View as webpage, click here.
AUGUST 14, 2023
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Have you seen the "Barbie" movie yet? Are you sick of hearing about the "Barbie" movie yet? Don’t worry. I have a solid mix of news for you, with only one "Barbie" item.

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

  • A story with the best nuggets of wisdom and inspiration from our 2023 Women of Influence honorees.
  • A column by Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO of Business Publications Corp. – What skills are the most critical for up-and-coming leaders to acquire? Do you have those skills? Are you nurturing them among your staff?
  • A brief about a panel discussion on Iowa’s ongoing child care crisis being hosted by the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, on Aug. 24.
  • In the headlines: Sexual assault survivors will get free emergency contraceptive care in Polk County in the wake of a recent state decision to pause providing the service.
  • A break from the news: In the history of Hollywood, very few people — 28 to be precise, all men — have had the sole directing credit on a billion-dollar movie. Make that 28 men and one woman: Greta Gerwig, according to the New York Times.
  • I am still seeking photos of the Weird Barbies that live in your house! Please email me a photo and a brief sentence or two about her life to share with Fearless readers:

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

2023 Women of Influence: ‘A small stone thrown on an otherwise still pond creates big ripples’
The Business Record’s 2023 Women of Influence celebration at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown on Aug. 3 was an evening of networking, gratitude and reflection. The 10 honorees in the Business Record’s 24th Women of Influence recognition shared thoughts about the most important people and most important lessons in their lives.

You can find details about each honoree and video from the program here. A quick snippet from each speaker’s remarks is below.
Claudia Schabel, president of Schabel Solutions and the Iowa State University Ivy College of Business Woman Business Owner of the Year: "If you are a business owner, hats off to you. It’s not an easy endeavor. Our clients have put their faith in us. We wouldn’t have a business and I wouldn’t be the business owner of the year without our clients’ support. … To each of our clients, in the room tonight and beyond, for those that are watching this later: I am definitely thankful for your business. I’m honored to be with you on this journey in ensuring that your organization is more inclusive. When you invest in local businesses, you are creating a ripple effect. You are helping us influence and reinvest in our communities, and it’s priceless. I'm eternally grateful."
Shaimaa Aly, head of business assurance, Cards and Merchant Service at Wells Fargo, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines Emerging Woman of Influence: "I moved to this country over 20 years ago. I had a degree in economics and statistics, and over five years of experience in the financial industry. And I couldn’t get my foot through the door to work in any company. I worked in housekeeping jobs. I worked as a nanny. … We have immigrants here in this community doctors, lawyers, engineers who work as an Uber driver. Unutilized talent is a wasted resource here in Des Moines. So let’s do something about it. … As you put your head on your pillow, I want you to think of the challenges that you have faced in your life and what was your lesson learned from it, and please make an effort to ensure that it’s easier for other people who are going through it."
Barbara Quijano Decker, executive director of Catholic Charities in Des Moines: "My fundamental principle of giving back to others through mission and service is very key to me. Treating people with respect and dignity is very important, and particularly in the midst of conflict and challenge, as we experience today, it’s even more important to be humble. I invite you to share your own experiences and your own stories with our youth, with our young professionals, and others as role models, because each of us are role models. We want to give them hope."
Angela Jackson, senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for Athene: "How do you become a woman of influence in Iowa? For me, three things come to mind. Foundations, faith and fortitude. … Fortitude is courage, grit. I learned these lessons from my parents, from mentors and many others. I continue to try to lean into them this day: fortitude, staying the course, running a race, cleaning the toilet, making the calls, coaching, speaking up against injustice, and encouraging others to do their best. Especially when times are difficult, people may not appreciate your diverse, inclusive approach. However, just remember, have fortitude to keep pressing forward, no matter what."
Lisa Shimkat, state director for America’s Small Business Development Centers Iowa: "True friends are like stars, brightening our darkest nights and celebrating our brightest moments. Their presence adds richness and meaning to our journey, making the road less daunting and the joys more joyful. To my friends, old and new, who are seated out here tonight, thank you for being by my side, for your support, your encouragement and most of all, the laughter."
Laura Sweet, vice president and chief operating officer for Des Moines Performing Arts: "I’m at my core someone who likes recognizing and making connections. We all have more connections in common than you think. And in a world that can be pretty divisive, I think connections matter more than ever. … For anyone who knows me, you know that if we find ourselves in a social situation, I’m very likely to stop what we’re doing, grab two people, two humans that don’t know each other that I know, to make sure they know what they have in common. Making connections is what fills my cup."
Terri Vaughan, professional director of the Emmett J. Vaughan Institute of Risk Management and Insurance at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business: "I had the chance to attend the celebration of life for a friend and former colleague last Saturday morning, the definition of a loving professor at Drake University. Deb mentored students, she worked with them to build and support a medical facility in Uganda. She supported and mentored young leaders in Africa. And she always lifted people up, including me, when I was the dean at Drake. Her name is known across Africa. But she did her work quietly, not seeking recognition. She and so many other women are women of influence. And so while I’m honored to be recognized here, I am also humbled because I think of so many others who deserve this recognition. So lastly, let me take this opportunity to offer my kudos and thanks to all the wonderful women in this state who are working quietly to make us better and lift us up to better things."
Maria Volante, president of Volante Consulting: "We celebrate these women today for these big, bold and beautiful things that they’ve done. What I would add, though, is tonight’s honorees also are the epitome of the little things they do and how those aggregate to big things. It’s Terri’s awesome big laugh. It’s how Barbara and Shaimaa really create change in the communities that they serve. Mary and Angela have paved the way for so many women that have come before and after them. It’s Lisa’s vulnerability, if you read her article that she shared with us. It’s Kim’s warm laugh and warm smile. It’s Laura Sweet’s love notes that you get. It’s Claudia’s awesome hugs. It’s the little things that these women do that add up. A small stone thrown on an otherwise still pond creates big ripples."
Mary Wells, Polk County treasurer and co-founder of Investing in My Future Inc.: "Day-to-day, you don't realize how you impact or imprint what you’re making a difference to and who you’re making a difference for. You just don’t know, when you’re making those encounters, who’s watching. So I encourage each of you to move throughout your day being considerate, knowing you are impacting someone. Smile, be gracious, be thankful; you don’t know what they’re going through. I just ask that you let all your interactions be positive, and make positive impressions on whoever you encounter."
Kim Willis, a community champion: "A few weeks ago, we heard a sermon that was kind of funny. It was entitled, ‘Aspire to Inspire Before You Expire.’ … It made me think about, well, I better do some more things before I expire. And what it’s all about is encouraging everyone every day, whether it’s helping a child to read. Maybe that’s what one of you or five of you are doing. Maybe you’re being nice to the lady at the grocery store, she’s 17 and she just needs someone to be kind."
Leading Fearlessly: What are the most critical skills for up-and-coming leaders?
Did you know that companies that develop a strong bench of leaders are six times more likely to engage and retain top talent than organizations that do not?
That finding was reported in a new 2023 Global Leadership Forecast conducted by consulting firm DDI, which showed developing high-potential leaders is a critical step in retaining them and preparing them to advance – which all contribute to overall company performance.

Many organizations report major challenges with finding talent overall, and identifying and retaining leaders is equally difficult. A recent Forbes article says, "The primary culprit behind leadership shortages is that the intense labor market is hindering companies from retaining or developing enough capable younger leaders." Once you do find emerging leaders, the DDI research indicates it is important to let these team members know you value them, provide training and development and show them a potential career path.

But what skills are the most important to develop? The DDI survey asserts that the five most critical skills for emerging leaders to master are: Identifying and developing future talent, strategic thinking, managing successful change, decision-making and prioritization and influencing others. Skills assessments, coaching from internal or external coaches and training from qualified instructors are all cited as being important to leaders on the rise.

While these represented the point of view from an employer perspective, I turned to several local up-and-coming leaders for their thoughts. I asked these leaders to share one leadership skill they feel is critical for up-and-coming leaders to develop in order to be successful, and for a time when they realized how important this skill was for leadership advancement. While their insights aligned with DDI’s research, many commented on skills involving emotional intelligence. Here is what they had to say.

Lacy Covarrubias, senior vice president, treasury management, Community State Bank:

One critical leadership skill: Give grace. Learn how to offer grace and avoid creating narratives around truths. It is essential to know when to step back and reflect rather than make assumptions with your staff and team members. This will allow you to gain people’s trust and respect while modeling that you understand there is more to everyone’s day than what happens at work. This also encourages less drama in the workplace because team members take into consideration what they could’ve done differently rather than placing blame during conflicts.

Her experience and advice: I’ve had several instances when I’ve seen this skill come into play. I was once an impatient leader. I was stubborn, neglected to find positive intent, and made assumptions that certain people "didn’t want to work that hard" or "didn’t care." Through valuable mentorship, I began reflecting on the possibility that I may have not done my part in being a clear communicator, outlining fair expectations, actively listening or taking enough interest in their lives outside of the office. There’s nothing more important than checking in with your team. When I start to see lapses in performance, I’ve learned to stop thinking that it’s intentional. Instead, I sit down with my staff and learn what their ideal vision is. I find that perhaps there are outside influences making an impact, or maybe we don’t have them on the right career path. You can retain a lot of good people on your team, and within your organization, by truly investing in them and practicing effective communication.

My team has experienced the loss of grandparents, parents, spouses and children. To watch how grace and compassion work through us and how we wrap our arms around each other in these moments, expecting nothing in return, is incredible. Continuing to coach this skill, outside of tragedy, is also crucial to our success as a high-performing team.  

Developing this skill of practicing grace requires focus on emotional intelligence. It’s a skill that will accompany you throughout your career and advancement. Whether you are new to your career, managing a team, networking or presenting to a board of directors, this approach is projected and seen by those around you.  

Janae Gray, vice president of marketing and supplier diversity, Mittera:

One critical leadership skill: Get comfortable with ambiguity. As our world continues to move rapidly, we are experiencing multifaceted challenges. It’s crucial to get comfortable with ambiguity to truly foster adaptive thinking skills as a path forward in successful leadership. By identifying and responding to change indicators, we can quickly analyze and provide valuable out-of-the-box solutions, allowing us to thrive through challenges and create opportunities for tomorrow. Acknowledging our own limitations and allowing room for vulnerability allows us to connect with diverse perspectives of others, which drives collective innovation and progress. By owning our adaptive skills, we can create cultural shifts that will fundamentally embrace learning, complexity and resilience.

Her experience and advice:  Nothing is a death sentence if you can be adaptive. As a marketing professional, there is always something new lurking around the corner. I learned early on in my career that disruptions are inevitable, especially in the marketing space. Acknowledging that one can’t be the expert at everything was essential in my ability to adapt and cross-pollinate enterprise-wide changes and solutions. For me, disruptions have become opportunities to do things differently than how you do them today or how it performed last time. To remain resilient and ahead of those disruptions, we must get uncomfortable.  

Getting uncomfortable is a good thing. Doing things that are unfamiliar lays the groundwork for transformation by prioritizing growth. While trying new ideas and solutions may not always bring success, you will always learn something new as opposed to if you’d taken the known route. Embracing that vulnerability is what truly opens the door to adaptive thinking. To me, it is also a key trait that fosters team growth and allows individuals to be curious and to challenge the conventional way. With disruption always in sight, adaptive thinking and leadership allows you to remain flexible and resilient to whatever is around the corner.

Laura Lopez, Spanish basic digital skills instructor, Principal Financial Group and Evelyn K. Davis Center:

One critical leadership skill: Show initiative. One leadership skill I feel is critical for up-and-coming leaders to develop in order to be successful is initiative. Having initiative will help create opportunities. Sometimes one is waiting for the right time to start something, but the right time is now. Either we win or we learn. We have to learn to always be ready for when opportunities come but we also have to be willing to seek opportunities. This is something I struggled with but after taking initiative, I have realized that it has a big impact in our personal and professional development.

Her experience and advice: An example of a time where I showed initiative was when I ran for vice president of events for the Student Activities Council at DMACC Urban campus in 2015-16. I did not have experience serving on a board, so I didn’t know if I was ready, but I still went for it. I had to get out of my comfort zone, but it was worth it because I grew and gained many other skills. I also had the support of the former board members and other leaders who always believed in me and pushed me. Mentorship helped me take initiative in many things. I knew I had others around me who were supporting me and I wanted to make them proud because I was grateful that they believed in me. Three of the ladies who empowered me during those years were Norma Perez, Marcela Hermosillo-Tarin and Laura Douglas. Later, I started to be involved in student organizations. This opened many doors for me, built my leadership skills and confidence, and helped me overcome obstacles I faced as a first-generation, Latina college student.

I am currently at Principal Financial Group, where I am on the steering committee for its Hispanic Latino Employee Resource Group. A piece of advice I would give is to look for mentors or people who will uplift you, challenge you, inspire you and push you to get out of your comfort zone. I have had the privilege to meet many amazing people who are willing to mentor me, including Wanda Mejia, Eric Idehen, Semsa Dedic, Miriam Lewis and others. Another piece of advice I would give is to do something that scares you or that you have been thinking about doing but don’t feel ready. Nothing is impossible. Another thing I’d like to share was that as of this month, I am officially a first-time homeowner. The thought of buying a home was scary, and I thought I wasn’t ready but I went for it and have officially bought my first home. I will also be starting my MBA at Iowa State University next month.

Kathleen McGuire, director, finance and capital markets, Invenergy

One critical leadership skill:
Communication. We have all heard it before: Communication is key to leadership success. As someone just starting out, asking questions and building relationships creates an opportunity to learn and an incredible foundation to build upon. Then, being able to provide succinct responses and effective presentations allows others to clearly understand the direction they are headed. Also, we can’t forget that listening is a significant part of communication so it is important to really leverage that to understand those around you.

Her experience and advice:  As an introvert, I realized early on in my professional career that if I was going to achieve the goals and dreams that I had for myself, I had to increase my communication level and skills. I had to get outside of my comfort zone and start communicating and that meant more than just sending emails. This can be a daunting task for introverts because my energy would be drained just by thinking about a conversation I needed to have or a question I needed to ask. What I realized is that I needed to practice, to flex that muscle. Something that was particularly challenging for me was speaking up or asking questions in meetings, especially if there were leadership team members present. A mentor that I had knew this about me, but also recognized if I could overcome this, then everyone would see my potential. To overcome my nerves, we would prepare for the meetings together and make sure I was actually over-prepared. This gave me the confidence to speak up and ask questions. Over time, this became part of my meeting preparation process, and I became much more confident in my abilities. I also showed people around me that I had good ideas, intuition and an understanding of what was going on. Now, it’s just a natural part of my day to day.

Getty Images
In the headlines
Polk County to pay for rape victims’ emergency contraception: Victims of sexual assault and rape will get free emergency contraceptive care in Polk County in the wake of a recent state decision to pause providing the service. The Polk County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 8 voted unanimously to provide free services to victims of those crimes, which includes emergency contraception like Plan B and in rare cases, abortion, that had previously been paid for by the state, according to the Des Moines Register. The move comes a few weeks after Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird said she is still reviewing whether to permanently halt the longstanding practice of providing the free services to victims.

New protections for pregnant workers: Pregnant workers or those who recently gave birth would be entitled to new on-the-job accommodations — including longer, more frequent breaks, schedule changes, teleworking privileges and temporary job restructuring — under new employee protections proposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Aug. 7. The proposal would set baseline terms for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, new civil rights legislation signed into law in December, according to the Washington Post. It prohibits employers from denying opportunities to workers or job applicants because of medical conditions caused by pregnancy or childbirth. Examples of accommodations include allowing sitting or standing on the job, schedule changes, part-time work, modifying equipment or uniforms, or temporarily suspending core job functions for up to 40 weeks, among other changes.

New FDA-approved postpartum depression pill: The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first pill for treating postpartum depression, a potentially life-threatening condition that affects hundreds of thousands of new parents across the U.S. each year. Manufacturers Sage Therapeutics and Biogen Inc. say the drug, Zurzuvae (zuranolone), will be commercially available in the fourth quarter of this year, which could be as soon as October, according to Iowa Public Radio. The pill — to be taken once a day for 14 days — has shown promising results in two company studies, with some patients seeing benefits after just three days. That is considerably faster than other antidepressants and much less invasive than the only other FDA-approved postpartum depression treatment on the market, which is also from Sage. It’s delivered through IV during a 60-hour, $34,000 process.

Iowa woman zeros in on Latina health, fitness: Paola Victoria Juarez is a fitness trainer with more than 202,000 followers on Instagram. Juarez is a resident of Muscatine, Iowa, who grew up in Venezuela. As a 15-year-old, Juarez found her passion in the weight room. In a country where most girls preferred dance, Juarez fell in love with pumping iron and lifting barbells. She immigrated to the U.S. at age 21 and got married. In Iowa, she sees firsthand some of the challenges her Latina clients face, according to Hola Iowa News. One of the biggest challenges is learning to make themselves and their health a priority, Juarez said. Many feel cultural pressure as women, mothers and Latinas to cook meals their families enjoy, often ignoring what they themselves need for nutrition. Juarez said she wants to help more Latinas turn that around. "You have to begin by loving yourself so you can pour love into those around you," Juarez said.

Worth checking out
The tragedy of being a new mom in America (Wall Street Journal). Where ‘No one wanted girls,’ a Dad in India takes on the patriarchy (New York Times). The protests inside Iran’s girls’ schools (the New Yorker). Asian American workers could be the most heavily affected by AI (NBC). A burnout in Korea, she’s a superstar in Latin America (New York Times). Simone Biles back on top with all-around win at the 2023 U.S. Classic (
Community Foundation to host discussion about Iowa’s child care challenges on Aug. 24
The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines will host a panel discussion about Iowa’s ongoing child care crisis from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 24 at the Science Center of Iowa.

With a shortage of more than 350,000 child care spots for children in Iowa, the lack of access to quality, affordable child care is not just a problem for parents, it has become a crisis for communities, the Community Foundation said in a news release. Despite the challenges, when investments are made in creative solutions, a more sustainable workforce is created, families are better positioned for financial security and children make strides in educational and social development to ensure they enter school equipped to thrive, the organization said.

Topics will include child care challenges, the impact on the workforce and on families, potential solutions and innovative ideas.

The panelists are:
  • Deann Cook, president and CEO, Iowa Women’s Foundation
  • Rob Burnett, vice president of science learning, Science Center of Iowa
  • Dave Stone, advocacy officer, United Way of Central Iowa
  • Ryan Page, director of child care, Iowa Department of Health and Human Services
  • Mu Da Paw, community resource navigator, Lutheran Services in Iowa

Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. The program will take place from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., with an optional tour from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration information can be found
The statistic that will make you squeeze Barbie’s tiny, plastic hand
The Business Record’s newsroom remains divided over Barbie.

There is one staff member who is considering purchasing a tie-dyed "I am Kenough" sweatshirt. At least one holdout has declined to see the "Barbie" movie, citing a dislike of anything popular and also general suspicion: Barbie. Really?

There are many contemporary women who didn’t want their daughters to own Barbie dolls, who resisted Barbie and her pink world, concerned about stereotypes, excessive consumerism, body-image issues, diet culture and harmful gaffes that Mattel and its main lady made in the past. (Mattel produced a Black "Oreo Barbie." There was also Teen Talk Barbie, who famously said, "Math class is tough!")

I was in that anti-Barbie group of parents, briefly. I gave my daughter Lottie dolls over Barbie when she was very young. I thought Lottie, who is a little girl, represented a realistic childhood better than Barbie.

Then my sister gave my daughter a gymnastics Barbie who could do authentic giant swings around a Barbie-sized bar. I caved quickly.

Some women have trust issues with Barbie, and that is understandable. But no matter where you fall, there is one statistic that will make you squeeze Barbie’s tiny, plastic hand.

According to the New York Times, in the history of Hollywood, "very few people — 28 to be precise, all men — have had the sole directing credit on a billion-dollar movie. Make that 28 men and one woman: Greta Gerwig."

Gerwig and the "Barbie" movie smashed a glass ceiling.

Brooks Barnes of the New York Times wrote, "‘Barbie’ once again disproved a stubborn Hollywood myth: that "girl" movies — films made by women, starring women and aimed at women — are limited in their appeal. An old movie industry maxim holds that women will go to a ‘guy’ movie but not vice versa."

The movie is also prompting charity, including in Iowa. A Grinnell family donated a collection of 475 Barbies and 95 Hallmark Barbie ornaments to the Ronald McDonald House of Des Moines, according to They appear to be all new, still-in-the-box, and will be auctioned off to benefit the nonprofit.

Somehow, I ended up on team Barbie. I’ve been trying to track down the Barbie movie dolls, which are seemingly sold out everywhere. Well, except for Ken. He is available.

Do you have thoughts about the "Barbie" movie? Send me an email:

– 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!

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 group publisher of BPC:
Contact Fearless staff writer:
Submit press release:
Advertising info:
Membership info:

Copyright © BPC 2023, All rights reserved.
Reproduction or use without permission of editorial or graphic content in any manner is strictly prohibited.

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign