Plus, takeaways from the Women Lead Change Central Iowa Conference
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Good morning and happy Monday! Here’s what you’ll find in today’s newsletter:

  • Six takeaways from the Women Lead Change Central Iowa Conference. The speakers at this year’s event talked about topics ranging from time management to gender allyship, harnessing your fear, managing stress and being an inclusive leader. I whittled down my nine pages of notes to my favorite tips, tricks and takeaways.
  • A guest opinion piece from financial adviser Brittany Heard on how women can feel confident with their finances. Here’s a fun fact that I didn’t know: Women will likely influence 75% of the wealth in the U.S. by 2030. Heard details five things women can do right now to get their finances in check.
  • Lots of women in the headlines. Last Tuesday was Election Day, and several women in the state and across the country made history.

This month also marks the one-year anniversary of Fearless! We’ve got a lot of exciting things planned for the coming weeks and months, but first we’d like your feedback on how we’re doing. Please fill out this survey! We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make the Fearless newsletter valuable to you and worth your time.

Lastly, if you haven’t already signed up for our panel discussion that we’ll be hosting on Nov. 15 at noon, you can do so at this link. We talk with several female leaders across the state about work/life management, the need for flexibility, being a "first" or "only" in the room and more – you won't want to miss it.

That’s all for this week, have a great one!

Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

Six takeaways from the 2021 Women Lead Change Central Iowa Conference
Day one of the Women Lead Change Central Iowa Conference on Oct. 28 in Des Moines. Photo by Emily Kestel.
The theme of this year’s Women Lead Change Central Iowa Conference was "Joining Voices: Leaders for Equity."

One way I like to practice equity is by sharing knowledge. In this case, sharing knowledge looks like sharing the highlights of my nine pages of notes.

Before you assume that because the conference has the word "women" in it that’s only meant for women, think again. The following takeaways can be of use to anyone.

Adults don’t laugh nearly enough, and fear is a big reason why.

The average toddler laughs 300 times a day. By the time you reach 40, that number drops to an average of four times a day.

Fear has a big role in our lack of joy, author Judi Holler said in the opening keynote address. That manifests itself through comparison, doubting ourselves, staying in our comfort zones and caring what other people think.

A lot of this comes from always being on our devices.

One survey found that 81% of employees check their work email on weekends and 59% stay on top of their emails while on vacation. Another survey showed that the average U.S. worker spends 6.3 hours a day checking email. Additionally, Americans spend more than two hours a day on social media.

"We’re not unplugging," Holler said. That leaves less time to do things that make you feel alive.

"Being brave requires stamina, focus and being awake," she said. "You cannot be exhausted, crazy busy, overwhelmed, sick AND be brave."

Holler recommends people conduct "small fear experiments" every day. This could be walking up to someone and introducing yourself, sitting in the front row of a meeting, speaking up first on a conference call or wearing a new color or pattern.

Your gender plays a role in your finances.

In early 2020 – before the pandemic – Merrill Lynch and Bank of America conducted a study about the role that gender plays in wealth management.

The study found that 8% of women have had a negative experience with a financial adviser based on their gender. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s more than double that of men.

Advisers also demonstrated an average of 10 miscues in 30 minutes, some of the most frequent being: assuming a man is the decision maker, assuming that women are less knowledgeable than men about investing and assuming that women are more risk-averse.

In her presentation at a breakout session, Merrill senior financial adviser Aleeza Singh walked through the study, summing it up by saying that there is a lot of work to be done, but there is a lot to celebrate, too.

Twenty-seven percent of women under 55 are very knowledgeable about financial products and services, compared with 6% of women over 55. Furthermore, 28% of women under 55 are very comfortable making financial decisions on their own, compared with just 9% of women over 55.

"Young women are taking [their finances] very seriously," Singh said.

Develop a habit of checking in with yourself and how you’re feeling.

The latest Household Pulse Survey shows that 35% of women have reported feeling anxious or depressed. Furthermore, 57% of American and Canadian workers reported feeling stressed on a daily basis, according to a Gallup report.

In her breakout session, therapist Julie Larson offered several strategies to help manage stress in the workplace.

First things first: You need to develop a habit of checking in with yourself. Try to name what you’re feeling, where you’re feeling it and what you’re doing that’s helping or not helping it. Taking a brief walk or organizing your desk can help de-escalate feelings of being overwhelmed or stressed.

Using the 5-4-3-2-1 method can also help connect you with the present and reduce anxiety. Take a moment to identify 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and one thing you can taste.

Larson also recommends sorting your thoughts into the past, present and future and focusing on what you can control at that moment.

Be smart about how you build your schedule.

We’ve all been there – our calendar is filled with back-to-back meetings. One runs over, which makes you late for the next one, triggering a domino effect.

To fix this, author Laura Vanderkam encourages people to schedule deliberate open space in their schedules.

"Everything takes longer than you think it will," she said. "Open space invites opportunity."

If you happen to have an extra five or 10 minutes between meetings or tasks, Vanderkam says to use that time for "bits of joy" like reading, stretching, praying, writing a note to a family member or enjoying your surroundings.  

"Your brain needs a break," she said.

How women can feel confident and engaged with their money and finances
In my role as a financial adviser, I get to meet with a variety of people from different stages of life who have different experiences with money. Some women I meet are very interested in finances and others feel insecure when it comes to talking through investments or their financial plans.

In many households, one spouse often handles the finances while the other spouse handles other tasks. Division of labor is important to avoid one person managing everything, but when women don’t have active roles in the finances, they can often get left behind and lose confidence when discussing money.

Women currently influence nearly half the wealth in the United States and will likely influence 75% of the wealth by 2030. I meet with many widows and divorcees who have never been involved in their family’s finances. These women must quickly learn how to manage their financial affairs after years of letting their spouses do this work.

One of my personal goals as an adviser is to help women feel more confident and engaged when it comes to money and finances.

Here are a few things women can do right now:

1. Review your bank and investment statements. Simply looking at your accounts monthly will help you see how much you earn, spend, save and give. Having a good understanding of what’s happening to your money on a month-to-month basis is imperative to plan for your financial future. There are several apps that can help you create and manage a budget.

2. Talk about finances. Talk to your friends about how they invest. Ask if they are saving into a retirement account or how they plan to achieve their financial goals. While individuals need to save and invest differently based on their personal situations, we need to talk more about finances to eliminate the taboo of talking about money.

3. Ask questions. When you are in a meeting with your financial adviser and don’t understand something, ask them to clarify. All good advisers enjoy the opportunity to help you understand what’s going on with your money, and most want to learn how to do this in a way that’s easy to understand!

4. Embrace investing and give yourself credit. Don’t make negative assumptions about your knowledge of investments because you are just beginning and don’t know everything. Perhaps you know more than you think you know. Also, it takes time to learn anything new. Being part of the investing process will help you learn and give you more confidence. Confidence comes from trial and error, study and practice. You don’t have to know everything, but you should work to learn something new each time you meet with your financial adviser.

5. Lean on your financial adviser. I recently started working with a woman whose husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Prior to his diagnosis, he handled all their finances. She was anxious about managing things without his help. After a few meetings, she let me know that she was starting to sleep better at night because she knew she had a partner to help her handle the finances. Once she understood the plan and trusted the advice I was giving, her anxiety virtually vanished. This story, by the way, reminds me why I love my job and why it’s actually good to lean on others for support.

I hope to see more women feeling confident as they talk about and manage their finances. Pick one thing to get started. Perhaps it’s reviewing bank statements and investment accounts, starting a budgeting app, or meeting with a financial adviser. Let’s start talking about money, how it affects us as women, and how we can have more influence on our financial situations.

Please see important disclosure information at A copy of our written disclosure brochure as set forth on Part 2A of form ADV is available at

Left: Boston Mayor-elect Michelle Wu. Center: Des Moines City Council member-elect Indira Sheumaker. Right: West Virginia Lt. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears.
In the headlines election edition
Being herself: Deanna Strable-Soethout
Strable-Soethout, 52, describes her professional life in three chapters. After finishing college at Northwestern University, she started at Principal in 1990 as an actuary. In the mid-1990s, she ran various product lines within Principal's insurance businesses and was named president of U.S. Insurance Solutions in 2015. In 2017, she became chief financial officer.

Through each chapter, she watched as other women leaders copied the styles and personalities of men. They didn’t let their guard down. Strable-Soethout wanted to bring her full self to the executive level, to not change who she was to fit someone’s else’s ideal.
Left: Newspaper publisher Katharine Graham. Center: Norwalk Fire Chief Jennifer Porter. Right: Justice Beth Robinson.
In the headlines
Worth checking out
Employee resource groups are on the rise at U.S. companies (Wall Street Journal). Could corporate America embrace paid ‘period leave’? (Fortune). How to navigate the new rules for workplace style (Time). This mother wanted her son to have photos to understand her breast cancer journey (NPR). Navigating postpartum depression at work (Harvard Business Review). Paid family leave: America must do better (theSkimm). How men and women treat deadlines in the workplace differently (Wall Street Journal).
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a she-cession, with millions of U.S. women leaving the workforce. In 2020 2.3 million women dropped out of the workforce, and today 1.6 million women still have yet to return to the office. Inequities that have long existed have been exposed – from women carrying an unequal share of household duties to a lack of gender representation in leadership, to women being far more likely to face sexual misconduct or domestic violence. Yet there have also been strides – the first female vice president, improved gender equity at the Olympics, and community organizing that has emphasized empowering women and families.

In a panel discussion airing at noon on Nov. 15, we’ll talk about all of that and what we can focus on in 2022 to collectively support women in work and life. Register for the free event here.

Joining us will be:

  • Renee Christoffer, president and CEO, Veridian Credit Union
  • Beth Livingston, faculty director of the Dore Emerging Women Leaders Program at the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa
  • Dawn Oliver Wiand, president and CEO, Iowa Women's Foundation
  • Toyia Younger, SVP for Student Affairs at Iowa State University
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