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SEPTEMBER 11, 2023
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Today is the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans. My daughter is 7 years old. My family talks a lot about history. But I haven’t been able to talk to my daughter about 9/11. When I struggle to talk about something, I turn to books. I found this one to be surprisingly age-appropriate: "Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree" by Ann Magee. My favorite section is at the end: "Tears rained down, down, down. Voices sang loud and strong. The tree reached its branches toward the light … growing stronger every day."

May we all grow stronger every day.

In today’s e-newsletter, you will find:

  • A column by Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO of Business Publications Corp., about a fearless immigrant and counselor who is empowering students in the Urbandale Community School District.
  • More answers from the Business Record’s 2023 Women of Influence honorees: "What will it take for women to achieve gender parity in leadership positions?"
  • Leadership: Paradigm for Parity recognizes Joyce McDanel of UnityPoint Health.
  • In the headlines: Iowa wins a major federal grant to improve maternal health care.
  • A break from the news: If you love architecture and art, you won’t want to miss this tour in Ames.
  • Plus, find out who will be speaking at our Oct. 10 Fearless Focus virtual event being held over the noon hour that day.
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Following your dreams – and advice for teens – with Iowa transplant Yerliana Reyna
Editor’s note: As part of our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Fearless profiled a Latina who moved to Iowa from New York to work as a counselor at the Urbandale Community School District. She is empowering the next generation of fearless leaders. (We recognize that calling September "Hispanic Heritage Month" is imperfect, and we always welcome your feedback.) – Nicole Grundmeier
"I’m a believer that you can reach whatever you want in life as long as you work for it," says Yerliana Reyna, a professional school counselor for Urbandale Middle School and an Iowa transplant. The first member of her family to complete a college degree, own her own house and business, Reyna embodies the spirit of fearlessness. She comments, "I’m the first in a lot of things and I want other people to be able to use my example as a motivation to accomplish their goals."

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Reyna moved at age 15 to the Bronx, where she finished high school and completed both her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in school counseling with a certification in bilingual school counseling. After moving to Iowa in 2020, Reyna has quickly become part of the Central Iowa community. She participated in the recent Iowa Latinx Project’s Media Ambassador Program, and I subsequently reached out to ask her some questions about her journey and her work with teens.  

How did you end up in Iowa?
I have a very adventurous personality, or what we refer to in New York as a  "Go get it" attitude. The story of how I ended up in Iowa is a reflection of that. It was during July 2020 that my husband, my toddler, my newborn and I drove from the Bronx to Iowa to visit my husband's cousin and her family, who were already established in Iowa. It was our second visit to West Des Moines, and from the first visit, Iowa felt like home. We liked being able to drive with minimum traffic, no one honking at you the very minute the red light turns green, and the fresh air, but I think it was the "Iowa nice" that helped put all the pieces together.

This visit was supposed to be a refresher from all the things pandemic. My son and my husband went to a nearby park. It was a very hot Monday. On their way back, my son ran to me, all sweaty and with a big smile, and said, "Mami, I love this! I want this!" My husband and I were very happy to hear him express himself in such an exciting way. My husband then said, "You imagine, well … one day, maybe when I retire?" I asked him, why then and not now? Why imagine a future when we can make it happen? Well, I made it my mission. I started looking for jobs within my field, and on that Tuesday, I submitted an application. The next day I got a call for an interview. That Thursday, we drove back to New York, and on Friday, I had my interview over Zoom.

I moved with my two kids, and my mom came along, just to help with the kids for a few months, but she ended up staying with us. My husband was staying in New York for a few months longer in order for us to make the transition a successful one. During that time, he used to travel once or sometimes twice a month for a few days to see the kids.

Honestly speaking, it was a lot. However, I would not change a thing. To me, Iowa is where my heart is at peace with the little girl inside me, where I get to see my kids have a similar childhood that I once had, where I belong. Iowa is my home away from home.

You mention several "firsts." How did you overcome fears to accomplish some of these things where you did not have a role model in your own family?
There are so many things I can think of when it comes to overcoming fears. I reflect on my transition from the East Coast to the Midwest. I asked myself why it took me so long to make one of the best decisions of my life. Overcoming fear has not been easy for me. It has taken a lot of work, determination, staying focused and protecting my "why" at all costs in a very respectful and caring way. During complicated times my why is always the vehicle that takes me places. My why took me to my happy place, the place that I now call home. It’s OK to feel fear. Fear is just a stopping point for you to revisit your why. Why are you doing what you are doing, whether it is to go back to school, follow your role model’s footsteps or break barriers? Because there was no one else before you that did it for you and you know that you deserve better.

Acceptance is a key component when identifying your fear. Since a young age, I accepted my reality and I was determined to make the best out of it. I was raised by a single mother with the help of her parents because they took care of me while my mom worked. The way I see a role model nowadays is very unique. I have a village as a role model, and it took me years to understand that. Accepting that I had a village instead of just one person to look for has given me a clear direction of who I am today. Identify who is a part of your village and if you are having difficulties identifying those people, keep in mind it begins with you. You are the most essential member of your own village.    

As a school counselor, you are dealing with young people – how do you motivate them to pursue their dreams and keep working to achieve their goals?
I believe in the power of communication. There is something in me that does the work for me, I like to talk a lot and that is it, I talk a lot and I keep things real whenever I interact with students. I firmly believe that when you identify your strengths you have achieved half of your goal. When working with young people, you need to realize that they are selective listeners, and if they don’t listen to what they want to hear, they tone it out. So whenever I have a conversation with my students about staying on track with assignments, attendance, validating feelings – whatever the topic might be, I give them multiple scenarios. When you invite young minds to think outside their own bubble, you are already empowering them.

Based on my observation of the last few years, some students don’t dream big, and if they do, they don’t have a plan on how to get there, they just want to get there. I talk a lot about small goals, one day at a time, having a plan, and if that plan doesn’t work, to follow all the letters of the alphabet. The generation that we are working with right now is very particular because they know they can just move to the next thing and be great at it, but it’s the moving part that is hard for them. Building that relationship with accepting things when they don’t work out is very important for our Gen Z friends.

What is most important for teenage girls to know or do to overcome obstacles?
Know your worth. Accept your uniqueness and be authentic. Do not put too much energy or time just to be accepted by people who are not going to move one finger to fill your cup. Everything comes at the right time, so try not to accelerate the process. Identify your strength and protect your why. Allow yourself to see things from a different perspective. When you do that, you have a better understanding of why things happen even when they don’t have the outcome that you were expecting. The rest is history that you will be writing as you break barriers and become the first member of your family to do the unthinkable as you make this world a better place.

What are some of your own goals now?
My main goal in life is to continue educating others, to be of support for people in order for them to reach their goals. These goals can be personal, professional or emotional. Most importantly, I want my children to have a role model in their lives. I want my children to know that their mami was able to accomplish all the things she wanted and more even though there were so many barriers on her path. I want my children to be understood, to be represented by leaders that understand their backgrounds and their uniqueness. I also want my mom to be able to see and appreciate that all her hard work was worth it. I want to keep going in so many ways for me, for my children, my family and for la cultura.

2023 Women of Influence weigh in on gender equity in leadership
QUESTION: What will it take for women to achieve gender parity in leadership positions?
Barbara Quijano Decker
Executive director, Catholic Charities - Des Moines, Iowa
Changes in our leadership culture, business models and in education. Valuing qualities that demonstrate how women are effective and provide leadership in the workplace. Women mentoring and helping women. Advancing women to assume leadership roles in their personal and professional lives. Empower women to achieve their full potential. Sharing testimonials about women in leadership positions. I am grateful to have been associated with organizations, such as Drake, Mercy and Catholic Charities, where women and men who are leaders are valued and recognized.

Angela Jackson
Senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Athene; owner, the Great Frame Up
A big portion of this requires intentionality. It also requires fathers, husbands, brothers and sons to "speak up" and be champions for women in spaces where women are not present in leadership. I think it also requires women who are in a position of influence to be inclusive and intentional to promote other women.

Lisa Shimkat
State director, America’s Small Business Development Centers Iowa
Providing mentorship and sponsorship programs can help women navigate their careers and overcome challenges. Showing the advantages of diversity in leadership to not only the organization's culture but their bottom line. It begins with us. We need to create those opportunities and women must support women. That is truly a key to the solution for the future of achieving gender parity.

Laura Sweet
Vice president and chief operating officer, Des Moines Performing Arts
While men play a role, it’s vital to have women creating opportunities for other women. It is truly our best path toward parity.

Terri Vaughan
Professional director of the Emmett J. Vaughan Institute of Risk Management and Insurance, University of Iowa Tippie College of Business
I think we are making progress here. There is considerable pressure on companies to have more diversity in their boards and executive ranks. That pressure is creating more focus on developing diverse talent for the future. So I think we are on the right track.

Maria Volante
President, Volante Consulting
Opportunity. Women simply need to be given the opportunity. We need to actively attract and recruit women for all roles. There are areas where we need to be very deliberate about doing the hard work to welcome women in and support them. We need to crush dated perceptions by allowing women to perform. We need to see women in critical roles succeed. By seeing the success we will redefine the image and definition of that very success. All of this must be supported by keeping momentum for zero tolerance for violence and harassment of women. Fighting for equal pay and compensation. Educational equality. The list goes on.

Mary Wells
Treasurer, Polk County; co-founder and president, Investing In My Future Inc.
To achieve gender parity in leadership positions, current leaders must be intentional about recruiting women to the candidate pool and be equitable in the selection process and salary offerings.

Kim Willis
Community volunteer
Having open and honest conversations with others is extremely powerful and important. Many discussions these days are difficult due to preconceived assumptions and individuals not being open to listen to an opposing view. If people want to see a real change with gender equality in leadership, they need to be willing to hear it from a different perspective than what they may have in the past.

Claudia Schabel
President and CEO, Schabel Solutions Inc.
Vision, courage, commitment, leadership and allies. Leaders have to re-imagine their leadership teams, understand and accept the value that gender parity brings. The research is clear. For some, it's easier to keep the status quo, but those who challenge the status quo and attain gender parity will outperform those who don’t. Our clients understand this and are being intentional about making progress now in order to succeed in the near and long-term futures.

Shaimaa Aly
Head of business assurance, Wells Fargo
On the organizational level, I believe we need intentionally structured mentorship programs for people who could occupy the C-suite. There are so many barriers in any organizational structure, and without removing the roadblocks and investing in succession planning, we won’t achieve gender parity in leadership positions. On the individual level, I encourage women to invest in their own learning, find a mentor or two or 100, take professional certifications that are applicable to your field, and don’t forget to take care of your physical and mental well-being.

Paradigm for Parity recognizes Joyce McDanel of UnityPoint Health
Paradigm for Parity selected Joyce McDanel, vice president of human resources and education for UnityPoint Health Des Moines, as a 2023 Woman on the Rise. In honor of Women’s Equality Day, Paradigm for Parity, a coalition of business leaders dedicated to tackling the corporate leadership gender gap, annually recognizes Women on the Rise who are breaking barriers in corporate leadership and showing the value of gender parity, including racial equity, in the workforce. McDanel was one of 24 women who received the honor. McDanel has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Iowa, she became a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives in 2010, and she is a certified senior human resource professional and certified diversity executive. "Women need to support women in the workplace," McDanel said in a prepared release. "As much progress as we’ve made, there is still a lack of parity for women – especially women of color – in executive leadership.  Sponsorship of women is critical to progress; a dedicated sponsor not only sees and believes in talented individuals, but they also use their credibility and influence to move the talent forward." McDanel will be honored at a ceremony on Oct. 2 in New York City.
Vermeer Yellow Iron Academy in Pella is an innovative child care center for the children of Vermeer Corp. employees. For many Americans, child care is about to get more expensive and harder to find, as federal pandemic-era funding comes to an end this month. File photo by Emily Kestel.
In the headlines
Child care is about to get more expensive, as federal funds dry up: With her twins’ day care closing in weeks, Lexie Monigal is back in a familiar bind: desperately searching for child care while contemplating quitting her full-time job as a surgical nurse in Menasha, Wis. "I’ve called around, searched and searched and searched, and so far, nothing," said Monigal, 27, who is eight months pregnant with her third child. "I’m getting to the point where I’d rather quit my job and really struggle financially than keep having to worry about finding care." Millions of parents — mothers, in particular — could soon be making similar calculations, as states run out of $24 billion in stimulus money Congress had set aside for child care during the pandemic, according to the Washington Post. That record investment has helped keep the industry afloat by propping up workers’ salaries, boosting training programs and waiving family payment requirements.

Iowa wins major federal grant to improve maternal health care: Maternal medicine experts with University of Iowa Health Care, in partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health, have received a five-year, $10 million grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration to improve maternal health outcomes in the state. The award will be used to create and implement strategies to address disparities in maternal health and improve maternal health outcomes, with a particular emphasis on preventing and reducing maternal death and severe maternal illness, according to the University of Iowa. Dr. Stephen Hunter, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and vice chair for obstetrics and co-director of the Iowa Statewide Perinatal Care Program, is the principal investigator on the grant. In Iowa, maternal mortality has almost doubled in the three-year period 2015-18, compared to the previous three years, up from 20 deaths to 39. In addition, Hunter says, patients are now sicker than in the past, with increasing maternal age, higher levels of obesity and related health complications, and societal problems such as substance abuse and mental health, all playing a role.

The women’s recession is officially over — but not everyone has recovered equally: As a group, women are back to pre-pandemic employment levels. They are now half of the labor force — a threshold they have crossed only twice before. And prime-age working women, those ages 25 to 54, have led that recovery, forging ahead into new careers, pushing for jobs with better pay and benefits and reaping the rewards of workplaces that are more accommodating of remote work. Still, not all workers have had equal access to that changed workplace landscape, according to the 19th. Though they have made gains, Black women, in particular, have recovered more slowly considering how hard they were hit by job loss at the start of the pandemic. "It’s not the economy that’s resilient," said Jocelyn Frye, the president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. "It’s women that are resilient in that economy. I never underestimate the ability of women, generally, and women of color, specifically, to basically absorb the shock of a moment and sort of make it work. We have an economy that has largely been built on the backs of women making it work."

Johnson County approves use of $10,000 to fund emergency contraceptives as state repayment pause continues: The Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 31 approved the use of $10,000 to fund the purchase of emergency contraceptives for victims of sexual assault, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Katy Rasmussen of the the Johnson County Sexual Assault Response Team requested funding from the supervisors at a meeting Aug. 23. She approached the board following Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird’s decision to audit various assistance programs, including the Sexual Assault Examination Payment Program, limiting funding for patients. Previously, the Attorney General’s office covered the cost of emergency contraception. "Asking victims of sexual assault to forgo or to shoulder the cost of emergency contraception is further traumatizing them," Rasmussen said during the Aug. 23 meeting. "No one should be required to pay for necessary health care due to a crime committed against their body."

Worth checking out
At 97, the first lady of fitness is still shaping the industry (New York Times). Birth can be dismal for Black women. What this hospital is doing to stop that. (Los Angeles Times). I suddenly became a hit writer – but I felt my husband treated my career like an interruption of my domestic work (the Guardian). More unpaid work — the hidden cost to moms of their kids’ online lives (Washington Post). As abortion laws drive obstetricians from red states, maternity care suffers (New York Times). Iowa nurse, mother recovering after serious diving accident (KCCI Channel 8).
How risk-taking and failure can help women succeed
Tuesday, Oct. 10, at noon
The most successful people have often failed – many times – before getting to where they are now. They take big risks, which requires taking a leap of faith even through fear. In this conversation, we’ll hear from speakers who have done just that. Girls and women are often taught, or put pressure on themselves, to be perfect and are less likely to shoot for a goal than boys and men if they don’t think they’re qualified. Through sharing both personal and business-related examples, our speakers will give advice on how to find success, how to learn from failure and how you can support yourself or those you know in the journeys toward reaching goals.

Jasper Chung, photographer and art teacher
Jann Freed, author and speaker
Laura Phillips, vice president of engineering, Pella Corp.
Sydney Rieckhoff, CEO, Almost Famous Popcorn
Iowa Architectural Foundation offers its first-ever architectural tour of ISU campus
When sculptor Christian Petersen created the "Library Boy and Girl" sculptures in the mid-1940s, only one out of 10 Iowa State University students were women.

This fall, 44.6% of undergraduate students at Iowa State are women, while 82.8% of professional students are women and 45% of graduate students are women, according to the university.

The limestone boy and girl sit quietly in Parks Library on the ISU campus, secretly gazing at each other from their pedestals. During spring break last year, my daughter recreated the girl sculpture.

I’ve always loved the art and architecture at Iowa State. I was a student there from 2000 to 2004. It felt like home.

A recent news brief about an architectural tour caught my attention. My father-in-law is an architect, and my daughter has also expressed interest in being an interior designer or an architect. The Iowa Architectural Foundation is offering its first-ever architectural tour of the Iowa State University in Ames.

The tour begins at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Memorial Union, 2229 Lincoln Way, and will continue on an interior loop of the campus core.

The tour will go past Morrill Hall and Catt Hall, as well as more recent buildings and noteworthy additions. Attendees will take in views of Carver Hall, Parks Library and the Ivy College of Business, alongside much of Iowa State’s campus art. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here.

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

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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