2022 women in the headlines, tips on confidence
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DECEMBER 26, 2022
Good morning and happy Monday!

It’s the last edition of the year, so before we dive headfirst into 2023, we took a look back at the historic gains, milestones and achievements of women in 2021. You’ll find a non-exhaustive but still impressive list of women who made headlines below.

We’ve also got a guest opinion piece from Golden Openings President Kimberly Baeth that features tips on confidence, an empowerment activity and the latest news on MacKenzie Scott’s charitable giving.

Have a great week! Here’s hoping 2023 is a year filled with understanding, learning, joy and of course, fearlessness.  

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

2022 year in review for women’s and gender issues
Clockwise, from top left: Queen Elizabeth II, Serena Williams, Elizabeth Holmes, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Amber Heard, Sheryl Sandberg, Zara Rutherford, Giorgia Meloni, Cmdr. Billie Farrell, Brittney Griner, Nancy Pelosi, Michaela Jae Rodriguez.
2022 was a newsy year across the board. The war in Ukraine broke out. The queen of England died. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. There was a historic midterm election. Inflation surged. Elon Musk took over Twitter. There were multiple mass shootings, including at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo.

It’s always good practice to take stock of where we’re at, so we can continue to move forward. In doing so, we revisited the top headlines featuring women’s accomplishments, setbacks and experiences in 2022.

Below is a noncomprehensive list of headlines, broken out by topic.

Business and finance

A record number of women are at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. With 44 CEOs heading the country’s largest companies, women now run 8.8% of businesses on the 2022 list, up from 8.2% last year, when women led 41 of the 500 companies.

Women’s faces appeared on quarters for the first time, including those of actress Anna May Wong, writer Maya Angelou and astronaut Sally Ride. A newly minted $5 bill was signed for the first time ever by two women.

Sheryl Sandberg stepped down as chief operating officer of Meta, Facebook’s parent company. Sandberg, who has positioned herself as a champion of women in the workplace, said she would be leaving Facebook to spend more time with her family and on her philanthropic work.

Politics, law and government

Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. There are now four women on the bench – Jackson, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayeor and Amy Coney Barrett – for the first time.

For the first time in the state’s history, two women were the major party nominees for Iowa governor: Deidre DeJear and incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds, who ultimately won reelection.

Several women "firsts" were elected this year, including Mary Petola, the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress, Maura Healy and Tina Kotek as the first openly lesbian governors, and Becca Balint as the first openly LGBTQ person to serve in the U.S. House. Other states elected their first female governors, including Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas.

Several countries are being led by women for the first time: Katalin Novak in Hungary, Xiomara Castro in Honduras, Giorgia Meloni in Italy and Dina Boularte in Peru.

Six nations can claim at least 50% female representation in their parliaments: New Zealand, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates.

Nancy Pelosi, the first and only woman to serve as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced she would step down from party leadership.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, which had federally guaranteed the right to an abortion since 1973.

Iranians protested the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in custody of the morality police days after being arrested for not wearing her hijab properly.

Lillie Miller became the first Black woman to be a major at the Des Moines Police Department.

Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty on four counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud against investors, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

WNBA star Brittney Griner was released from Russian detention in a swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Griner had been in Russian custody after being accused of entering the country with illegal vape cartridges.


Grand View University named Rachelle Keck as its 14th president, making her the first woman to hold the position. Wartburg College also appointed its first female president: Rebecca Neiduski.  


Iowa became the 34th state to sanction high school girls wrestling.

An LA-based studio launched the Women’s Sports Network, a 24-hour television channel devoted to covering female athletes.

For the second straight Winter Olympics in a row, the majority of the medals won by the United States at the 2022 Beijing Olympics were earned by women.

Transgender girls and women are no longer able to play on girls’ and women’s teams at Iowa K-12 schools and colleges, after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed H.F. 2416 into law.

The NFL announced it will expand the Rooney Rule to include women as part of the external minority candidate pool. The rule mandates that all 32 teams must interview at least two women and/or persons of color when seeking to fill prominent positions.

The Des Moines school district hired its first female football coach. Renate Rice is an assistant coach for East High School.

The Las Vegas Raiders hired Sandra Douglass Morgan as their president, making her the first Black woman to serve as president of a National Football League team.

Tennis legend Serena Williams retired from the sport this year, focusing her efforts on her venture capital firm and growing her family.

Media and cultural affairs

Michaela Jaé Rodriguez took home the award for best television actress in a drama series, making her the first trans woman to win a Golden Globe.

Jane Campion won best director at the Academy Awards, making her the first woman to be nominated for best director twice, and marking the first time women have won the prize in consecutive years.

"Turning Red" director Domee Shi became the first woman with a sole directing credit in Pixar history.

Victoria’s Secret signed Puerto Rican model Sofia Jirau, making her the first model with Down syndrome to join the brand.

Actress Amber Heard lost her defamation case against her ex-husband, actor Johnny Depp. Heard had published an opinion piece about being a victim of sexual violence.

Science and technology

Zara Rutherford made history by becoming the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.

When SpaceX launched four NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in May, it was the first time a crew was composed equally of men and women. It also marked the first time that a Black woman entered into a long-term spaceflight. Later in the year, NASA launched a crew aboard the SpaceX Dragon, including mission commander Nicole Aunapu Mann, who is the first Native American woman to travel into space.


Cmdr. Billie Farrell became the first woman to command the USS Constitution.

Linda Fagan became the first female officer to lead a branch of the American armed forces when she swore in as commander of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Iowa National Guard Lt. Col. Martha Kester became the "co-first" female state chaplain in the country’s National Guard alongside Lt. Col. Heather Simon of the New Jersey National Guard.
Turning a ‘good idea’ into your life’s work
Plus, 10 tips on confidence
While I worked as the member services director at the North Hennepin Chamber of Commerce in suburban Minneapolis, I discovered there was no such thing as giant working scissors. Ribbon-cuttings existed but there was no magic behind them.

While working at the chamber, I had received countless phone calls from new businesses asking if I could provide a press release about an upcoming event, design an ad, or get them a cake, flowers, or hundreds of other things that it takes to make a grand opening happen. Unable to do these things under my current job description, I presented an idea to the chamber board of directors for a program that would have provided these services, but it was rejected because of lack of resources and staff.

I started my business, Golden Openings, in 1997 after I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter. The fear and anxiety set in as I contemplated quitting my job, but I knew I could make this small business dream really grow and happen.

I thought briefly to myself, this was an awful time to start a business, being in a brand-new house, having a new husband and now pregnant. Was I nuts? No, I was just a girl who decided to go for it because it was a good idea.

I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited. The world needed my services. I couldn’t stop myself. I couldn’t think of one reason not to do it. It fired my ignition and worked in the opposite way. The fear was on fire.

When I gave birth to my first daughter, Stephanie, three weeks earlier than expected on Oct. 1, 1997, it was impossible to change my small business’s schedule to accommodate the baby’s schedule. With dozens of people in attendance and weeks of planning behind me, the grand openings and ribbon-cuttings I had organized for local businesses had to go on. My husband and I arrived at one on the way home from the hospital, still wearing the little plastic bracelets.  

Even with a newborn, I worked feverishly to grow Golden Openings Inc. I breastfed from bathrooms, brought her in her carrier to city council and chamber meetings, worked harder and longer and pushed on.

And that "good idea" turned into over 2,500 products and services, allowing me to work with some of the most recognizable organizations in the world: Oprah, Disney, the White House, Facebook, Tesla, Walmart, Google, Amazon, Dunkin’ and more.

Every day, I still wake up excited to help the world open their doors in style. Today is a good day to start believing the best about yourself, whether you are 23 years old or 80 years old.

How to find your confidence
Writing this article takes me back in time to May 1989 when I spoke at my high school graduation, at Marshalltown High School, but I find that the same messages still ring true, even after all these years.

Gaining confidence in yourself is as simple as ABC – Always Be Confident!

A is for all of you. As Fearless readers, we all have more in common than you think, whether we are a 23-year-old who just graduated from college, or a retired 80-year-old woman. For example, we all want to set New Year’s goals, feel empowered, elevate each other and have a memorable 2023.

B is for a new beginning. Today will mark a new beginning in how you choose to view challenges in your own lives and tackle them differently. Believe in yourself. Be bold. Be brave. Be you! Gandhi said, "Man often becomes what he believes himself to be."

C is for convincing all of you that you can have a new mindset. Your self-concept is the core of your personality. That is, the way you feel about yourself affects every aspect of human behavior; your ability to learn, the capacity to grow, and the choice of friends, mates and careers.

Careers – isn’t that a scary word that begins with C. What do you want to be when you grow up? Before you become what you want to be, you are going to have to take that leap. Jump off the cliff and figure it out on the way down. Really go for it. Life is short.

If it means starting or excelling with a small business or advancing along the corporate path, the time is now, and you can make it happen. Are you content with the status quo? If you answered "yes," you may be missing a great opportunity. If you answered "no," you have some fantastic possibilities ahead of you. A challenge is only as good as its rules, and how well we play the game is defined by how well we follow the rules.

In the headlines
A book co-authored by University of Iowa associate professor Beth Livingston was named as one of Forbes’ 10 Best Business Books of 2022. "For too long, white and black women have been divided," the magazine said of "Shared Sisterhood: How to Take Collective Action for Racial and Gender Equity at Work." (Read our Q&A with Livingston and co-author Tine Opie).

Harvard University has appointed Claudine Gay as its 30th president, making her the first person of color and the second woman to hold the role.

A new report by the Commonwealth Fund found the rates of mothers and newborn babies dying during pregnancy, at birth or postpartum are much higher in states that currently ban or restrict abortions, compared with states that have preserved access. States that have restricted access to abortion services had maternal death rates in 2020 that were 62% higher than in states preserving access to abortion services. Between 2018 and 2020, the maternal death rate increased twice as fast in states that now have abortion restrictions.

The Taliban has placed a ban on university education for Afghan women. Responding to the ban, the International Rescue Committee said: "The closure of universities to women and girls is a chilling step backwards for Afghanistan. There are no two ways about it: Women must be allowed to work and to move freely, and girls must be allowed to continue to go to school."

Worth checking out
The wisest insights we heard from women leaders in 2022 (Fortune). Pictures of 2022 (USA Today). Iowa Native communities combat crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women (Iowa Public Radio). Life-altering lessons about work and life from 2022 (Charter). Amna Nawaz is stepping into history at PBS, and she hopes to make room for others like her (The 19th).
MacKenzie Scott publishes complete list of philanthropic giving
Billionaire MacKenzie Scott has donated more than $14 billion to nonprofits across the world in the last three years.

Recently, her team published a website that contains details about her philanthropic work and includes a database of all the donations she’s made since 2020.

According to the website, called Yield Giving, Scott has given more than $40 million to nine organizations that have operations in Iowa. Those organizations are: Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill Industries of the Heartland, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands, Easterseals Iowa, Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois, Northeast Iowa Community College, YWCA of the Quad Cities, Four Oaks Family and Children’s Services, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa.

After divorcing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019, Scott signed on to the Giving Pledge, a promise made by the world’s richest people to give away the majority of their wealth to charitable causes. Scott is currently worth more than $21 billion.

Scott has also announced she will allow nonprofits to apply to receive funding from her in the future through an online application, though the website does not provide specifics on timing.

Empower Flowers activity
When youths feel positively about themselves, they are more likely to make healthy decisions. The Young Women’s Resource Center’s Empower Flower exercise is one example of how they encourage participants to relate to their bodies in a positive way.

This activity practices two key components that are rooted in empowerment: choice and agency. For example, a prompt may ask you to identify one thing that makes you feel strong or your favorite part of your body. Each person’s answer will be unique because empowerment looks different for everyone.

This is why the YWRC takes an individualized approach to help girls and young women build critical skills, including positive decision-making, goal-setting and self-care.

While created initially for YWRC participants, the YWRC Empower Flower activity gives an opportunity for all of us to identify and honor the power we hold within ourselves.

Take a moment to print out and complete this DIY YWRC Empower Flower (designed for the YWRC by local artist Laura Palmer) or build your own using the Empower Flower as a guide.

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