operate at their best. It’s good for the people, and it’s good for the business. Yet debate seems to linger: What should support for people look like at work? Will telecommuting stay here forever? When will things go back to normal?

I’m not here to give the answer; there’s not just one answer. It’s a topic complicated by the infinite variables and cultures found across organizations. As a CEO, I know too well the pressure to balance the financial and operational sustainability of the organization with the responsibility to support people.

I’ve seen worry lines crease the faces of teammates needing flexibility from our workplace, anxiously knowing that it’s a big ask of the organization. The new mother holding her infant through a Zoom meeting, hearing her doctor’s advice run through her head to keep her child at home for at least the first 12 months. The parent who, with no previous experience, is home-schooling a busy child; the tired spouse who is acting as a caregiver; the employee who lives alone and is missing the buzz of conversation and organic connection with others. I see their worry, their sadness, their anxiety. As a leader in an organization, I can’t erase the hardships of life, but I can continue to ask them, "Do you feel supported right now?" and "What else do you need to thrive as a person, not just an employee?"

Being fully human messy, flawed, creative, resilient, compassionate is not mutually exclusive to being an incredible, productive and positive teammate and contributor at work. In fact, they go hand in hand.

Leaders, we bear the responsibility to be the voice of equality, love and compassion to recognize the needs people carry with them and seek solutions to support them. Today, for Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, it’s a priority on telecommuting, altered schedules, paid parental leave, Infants at Work, four weeks paid off for the acute physical or mental care of a loved one or oneself, among many other unique and supportive benefits.  

With more than a dozen babies who have participated in Infants at Work, the program continues to be a huge success, giving parents additional options on balancing work and home. Employee engagement and retention are at an all-time high in the organization, with record revenue and membership growth following.

I don’t know which benefits make sense for which organizations. I know we’ve pushed the envelope and reaped rewards far beyond what we could have imagined. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. I’ve heard some organizational leaders say, "Now is not the time to come down hard on employees." I’m here to say there is never a time for that. We can rise, innovate, support and watch our teams thrive. A healthy, engaged team can move mountains. Let’s not get in their way by withholding the shovel.

Beth Shelton is the CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa. With 120 full- and part-time employees and 13,500 members across Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, Shelton and the team at Girl Scouts have embraced an innovative view of leadership and culture, prioritizing the well-being of each team member. Shelton has shared her case studies on leadership and culture across the country, from the National Academy of Science to Seattle Interactive.
Leaders Survey 2020: child care identified as a key issue
Editor's note: This is a continuation of our 2020 Leaders Survey coverage, which we began publishing in the Nov. 27 issue. Our annual survey asks business leaders to share what they feel are some of the top issues affecting business in Central Iowa, and in particular the Greater Des Moines region. As you read, you'll see the responses and also select remarks from differing viewpoints from those who opted to leave comments as they took the survey.

This year's guest editor, Claudia Schabel, is the president of Schabel Solutions, a consulting firm that offers strategic solutions on how to build inclusive workplaces to attract and retain talent.

Guest Editor Claudia Schabel:
2020 responses almost exactly mirror those of 2019 and this is definitely not a good thing. Given the pandemic, the return of online schooling, the lack of affordable child care options and the fact that many have been and continue to work remotely (none were factors in 2019), this is very problematic for many people, parents and children alike ― on many levels and across all demographic groups. Women, who remain the primary caregivers at home, are being impacted disproportionately. Thankfully, this topic will be addressed via the Governor’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Clearly, something still needs to change on this front.

Other comments:

"This was an issue before the pandemic and is likely to continue to be an issue without a focused effort."

"The child care assistance cliff is holding back many Iowa families and needs to be fixed to improve the number of affordable child care options."

"I think Greater Des Moines is far better off than most communities, but am keenly aware that we do not have an adequate supply of affordable child care — a vulnerability that has been particularly exposed during COVID-19."

"We were experiencing a child care crisis before the pandemic, and it's gotten worse. Families struggle to afford child care, and a lot of the child care providers who serve state-funded families struggle to stay financially solvent. Now we're adding in the complications that families face in deciding whether to return to work or stay home and care safely for their children. We're also creating a future educational crisis because so many Pre-K kids are not attending preschool this year. If the state doesn't change its formula, this will impact Pre-K funding for years to come (since next year's funding is based on enrollment this year.)"

"Child care is expensive, especially high-quality care. No one was prepared for the child care needs presented as a result of hybrid learning. The divide in socioeconomics related to child care is becoming even greater."

"Before COVID, there was inadequate child care options in Greater Des Moines. The pandemic worsened this. There are talented, smart workers (mostly women) who are struggling to make school, work, isolation all happen in one place. Most days feel like a house of cards because workers juggle too many roles."

"The price of child care for two children is greater than one year of tuition at a state school in Iowa. We have a serious child care issue in Iowa. The waitlists at quality providers are often [more than] six months, and some are much longer. The average central Iowa family earns too much to qualify for child care assistance (approximately $56,000) and yet not enough to afford quality child care services. We need the Iowa Legislature to increase the income limits to child care assistance and address provider issues. This has already and will continue to be a major issue to our economy in Iowa."

"There are many child care deserts in our community – places where access to quality and affordable care is limited to nonexistent. COVID has impacted the industry significantly."
Left: Duchess Meghan Markle. Center: Rep. Deb Haaland. Right: Renewable Energy Group CEO Cynthia Warner.
In the headlines
Worth consuming
I’m a CEO and a working dad. Here’s what I wish I did differently (Harvard Business Review). I was certain I wanted two children. Then the pandemic happened (Elle). What will the workplace look like in 2025? (SHRM). What does it mean to consider yourself a disabled person? (Aeon). In Iowa, maternal mortality highlights a deep racial divide in health care (Iowa Public Radio). Of course women of color were among the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine (The 19th). Taylor Swift dropped two albums this year. Productivity is one way to cope with the pandemic but it doesn’t have to be yours (The Lily). Female workers could take another pandemic hit: to their retirements (New York Times). Two women discuss what it’s like to get — and give — the first COVID-19 vaccine (Medium Coronavirus Blog). Women with Ph.D.s respond to a column arguing that Jill Biden should drop the ‘Dr.’ (The 19th). How the Republican Party fixed its gender crisis (The Lily). How can we support the well-being of teachers? (TED). How to help kids build resilience amid COVID-19 chaos (PBS NewsHour). In a pandemic holiday, women still do it all (The 19th). The 21 best books of 2021 for working moms (Working Mother).
Like this newsletter? Please forward to a friend!
Did someone share this newsletter with you? Sign up here.

Business Publications Corporation Inc.

515.288.3336  |

Contact the publisher and executive editor:
Contact Fearless contributing editor:
Submit press release:
Advertising info:
Membership info:

Copyright © BPC 2020, All rights reserved.
Reproduction or use without permission of editorial or graphic content in any manner is strictly prohibited.

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign