Plus, how to find your voice at work
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Good morning and happy Monday! We’ve got a packed edition today – let’s dive in.

  • Business Record Editor Emily Barske and I spent some time in Sioux City earlier this month talking with a group of women leaders and business owners. Our conversation was wide-ranging, so I figured I’d give you the highlights as if you were in the room with us.
  • In her latest "Leading Fearlessly" column, Business Publications Corp. President and CEO Suzanna de Baca gathered advice from five women across the state on how to find your voice in the workplace.
  • Later this month, we’re hosting a Fearless Focus virtual conversation on confidence. Join us on June 22 from noon to 1 p.m. – registration is free!
  • Following the shooting at Cornerstone Church in Ames earlier this month, Central Iowa-based Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support (ACCESS), which supports survivors of domestic and sexual violence, published a letter in the Iowa State Daily. We’re running an excerpt of that at the bottom of the newsletter.

Here’s hoping you have an energizing, fulfilling week!

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

Inspiring quotes and thoughts from Sioux City women
Top row, from left: Katie Roberts, Val Rose, Barbara Sloniker, Sydney McManamy, Stacie Anderson, Monique Scarlett. Bottom row, kneeling, from left: Cyndi Nelson, Peggy La. Photo by Emily Kestel.
Since the beginning of the Fearless initiative, we’ve been adamant about connection being one of its core values.

Women are often seen as the glue that holds communities together – but they often lack opportunities to sit at tables where decisions are made about how the communities they occupy – be it their city, workplace, school, club, etc. – should function.

When women are given the chance to be in a position where they can openly express their thoughts and opinions, change often happens. The best ideas come from sharing stories, experiences and thoughts with each other, and the team behind Fearless believes it’s our responsibility to provide opportunities to do so.

Earlier this month, Business Record Editor Emily Barske and I spent some time in Sioux City talking with several women leaders and business owners about women’s empowerment.

Here’s who we talked with:

Here are highlights from our conversation, where topics ranged from leadership, divvying up household responsibilities, mentorship and being involved in the community.

Scarlett: "I think most places and employers now are embracing more of the diversity, equity and inclusion piece. Embracing it is key for women — to empower us and make us feel like we have a part not just serving the table, but at the table."

McManamy: "There seems to be a shift where people went from not wanting to know anything about your personal life and not being willing to be flexible to now being a little more empathetic and understanding. … That’s helped women be able to do what they need to do, be active in the community and feel empowered to do that."

Sloniker: "You’re definitely seeing women in more leadership roles. You used to always see a man’s name at the top, and now you see women at the top or second in command. They’re making waves."

Nelson: "You see women who stand up and do something, which then inspires other women to think, ‘Maybe I could do something super powerful and impactful for the community.’ It snowballs."

Anderson: "Women are more naturally inclined to be nurturers. We’re communicators, we’re connectors. That’s been so desperately needed in the workplace. As leaders, we are capable of seeing all of the facets that women bring to the table, and I think we’re capable of more when we come at it as a whole."

Roberts: "I’ve had two babies while being a director. … During COVID, I had board members reaching out to me and instead of saying, ‘How long until you’re back from maternity leave,’ they said, ‘What do you need?’ There’s even been a shift as far as taking time off for sick kids. I’ve been in situations where [it’s assumed] the wife needs to take a kid to a doctor’s appointment or pick them up. At my husband’s previous employer, he was in sales. I’m a director. So it’s like, "Sorry, honey, you need to stay home with the kid. My job trumps your job."

Rose: "When I first got to the police department, there were only a handful of other female police officers. Now we have enough where we have our own trading card. … We’ve had those trailblazers that have blazed the path for us and have been that role model for us. … I just made chief master sergeant, which is the highest enlisted rank that you can get in the Air Force. It’s remembering where you came from and all the struggles you can and being a mentor for other women so they can be successful."

La: "I look up to my mom the most. She immigrated here in the '70’s and my parents started their business in the '80’s. Just because my dad can do something, my mom can do it too. When I was pregnant, she was like, ‘I could carry a 50-pound bag of rice when I was pregnant, so you can too.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not doing that.’ Back then was so different from now."

Scarlett: "Women are such natural leaders, because we are the ones that bring everything together, we carry things into the future."

Nelson: "I have two businesses, two kids, I’m on the Parks and Rec board and the Little League Board and the [parent-teacher organization]. My husband gets frustrated with me because I’ll complain about being busy [while I’m involved in all of those], but those are the things that fill my bucket. … I’m doing these things because I feel like it brings value and impact to the community, and maybe we’ll make a difference and my daughter can see that she can do it too."

Anderson: "It does seem like a lot of times it’s the women that really like to get their hands dirty and get in there and do a lot of that work."

Scarlett: "Women are far more sensitive, and we learn how to take that sensitivity and transition it into empowerment or power. As an African American mother, watching all of these killings, I have to make sure my community is safe. Women get the work done. Our brain never stops."

Finding your voice in the workplace
From left: Anindita Das, Veronica Guevara, RaQuisha Harrington, Niki Reynolds, Destinee Woodris.
When I first finished my MBA and began a career in financial services, I was often hesitant to offer my own opinion. Surrounded by many experienced and accomplished professionals, I frequently second-guessed my knowledge and held back in conversations. Over time, I developed confidence and found my own voice, but it wasn’t always easy.

It’s still not easy for many women to develop confidence. Research shows it may actually be getting more difficult for women to develop confidence specifically at work, which can affect our ability to advance. A recent study by Dress for Success and online women’s career community Fairygodboss that asked women how the last two years have affected their professional confidence found that 1 in 2 women do not feel confident at work, largely due to career and financial setbacks and doubts in their career prospects. Seventy-five percent of respondents of that study cited a lack of supportive environments, growth and development opportunities and professional networks.

With so many challenges happening today, how do we as women develop our confidence at work? How do we become more comfortable sharing or advancing our unique talents or advocating for ourselves?

I asked some fearless leaders: "What was a time you found your voice at work?"

Anindita Das, diversity, equity and inclusion strategist, College of Design, Iowa State University: Finding your voice at work comes with self-acceptance and valuing your self-worth, and it’s something I am still learning to do. It is not easy. This step comes from within us, and it is unique to us. I have also learned that this self-worth comes when I have acknowledged my failures and quiet the noise inside my own head that perpetuates self-defeating behaviors.

Veronica Guevara, director of equity and inclusion, ICADV, and president, Monarca Construction: A mentor once told me, "It’s not about you, it is about your message." Share your ideas and your voice. Even when you don’t feel ready, even when you feel unsure. Whether it’s about pitching an idea, negotiating your worth, or providing feedback on the organizational culture. You will either be heard or realize it’s time for a new opportunity.

RaQuishia Harrington, program supervisor, city of Iowa City: A time that I found my voice at work was while working with young women of color and having to advocate on their behalf about the importance of providing safe spaces – spaces where they could be their authentic selves and learn, laugh, share, and experience life freely and not feel judged. Where they could be among like-minded individuals of various ages who have or will face similar experiences. I found my voice to say: "This will save their lives. This will give them hope. This will reassure them that they are seen, are important and have so much to give to the world."

Niki Reynolds, executive director, Whiterock Conservancy: I invited the CEO to breakfast at a previous company to discuss my professional goals for the next three to five years. I shared that as I helped the organization grow, I wanted to grow too. I sought their advice and support to help achieve my goals. The conversation went well, and they knew what they’d have to do to keep me long-term.

Destinee Woodris, director of community engagement, Planned Parenthood North Central States: Central Washington University provided me the breakthrough I needed to find my professional voice as a Transfer Outreach and Engagement Advisor by advocating for transfer students. This breakthrough came after I challenged leadership to take a strengths-based team approach to increasing transfer receptivity and connection on campus, and that resulted in energizing efforts resulting in a fully functional Transfer Center.

Left: Pi515's Nancy Mwirotsi. Center: Carolina Panthers cheerleader Justine Lindsay. Right: Gymnast Simone Biles.
In the headlines
  • Pi515 founder and executive director Nancy Mwirotsi is this year’s recipient of the Business Record’s innovationENTREPRENEUR of the Year award. Mwirotsi started Pi515 in 2014 with the aim of empowering underserved youths to explore STEM fields.
  • Cheerleader Justine Lindsay made history when she joined the Carolina Panthers’ Topcats squad, becoming the first openly trans cheerleader in the NFL.
  • Approximately 90 women who say they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar, including Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, are seeking more than $1 billion from the FBI for failing to stop the doctor when it first received allegations against him.
  • Nearly 400,000 women entered the labor force in May, bumping up women’s workforce participation rate to 58.3%, just one point below their pre-pandemic rate. About 176,000 Black women, 135,000 Latinas and 134,000 Asian women joined the labor force month, compared with just 100,000 white women. All groups, however, experienced a spike in unemployment last month.
Worth checking out
What Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ has meant to women (New York Times). Why is dad so mad? (The Atlantic). It’s been 50 years. I am not ‘napalm girl’ anymore (New York Times Opinion).
Join us on June 22 from noon to 1 p.m. for a virtual conversation on confidence as part of our Fearless Focus event series.

From imposter syndrome to harmful effects of social media to social norms we learn as kids, women may be on a continuous journey to improving their confidence. Confidence can come in many forms – confidence in our bodies, confidence in our intellectual abilities, confidence in our ability to try something new, confidence in pursuing our goals – and they all affect one another. Confidence plays a role in whether we speak up when our voice isn’t being heard, whether we negotiate our salaries and whether we do something that’s outside our comfort zone. In this conversation, our speakers will talk about how we can empower ourselves or women we know in finding confidence in themselves as they work toward professional and personal goals. You’ll leave feeling energized with a better understanding of why confidence can at times be hard and strategies to inspire us to find ourselves worthy and in turn help others see that they are enough, too.

Our featured panelists are:

  • Cyndi Nelson - owner, Hawks Coffee Shop and Gypsy Soul Boutique
  • Gilmara Vila Nova Mitchell - director of diversity, equity and inclusion, IMT Insurance
  • Beth Shelton - CEO, Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa
  • Cheltzie Miller-Bailey - assistant director, Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success, Iowa State University
Letter: Acts of violence have no place in our communities
Editor's note: Business Record Editor Emily Barske is the board chair for ACCESS.

We are deeply saddened and angered following the tragic shooting at Cornerstone Church in Ames earlier this month. Our hearts are with the loved ones of Eden Mariah Montang and Vivian Renee Flores, the church community, the Iowa State and Ames communities and all those affected by the senseless loss of life.

The Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support (ACCESS) is here for our community. For those who are in shock and need a place for support with their grief after this tragedy, our victim advocates are available.

Violence has no place in our community — although it takes up entirely too much space. One in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes, according to the CDC. Our communities are unfortunately not immune. Last year, ACCESS served over 11,000 individuals, with over 5,000 of those residing in Story County.

We must speak out against power-based roles in relationships and toxic behavior that too often is normalized. We must recognize the importance of teaching children healthy habits because many of the learned behaviors of perpetrators are picked up as kids. We must support survivors and stop all forms of victim-blaming and place the blame back onto the perpetrators. We must speak up as bystanders and lend a hand. Violence affects everyone, and it’s up to each of us to play a role in keeping our communities safe.

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