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MAY 28, 2024
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Yesterday was Memorial Day, a time to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice serving in the armed forces.

Second Lt. Ruth Gardiner was the first Army Air Force flight nurse killed in a combat theater, and she was one of 17 flight nurses who died during World War II. "Some people think women were ‘just’ nurses during World War II," retired Brig. Gen. Carol Eggert said in 2019. "They played important roles and in some ways may not have always been given their rightful place in history." Read this MSNBC story about four other women who died while serving.

In this week’s Fearless e-newsletter, you will find:

  • The announcement of the Business Record’s Women of Influence, our annual awards that honor remarkable women in the Des Moines area.
  • I wrote a column for Mental Health Awareness Month about a key to relaxation: unplugging.
  • In the headlines: In honor of yesterday being Memorial Day, we’re sharing a story from April about a group of women from Mt. Pleasant who have now stitched 500 Quilts of Valor for local veterans.
  • In case you missed it: Iowa Safe Schools and Project Rainbow of Iowa announced a pride flag partnership.
  • Lots more!

– Emily Barske Wood, Business Record special projects editor

Business Record announces 2024 Women of Influence honorees
Last week, the Business Record announced the 2024 Women of Influence during a live broadcast on Facebook. Watch the announcement.

The Business Record's Women of Influence awards celebrate the work of Central Iowa women who have made a difference. They've devoted their lives to doing things most wouldn't and to making an impact. They've spent countless hours on various initiatives, working on major issues, and blazing a trail either personally or professionally for other women to follow.

Full profiles on each of the honorees will be published in the July 19 edition of the Business Record, and we’ll be honoring the women in person at an event on Aug. 1. While general admission sales don’t open until July, you can see details on the event and corporate table opportunities below.

Join us in congratulating this inspiring group of women!

Women of Influence:
  • Rona Berinobis, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility, organizational development and internal communications, Athene USA
  • Monica Chavez-Silva, vice president for community engagement and strategic planning, Grinnell College
  • Jean Duffy, senior vice president and principal, CapTrust
  • Miriam Erickson Brown, chair and CEO, Anderson Erickson Dairy
  • Jann Freed, owner and leadership development consultant, Jann E. Freed LLC
  • Myrna Johnson, executive director, Iowa Public Radio
  • Rachelle Keck, president, Grand View University
  • Deidre Williams, vice president of organizational effectiveness, EMC Insurance

Iowa State University Ivy College of Business Woman Business Owner of the Year:
Melissa Ness, founder and CEO, Connectify HR

Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines Emerging Woman of Influence:
Jenna Knox, foundation director, Mission Cancer + Blood

Event details
Women of Influence Awards
Date: Aug. 1, 2024
Location: Des Moines Marriott Downtown
Time: 4-7 p.m.

Join us to celebrate our Women of Influence in August! Purchase a corporate table package to celebrate an honoree, which will enable you and your business to fully engage in recognizing the honorees while supporting this group’s accomplishments live in the room. In addition, your company will have an ad presence in the special edition of the Business Record that features the honorees on July 19 and digitally through the month of August.

General admission tickets for the event go on sale in July (no reserved tables outside of corporate packages will be available).

If you are interested in purchasing a corporate table for the event, please fill out the form and you will be contacted by a representative on our team.

Secure your sponsorship by June 28. There are a limited number of tables that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact your sales representative or Lynne Belknap at if you have additional questions.

Learn more about the awards, our Aug. 1 celebration event and past honorees at

Column: For the sake of your mental health, prioritize unplugging
Getty Photos.
I’ve gotten a massage each month since the beginning of 2023. That’s when I signed up for a membership at a local spa to help me with relaxation – something I’m absolutely terrible at. At my last appointment, before getting started, the massage therapist asked me to take a deep breath in.

As the air flowed out of my nostrils, she asked, "Do you breathe through your chest?"

"Yes – I think so," I said, a bit confused. Doesn’t everyone breathe through their chest … where their lungs are?  I thought.

When you get a full breath, she told me, it should almost feel like it’s filling your stomach. Many times when we’re anxious, she continued, we’re taking very shallow breaths. Apparently she only needed me to take one breath to notice it was as shallow as a kiddie pool.

Was it that obvious? I thought. I felt like I must’ve walked in there with an "I’m very anxious today" sign on my forehead.

By the time the hour massage was done, I could tell my heart rate had slowed. I could move my neck side to side and not feel my shoulders scrunched up with tension. I could take a breath and feel it in my stomach.

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve been thinking a lot about the activities that make me feel recharged. I am an achiever, and if there’s something I can be doing, whether it’s for work, volunteering or loved ones, I’ll find a way to get as many things done as possible for as many people as possible. Over the years, I’ve found that if I don’t prioritize my own needs, all that doing leaves me feeling incredibly anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted. But I’ve also learned that if I don’t force myself to relax, I simply won’t. So for me, relaxation is a routine.

I enjoy starting each day with a workout, usually weight lifting. I get a massage once a month. I go to church with my husband every Sunday if we aren’t out of town. Lately, I’ve taken to playing a game of Solitaire before I go to bed.

Notably, there’s a common theme in all these activities: I’m not on my phone. At the spa where I get my massages, you aren’t allowed to bring your phone past the locker room. It’s rejuvenating to have a few moments to myself. Yet, at the same time, I’ve noticed that as I sit in the waiting area to be called for my massage, it feels, well, weird. And I can’t read minds, but it seems like it’s also uncomfortable for the other guests waiting for their treatments.

Our culture has become so wrapped up in staying connected that it now feels unnatural to sit in silence without email, social media or text messages to keep us busy.

This is not just my observation. There’s actually a term to describe this fear of being disconnected from your phone: nomophobia.

Numerous studies have found that excessive use of technology leads to more stress for people of all ages and backgrounds. Dr. Lisa Strohman, a psychologist and the founder of Digital Citizen Academy, said she’s seen a major increase in patients experiencing mental health challenges that directly relate to technology use, according to

This affects people of all gender identities, but researchers found that anxiety increased significantly for young people and women during the pandemic. Socioeconomic standing plays a major role – it’s hard to relax if you don’t know whether you can afford your next meal, if you don’t live in a neighborhood where it’s safe to go for a walk or if you work in a job that’s taxing on your body.

It seems I’m far from being alone in having a hard time relaxing, even though our minds and bodies need it. Ever the perfectionist, I’ve sometimes been hard on myself if I fell out of routine with self-care activities, even if only for a day, but this shame only made my anxiety worse. Instead of holding myself to unrealistic standards, a therapist once told me to ask myself each day if I did something to care for either my mind, my body or my soul. On an ideal day, we’d take care of all three, she’d explained, but we’re all busy, so this question helps make relaxation more attainable. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, taking the stairs instead of the elevator to get more movement or lingering a little longer when looking at a piece of art you love. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Ahead of writing this column, I took to LinkedIn to ask others what they do to recharge, a few people commented there and others emailed me. Alexson Calahan said she always has coffee (or an alternative) outside, no matter the weather. "It's such a nice way to slowly wake up and consider the day," she wrote. "I've never been one to pop up from bed and be ready to roll! When the day starts with to-dos and demands, I feel behind from the start."

More than one person said that movement (be it yoga, going to the gym or taking a walk) helps clear their mind. Others talked about rituals that help them relax before bed. Someone told me they’ve taken up knitting, and I know many people who enjoy journaling, gardening and baking. It’s not surprising that the vast majority of these activities are cell phone free.

There is so much that technology provides us (including a means to publish Fearless stories and our newsletter, which we hope empowers you). But it’s also clearly a hindrance to our ability to relax if we don’t take time away from it. So, Fearless readers, take this as your sign to unplug – even if it’s only an hour at a time – and do something you enjoy.

Jane Messer (left) presents a Quilt of Valor to Air Force Veteran Christian Anderson on April 21. Photo by AnnaMarie Ward, Southeast Iowa Union.
In the headlines
Presentation of five Quilts of Valor brings total to 500: For a small group of women in Mt. Pleasant, quilting is more than a hobby that brings them together. Over the last eight years, they’ve used their quilting abilities to give back to those who served their country through the presentation of 500 Quilts of Valor. The Iowa Patriotic Stitchers reached their 500th presentation at a ceremony honoring five veterans receiving their Quilts of Valor at the Mt. Pleasant VFW on April 21.

Female Des Moines police employees awarded millions in sex discrimination lawsuit: The Des Moines City Council unanimously voted May 22 to pay out nearly $2.4 million to four female employees alleging decades of sexual discrimination in the Des Moines Police Department, the Des Moines Register reported. Four female officers and employees sued the department in 2021, alleging leaders failed to prevent or adequately respond to a wide range of misconduct, including unsolicited nude photos from male co-workers, sexist insults and unwanted touching and groping. They also alleged male officers received preferential assignments and promotions, while female officers who complained suffered retaliation.

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships: Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its focus from "one-to-one connections to groups and communities" — friendships, in other words, TechCrunch reports.

FDIC chairman resigns following report detailing sexual harassment at agency: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Martin Gruenberg bowed to pressure to resign from the bank regulator after an external investigation found widespread sexual harassment at the agency and lawmakers of both parties berated his leadership, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Worth checking out
Women in UpLift say guaranteed income payments have been ‘life-changing’ (Iowa Public Radio). The surge in young workers has a dark side: Sexual harassment of teens on the job (Wall Street Journal). Scientists calculated the energy needed to carry a baby. Shocker: It’s a lot. (New York Times). What employers should know about menopause discrimination (Forbes). Chicago teen earns doctoral degree at age 17 (CNN).
Iowa Safe Schools, Project Rainbow of Iowa announce pride flag partnership
Iowa Safe Schools announced it will partner with Project Rainbow of Iowa for the second annual Central Iowa pride flag campaign. During the weeks leading up to Pride month, Project Rainbow will be staking progress flags at homes and businesses throughout Central Iowa for $15 per flag. All of the funds raised during this campaign will be donated to Iowa Safe Schools and Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund to directly benefit the LGBTQ community. "We’re beyond thrilled to announce this incredible partnership," Becky Tayler, Iowa Safe Schools executive director, said in a prepared statement. "With LGBTQ youth under constant attack at the state Capitol, grassroots visibility and support for our students is more important than ever."
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!

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