Fearless speeches, new IWF CEO, getting an MBA
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Good morning and happy Monday! In the spirit of Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to take a moment and thank you for reading this newsletter and working to create a better world for women.

I’m still filled with energy from last week’s Fearless celebration, which was incredibly inspiring and memorable thanks to our amazing speakers, audience members, mentors and sponsors. If you missed the event – or just want to relive the moment if you did attend – you can watch the speeches and see photos from the event below.

Have a great week!

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

Fearless Celebration 2022
Thank you to everyone who attended our Fearless Celebration event last week! It certainly was a morning filled with inspiration, introspection, conversation, storytelling and connection.

We heard stories and words of wisdom from Courageous Fire, Sydney Rieckhoff and Patty Sneddon-Kisting and attendees met with women leaders across the state and held discussions about confidence, leadership and risk-taking.

"It's not ever not being scared, it's fearing just a little bit less to allow yourself to move. ... Fearing less, moving more."

"When the shoes are too big, fill them anyway. ... Don't let the fear of rejection get in your way."

Watch Sydney Rieckhoff's speech

"Being fearless is having the courage to honor your truth, even if it makes others uncomfortable."

Watch Patty Sneddon-Kisting's speech
Invest in yourself: The value of an MBA for women
From left: Miriam De Dios Woodward, Hillary Eckert, Kerty Levy.
I recently attended a reunion of my MBA class in October, so it seemed like a synergistic and wonderful coincidence that in the following weeks, two young women separately reached out to me for letters of recommendation to local MBA programs here in the state. Of course, I heartily agreed to support them because my own graduate degree helped me advance my career in ways I never thought possible.

As an art and design major, it had never once occurred to me to pursue an MBA. But a few years after college, a few board members at the nonprofit organization I was running suggested I should consider a graduate business degree; these men saw some leadership and organizational skills in me that I didn’t even recognize in myself.

Given my unconventional background, I was surprised to be accepted into a program and I was immediately terrified of failing. But I summoned my courage and dove into the curriculum and campus life. Since my own MBA was such a transformational experience, I often suggest to young women – and men – to consider this field of study.

However, I’m frequently asked if getting an MBA is really worth it. The answer seems to be a resounding yes; research shows that the investment pays off, especially for women.

A recent study published by the Forté Foundation explored how getting an MBA can dramatically affect women’s pay and position within their industry and organization; the results suggest that an MBA yields a high return on investment. The study showed that women with MBAs see pay gains of 55-65% of their pre-MBA salary within five years of graduation. What’s more, 85% of MBA graduates attribute their MBA in advancing their careers.

I turned to women leaders who earned MBA degrees to get their feedback on the value of this degree. Here’s what they had to say:

Miriam De Dios Woodward, global CEO, ViClarity: Getting an MBA provided me with the next level strategic insight, executive mindset and professional network that I wanted and needed at that point in my career. The course materials affirmed my business practices; however, the discussions and connections with classmates fueled idea generation, assisted with problem-solving, and provided a new sounding board for opportunities and challenges I was contending with in my career while completing my MBA. I would recommend an MBA to other women because it helps sharpen your business skills. More importantly, it’s another way for women to contribute to and be represented in a male-dominated business world.

Hillary Eckert, vice president of global SEC and capital markets solutions, Workiva; chair, Iowa State University Ivy MBA Executive Advisory Council: Getting an MBA launched me into a new level of thinking and leadership. I elevated my complex problem-solving skills in a very practical approach to learning – discussing real-world examples of leaders’ choices that drove or prevented change and growth. The MBA strengthened my confidence by giving me a ‘safe place’ for risk-taking and testing innovative ideas and strengthened my business communication skills, especially around negotiation and conflict resolution when engaging with more senior or experienced colleagues. Getting my MBA meant much more than a higher potential salary; it really addressed my occasional feelings of imposter syndrome by driving business skills and the confidence I needed to drive my career to the next level.
Kerty Levy, managing director, Techstars: The greatest benefit of getting an MBA for me was gaining perspective. Instead of only being able to see the road directly ahead, I was able to elevate my view and see all roads, how they interconnect, and how best to navigate them. I was also able to view business challenges through the lenses of people from all industries, functions, and geographies, providing a richness of perspective. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. An MBA, which is case-driven and discussed by a broadly represented class, quickly brings to light blind spots in experience and prepares people for greater leadership.
Left: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Center: Iowa Sen. Amy Sinclair. Right: Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu.
In the headlines
Nancy Pelosi, the first and only woman to serve as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced last week she will step down from party leadership. Pelosi, 82, has served in Congress for 35 years and as speaker twice. She first held the position from 2007 to 2011 and was selected as speaker again in 2019.

Twelve women were elected to be governors of their states this month, breaking the previous record of nine in 2004. In total, there were 25 women running in gubernatorial races this year, out of 36 total campaigns.

Iowa Sen. Amy Sinclair will serve as the Iowa Senate president in the upcoming General Assembly, following former president Jake Chapman’s defeat in the midterm election. Sinclair has served as the majority whip since 2018. She’ll be the third woman to ever hold the role, following Mary Kramer and Pam Jochum.

Longtime Des Moines Register opinion columnist Rekha Basu is leaving the paper Dec. 1. For 30 years, Basu has shed light on topics such as domestic violence, religious discrimination, gender justice and civil rights.

Karen Bass was elected as mayor of Los Angeles, becoming the first woman and the second Black person to lead the city in its 241-year history. Five years ago, there were two women on Los Angeles City Council and none held citywide office. By the end of 2022, at least five women will be seated on the council and two will hold citywide office. At the county level, women now hold all five seats on the Board of Supervisors, which historically had been overwhelmingly male.

In a blog post last week, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announced she has given nearly $2 billion to 343 organizations in the last seven months, including $85 million to the Girl Scouts of the USA and $123 million to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America earlier this year. The announcement brought the amount she’s said she’s given to around $14 billion to some 1,500 organizations.

When the Artemis I rocket launched to the moon last week, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson became the first woman to serve as a NASA launch director. At a press conference, she said that for the Apollo 11 launch decades ago, there was just one woman in the firing room of 450 men. When Artemis I launched, approximately 30% of the 100 engineers in the room were women.

The March of Dimes released its annual report card last week, which grades the country and individual states on measures related to the health of birthing parents and babies. The report found that the U.S. preterm birth rate reached 10.5% of live births in 2021, the highest rate since 2007. Iowa earned a C grade, which means between 9.3% and 10.3% of births are preterm.

The McCaughey septuplets’ family house in Carlisle has become a home for young mothers. Ruth Harbor, a Des Moines-based nonprofit that provides housing and support to young women experiencing unplanned pregnancies, bought the house for $410,000, according to the Warren County assessor. The property now serves as a group home for four to six young mothers, and offers a variety of support for them.

Congress passed bipartisan legislation last week that bans the use of nondisclosure agreements in cases of workplace sexual harassment and assault. The Senate passed the bill in September, and is now headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

Worth checking out
What holds women back from the tech industry? Girl Who Code report assesses gender gap (The 19th). I spent my entire career reporting on the world’s most powerful working mothers–but I am not prepared for maternity leave. Here’s why (Fortune). Mind the gap: Women fall victim to inequities in wages, health care and more (Iowa Capital Dispatch). National feminist organizations break their silence on Amber Heard in an open letter of support (NBC News). Her child was stillborn at 39 weeks. She blames a system that doesn’t always listen to mothers (ProPublica).
Iowa Women’s Foundation names new president and CEO
The Iowa Women’s Foundation has named Deann Cook as its next president and CEO. The transition will take effect Jan. 1, 2023, following the retirement of Dawn Oliver Wiand.

Cook has served as the president and CEO of United Ways of Iowa since 2013. Throughout her tenure, she worked to advocate for policy priorities in education, financial stability and health. She also managed statewide projects including the ALICE report and Iowa Reading Corps.

In her new role at the Iowa Women’s Foundation, Cook will lead operations, manage its staff and board of directors, and help further its mission to improve the lives of Iowa’s women and girls.

"This role allows me to move from educating Iowans about barriers to shattering them in collaboration with the IWF board, staff, and donors who are passionate about this work," Cook said in a news release.

Under Oliver Wiand’s nine-year tenure as president and CEO, the foundation went from awarding $13,250 in grants in 2012 to awarding $370,000 in 2022. She also helped establish the $3 million Legacy Fund campaign.

"Deann is a fierce advocate in our fight against barriers," said Oliver-Wiand in a news release. "I am so excited to see how her passion and expertise shape the future of IWF and its mission to improve the lives of Iowa’s women and girls. I can’t imagine better hands to leave it in."

The Iowa Women’s Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to improving the lives of Iowa’s women and girls through research, grant-making, advocacy, education, and collaboration.

Lifting the Veil: Adults in Recovery
Watch the replay of dsm magazine's Nov. 15, 2022, Lifting the Veil virtual event, where panelists talked about adults in recovery from mental health disorders and crises.
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