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MAY 15, 2023
Good morning! Today I have both bittersweet and exciting news to share with you about the people behind our beloved Fearless initiative.

First, the bittersweet news. This is the last e-newsletter being produced by Fearless Editor Emily Kestel. Later this month she’ll be starting a new job with Iowa PBS as a producer. While we are excited for the opportunity in front of her, we will miss her important storytelling in Fearless.

Since launching in 2020, Emily has defined and executed what Fearless is. Emily’s background is in visual journalism – although many of you probably wouldn’t have guessed because we’ve pushed her to exercise her storytelling through writing, and she’s done a phenomenal job at it. This rural child care story and this personal profile on Angie Chaplin are just a couple of my favorites because they embody the best characteristics of Emily’s storytelling – connecting with the human spirit and being solutions-oriented. Below, she reflects on her time with Fearless and what she’s learned.

Next, the exciting news. We’d like to introduce you to Nicole Grundmeier, who will be producing the newsletter starting next week. Nicole is a seasoned journalist with a background in both reporting and copy editing, and she’s also a journalism educator. Women’s and gender issues are among the topics she’s reported on in the past, and she has a drive to ensure the coverage is intersectional. As a working mom, she can relate to many of the topics you all have told us you care most about. I’ll let Nicole tell you more about herself below, but we are excited to add her talent to the team.

Have a great week!

— Emily Barske, Business Record editor

A Fearless farewell: 10 of my favorite stories
Anytime someone asks me, "What’s your favorite story you’ve worked on?" I automatically freeze and somehow can’t think of anything I’ve ever done, much less my favorite. It’s an impossible question to answer. It’s like asking a parent of multiple children who their favorite kid is.

Later this month, I’ll start working for Iowa PBS as a producer for a new human-interest series airing later this fall. I’m very excited to go back to my visual journalism roots and continue to share the stories and life experiences of Iowans from all walks of life.

So, because this is my final column as the Fearless editor, I will do my best to share my favorite articles and stories I’ve written. For the sake of space – and because I love a good list – here are 10.

10. In 2023 … Advice, words of wisdom, hopes for Iowa women in new year.

I am not an expert in all things related to gender issues. But I do consider myself somewhat of an expert in finding those who are. Collaborating with these 15 women to write columns about a variety of subjects to help kick off the new year felt fresh and new. Best of all, they’re all still relevant, five months into the year.

9. The history of Iowa women in politics may surprise you. Read up on 10 fast facts.

Many of the facts in this list came from original reporting and data analysis. When I calculated the number of women who have served in the Legislature – and discovered that 184 women have served in the Iowa Legislature throughout its 184-year history – I was in disbelief. First of all, that is a paltry number. Second of all, what are the odds? Lesson learned: When examining representation of women in a given field or position, dig deeper and examine the history.

8. ‘This is hope like we’ve never seen before’: An in-depth look at the Child Care Task Force recommendations.

This was a behemoth of a story to write. I ended up talking with more than 20 people for this piece – but I felt it was necessary to do so to get an accurate look into the child care crisis in the state, and the proposed solutions to address it.

7. ‘Overwhelmed. Overscheduled. Overburdened.’ Annual Fearless survey: 80% of Iowa women say they’re burned out and top issues include child care, pay equity, harassment.

Conducting nonscientific surveys to help gain an understanding of what issues people were facing and what topics were on their minds was one of my favorite things to do while working at the Business Record. I loved reading all of the responses, identifying key themes and then analyzing the findings with what was going on in the rest of the world. Doing this also served as a reminder that women – or any group – are not monoliths. We do not all have the same experiences, opinions, perspectives and beliefs, and that’s OK. In fact, that’s great.

6. Cheltzie Miller-Bailey on challenging the idea of professionalism, and what prioritizing your own well-being looks like.

This is an example of a story where you go into it thinking you know what you’re going to write about, but once you get to talking, you realize the story is completely different. Over lunch at El Azteca in Ames, Cheltzie and I talked about what it’s like being a young leader, and what being a so-called professional even means. Her story quickly got very personal, and I felt a huge responsibility to tell her story well, because she placed so much trust in me. (Disclaimer: A while after this story ran, we became friends. Cheltzie has been one of my biggest fans and would take it upon herself to promote Fearless whenever possible. I appreciate you, Cheltzie. You’re the best.) My takeaway from this story, though, was to be yourself and don’t worry about "not being professional enough." Also, make your mental and physical health a priority. Surround yourself with people who support and believe in you.

Meet Fearless' new contributing writer
I’ve spent my adult life pursuing two passions – journalism and gymnastics. At least once, those worlds collided. In 2017, I watched as survivors of all ages accused USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. My daughter was enrolled in preschool gymnastics at the time, and I had coached gymnastics on and off since 2006. I’ve never felt that degree of rage.

I emailed several editors at the Washington Post with a pitch. As a journalist and coach, I wanted to tell parents exactly what they needed to look for in terms of a healthy coaching environment versus a toxic coaching environment – the type of culture that enabled Nassar to abuse generations of people. My story was published by the Washington Post on Jan. 30, 2018, and I was added to the Washington Post’s Talent Network.

I started writing for the Lily, the Washington Post’s magazine aimed at empowering women. One of my favorite stories was about the Iowa caucuses – how do you participate with children and babies in tow? (Iowa parents get it done!)

I’ve also worked at the Des Moines Register and the Sioux City Journal. Recently, I’ve taught journalism at Simpson College. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. I live with my husband, Lucas Grundmeier, and our daughter, Juliet, in Beaverdale.

I’m excited to be joining the Business Record as a reporter and as a copy editor. Writing for Fearless is a tremendous opportunity and an enormous responsibility. I want to do whatever I can to empower women and vulnerable Iowans. We need to hear their voices.
In the headlines
A jury has found former President Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s. Carroll claimed that Trump raped her in a dressing room at a Bergdorf Goodman store in New York City. She was awarded $5 million in damages. Trump does not face jail time following the civil trial.

U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, a Republican from Florida, is expecting her first child this summer, marking a historic rarity in Congress: Only 11 members of Congress have given birth while in office, and fewer than 7% of members of Congress are mothers with minor children.

Heather Armstrong, a pioneering blogger who transformed women’s media and altered the public perception of motherhood, has died at the age of 47 after a struggle with mental health. Armstrong is credited by many with upending a women’s media world that until the early 2000s largely portrayed an idealized version of motherhood, a time when home life was considered private, and issues related to family and children were deemed too personal to discuss publicly.

New guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say women should begin getting regular mammograms every two years, starting at age 40. Previous guidelines recommended starting them at 50. The change comes after an increase in diagnoses of breast cancer among younger patients, and an alarming number of deaths among Black women, who are already 40% more likely to die of breast cancer.

Polk County has lost more than 1,000 licensed child care openings since mid-2022, according to a new United Way of Central Iowa report. About a quarter of Iowa’s population lives in a child care desert, which is an area where the demand for child care far exceeds the availability of providers and open slots.

A recent University of Iowa study found that some pregnant women in rural Iowa stopped receiving prenatal care when their local hospital closed its birthing center, even if care was still available. Researchers studied the impact of the recent closures of labor and delivery units at seven rural Iowa hospitals and found women seeking prenatal care fell from 83% to 79%. (Related: 20 years of decline, Iowa’s dwindling birthing units)

According to a new Mayo Clinic study, menopause is costing American women an estimated $1.8 billion in lost working time per year. Researchers surveyed more than 4,000 participants at Mayo Clinic sites in Minnesota, Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin. Roughly 15% said they had either missed work or cut back on hours because of their menopause symptoms, which the study classified as "adverse work outcomes."

Worth checking out
Her job is to care for survivors of sexual assault. Why aren’t there more like her? (NPR). She was the ‘office mom’ of Tucker Carlson’s show. Now she’s suing Fox News (Time). I finally got my IVF baby, so what right did I have to be depressed? (Romper).
Briana Scurry shares story of resilience, recovery from brain injury at Principal
Briana Scurry speaks to a crowd of about 200 on May 11 at Principal Financial Group. Contributed photo.
Briana Scurry passed around the two Olympic gold medals she once pawned.

One medal was from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the second from the 2004 Games in Athens. The people who gathered to listen to Scurry on Thursday at Principal Financial Group quietly turned over a medal in their hands, snapped quick photos, then passed the medal to the nearest neighbor.

Scurry, the longtime goalkeeper-turned-advocate, told her life story and talked about goal setting, goalkeeping and resilience following a traumatic brain injury that ended her playing career.

Scurry was brought to Des Moines by the Krause Group and other sponsors.

At age 8, Scurry was inspired while watching the U.S. men’s hockey team’s victory over the former USSR at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. She told her parents that she wanted to be an Olympian.

"They didn’t think that my dream was silly. They didn’t say, ‘Oh, well, only boys play hockey.’ They understood that I was watching greatness because they had watched greatness. They understood what I meant when I said I wanted to be an Olympian. They knew it wasn’t necessarily hockey that was the vehicle. They knew that I wanted to be on that podium. And they nurtured that seed. They watered it. They encouraged it. They believed in it," Scurry said.
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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