Plus, an essay from an executive on experiencing domestic violence
 ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌
View as webpage, click here.
Good morning and happy Monday! I don’t know about you, but January felt like a year in itself, so I am happily welcoming February. And in terms of Fearless, a new month means a new topic, so for the next four weeks we’ll be focusing on health care. To start us off, I spoke with two women on the front lines of COVID-19 about how the pandemic is affecting them personally. We’re only including excerpts in the newsletter, but their full stories can be read on our website or in the print edition of the Business Record. We’re also running an essay from a business executive who is experiencing domestic violence, which is a pervasive issue that has been worsened by the pandemic.

A few more items of note before we dive into things:

  • If you haven’t taken our annual women’s survey, please do so. We welcome participation from all people. Feel free to pass it along to your friends and co-workers, too. The more responses, the better!  
  • We’ve updated our website to explain our core values and beliefs and encourage you to take a look. We also included an FAQ section that details our guest submission guidelines, our topic areas and stance on covering politics, and other things. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out.
  • If you weren't able to attend our Fearless Friday event last week, you can still watch Sen. Joni Ernst's and Rep. Cindy Axne's remarks. Be on the lookout for the recording of the event at

Have a great week!

-Emily Blobaum, Fearless contributing editor

P.S. Our email platform is having a small technical glitch this edition, so you may see a duplicate photo floating around in the newsletter somewhere. We tried fixing it, but it seems as though technology has won this battle. (Ugh.)

We are in more need of normalcy than anyone else’
Aneesa Afroze dons personal protective equipment outside of the pediatric intensive care unit, which was converted into a COVID unit after a surge in hospitalizations. Photo by Emily Blobaum.
Aneesa Afroze is the infectious disease consulting physician, president of medical staff and director for antimicrobial stewardship at MercyOne and is responsible for day-to-day medical staff issues and patient treatment planning. Here is part of her story, in her words.  

In two words, I am tired and exhausted. I can add a third word by saying that it’s depressing. There are times that you don’t know what’s helping and what’s not helping. Patients are crashing left and right. I have not seen so much death in the hospital in the 12 years that I’ve been working here.

When are we going to get real? We have a tragedy every day. If something happened and 2,000 people died, you’d remember that for ages. The death and the suffering that you’ve seen through all this will not be forgotten.

The hardest part is the enormous suffering you’re seeing for so many months. It’s heart-wrenching. Someone dying alone is the most depressing and frustrating part of this. We are vulnerable to whatever we see. We are supposed to be more resilient than normal people, but we are human beings, too.

In this midst of chaos and sense of responsibility and focusing on learning about this, you tend to forget yourself. There has been a lot of emotional instability among a lot of health care workers. We take all these things home. This affects our sleep. This affects us emotionally.

Certainly I think the best thing for us as colleagues is talking to each other. The few minutes we get to eat lunch with each other helps us unwind a bit. We try to elevate each other’s moods. Once in a while, we talk about our patients' experiences. Here and there we do shed a tear. But we are not made for that. We are supposed to be very resilient people, and we portray ourselves like that.

Administrative leadership have offered counseling. There are therapists we can anonymously talk to. There are videos that we can watch. They’ve sent out newsletters about meditation and yoga and what services are available for mental health, but I will honestly tell you we have no time for that. We have no time to pause and seek help for ourselves at this time.

‘There are still going to be some very difficult times ahead’
Sydney Leach in the emergency department at MercyOne Medical Center. Photo by Emily Blobaum.
Sydney Leach is an emergency department physician and associate director of the emergency department at MercyOne. She is also the medical director for the Johnston-Grimes Metro Fire Department, where she oversees medical protocols. Here is part of her story, in her words.

I’ve always been hopeful. I’ve never been super pessimistic. I’ve always felt like we are going to get through this eventually, it’s just a matter of when, and what cost. But there’s obstacles and barriers along the way, like how much we’re able to affect the public’s perception and get people to change their day-to-day lives. As things drag on for months, we have fatigue with dealing with how this virus has changed our lives.

The hardest part is treating patients who are younger and don’t have other medical conditions and seeing them suffer. There’s also the burden on the elderly population. There’s a whole generation of elderly patients that we’ve lost to this disease. My grandmother died of COVID; she was in her 90s. I wasn’t able to go and be with her or have an in-person funeral service.

There are still going to be some very difficult times ahead of us in the next few months, but I’ve always felt that this is just like running a marathon. You’ve got to keep a consistent pace. You don’t want to be out of the gate too fast. You don’t want to start sprinting to the finish line too soon.

I think we’re at mile 17. Hopefully we’re not going to hit the wall, where we run out of hospital resources throughout the country and then there would be nowhere else to care for patients. People in the ER have been worried about that all along. We mostly operate near capacity in a normal year anyway. We are always walking a fine line every winter when influenza pops up. We are always facing bed situations for patients in December through early March anyway, so this just adds a whole other level.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our goal with Fearless is to empower Iowa women to succeed in work and life. Sometimes that empowerment requires difficult conversations about issues that predominantly affect women and other underrepresented groups. This piece, written by an Iowa executive, shows the harsh reality of domestic violence.

Domestic violence (also referred to as intimate partner violence, dating abuse or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship, as defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Rarely do we publish pieces anonymously. Part of our journalistic integrity means making it clear where a story comes from. So we don’t take the decision to leave someone’s name out lightly. In this case, publishing the writer’s name could have put them in harm’s way. The writer is a business leader in our state, who does not publicly identify as a survivor of domestic violence. We felt anonymity should be granted in this piece because it shows how truly pervasive this issue is and how unaware we may be that someone in our lives is struggling with it.

We also felt compelled to share this piece at the beginning of February because there is often believed to be a spike in reports of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday. But the fact is, perpetrators of this form of power-based violence act at all times of the year and survivors come from all demographics, though statistics show women and other underrepresented folks are most likely to be victims.   

"There are spikes, but the fact is that [domestic violence] is pervasive and growing at all times, so it is not limited to one segment of our society, it is not limited to one time of year," said Mary Riedel, president and CEO of Women in Distress of Broward County, in an interview with the Miami Herald ahead of the 2020 Super Bowl, which was hosted in Miami. "It is pervasive. It happens every seven seconds."

The statistics about domestic violence were frightening before the coronavirus pandemic: 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience domestic violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And the pandemic has only made things worse as survivors are often forced to spend more time at home with their abuser. Perpetrators are taking advantage by further manipulating a survivor’s connections to the outside world and their financial resources.

If you’d like to learn more, I’d encourage you to read this New York Times piece outlining the challenges the pandemic has created for survivors of domestic violence and advocates providing victims services. If you are in need of help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit If you feel called to help, learn more about the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

– Emily Barske, Business Record editor

From the boardroom to a safe house: I'm a business professional surviving domestic violence
Photo credit: Getty Images.
At my best, my resilience is a steaming cup, brimming with hope and possibility, optimism and perseverance.  

But today I’m not at my best. I’m trying to survive.

Like the hum of conversation that has disappeared from coffee shop tables, so too has my resilience disappeared in this pandemic. Too many irons, too many fires. I stand in the dark driveway of a good Samaritan, before the rest of the world has woken up to the frosted wintry trees. It has an ethereal feel, sparkling branches stretching toward what’s left of the starry night. If your life cup were full this morning, I think you would see a moonlit Iowa winter wonderland. I can imagine it would look beautiful.  

I shuffle my feet, looking down. I hold the Rubbermaid tote, while The Helper – my friend, my peer – places a few more items inside. Paper towels, half a box of garbage bags, bleach. She asks me if I need utensils. My mind juggles the question. Do I? I’ve never been in a time crunch to think about what constitutes "basic essentials" in the cover of night. I don’t know what I’m eating for dinner. I have an empty spirit and empty cupboards. A "safe house," a rented apartment, an empty refrigerator. I’ve never had to think about my silverware, it’s always just been there, lined up dutifully in the drawer. What an unrealized privilege that was. I’m humbled exponentially by the hour at how hard this is.

Her breath billows into the frigid air, slowly evaporating into the darkness. Like my identity, my sense of who I am – or was – disappearing with each breath. It’s so hard to describe, the feeling of becoming a walking shell of a person, stuck between two realities. By day, I lead. By night, I shrink. I fill others with courage, I empty myself. If I can make my glow smaller, dimmer, I may not offend with my very presence. Her gloved hands work with speed. We both know I’m on a short clock before the world awakens.

There’s a stealthy element. In another situation we’d seem like warriors for a cause, subverting injustice for some greater good, high-fiving superheroes making the world better. On this frigid morning I’m simply one of the walking wounded, my heart, mind and future unsteady, receiving her strength. Fighting for my life and future, yes, but the fact that it’s shaped like a 12-pack of Charmin doesn’t feel heroic. It feels so sad.

I will have a different life when the sun comes up. A life that looks brighter, wrapped in perfectly lit headshots and accomplishments that spill out of my resume. Degrees and accolades. A fine portrait of a strong woman. The kind of woman who has a drawer full of clean, sharp cutlery.

I choke back tears thinking about it as I quickly close the trunk and thank her. I wonder for just a moment what she thinks of me. She once saw me speak, passionately moving an auditorium of captive listeners. I don’t remember anymore what it’s like to feel anything other than afraid and on guard. The foundation became weakened, the hardship of the world fracturing my defenses.

A person on a path to worldly success, completely lost on the inside. A person with the security of a wonderful job, struggling to find safety.

I drive to my safe house, my secret corner of the world, a place to breathe, to plan. The wobbly, icy stairs lead to a bolted door, protecting a vacant, third-floor apartment rental. Can seeds of hope really bloom in such a dark place? My thoughts pingpong toward my day ahead: budgeting, presentations, strategic discussions. Minimize, diffuse, accommodate. The dichotomy of being my best at work while being my most empty at home.  

I’m walking through the fire of domestic violence. Internal inferno, external smoke and mirrors. Emotional, verbal, and ultimately physical. With each stroke of debasing words, each brush of flesh, I lose a piece of myself. I try to rise, to apply my skills, the insights I bring to the marketplace, the empathy I bring to the staff, the accuracy I bring to the boardroom – but they can’t be forced to apply the complexities of people. If only the human wounds of shame and insecurity, defensiveness and anger could be healed with business solutions, an economic stimulus loan for trauma – a temporary reprieve of pain.

Until now my life has been one of opportunity, even privilege. Yet the emotional, logistical and financial barriers to safety now feel insurmountable. I can’t wrap my head around how to keep moving forward, or how other victims, people with fewer resources, ever have a chance of survival or escape. I want to throw them a life preserver, shout that I finally see the incredible hardship and offer each victim love, kindness or silverware. But I can’t shout today; my survival balances precariously on a thin veneer of wintry ice. I can only be still in my hope, whispering a plea of awareness.

Look hard for the walking wounded – even in unexpected places. See them, meet them where they are, forgive their shame, offer them support. From a hug to a donated box of housewares, you could be the life preserver.

I’m Jane Doe. You may know me from the podium, the coffee shop, the boardroom. I’m your neighbor, your peer, perhaps even your leader.

Left: Cloris Leachman. Center: Staci Bennett. Right: Rosalind Brewer.
In the headlines

Things worth consuming
Joe Biden made big promises to women on the campaign trail. Here’s what we can actually expect (The Lily). America, my emotional teenage girl, I love you (New York Times Opinion). Why Kamala Harris and ‘firsts’ matter, and where they fall short (New York Times). Nia Dennis rejected ‘cookie cutter’ white gymnastics. Now, her Black Lives Matter-inspired routine is going viral (The Lily). The ‘WandaVision’ creator on being a female storyteller in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Wall Street Journal). After a stillbirth, she says she suffered another blow: No paid leave (The Lily). Is the beauty industry glossing over disability? (Allure). The gender gap in negotiation may start very young (Psychology Today). Herman Miller CEO Andi Owen on the future of the workplace (New York Times). The women of Wikipedia are writing themselves into history (Glamour). The pandemic has derailed women’s careers and livelihoods. Is America giving up on them? (Fortune).
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