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SEPTEMBER 18, 2023
Good morning, Fearless readers:

It's starting to feel a bit like autumn. One of my favorite festivals is this weekend: Iowa's Latino Heritage Festival at Western Gateway Park. Will I see you there?

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

  • A guest column by Kim Grzywacz on combating impostor syndrome. (Hint: Create your own personal mission statement.)
  • A Closer Look: Get to know Amanda Wanke, CEO of the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority.
  • A short news story about the 2023 Iowa Women of Achievement Award honorees by Women Lead Change.
  • In the headlines: First-in-Iowa nurse-midwifery education program launches at the University of Iowa.
  • A break from the news: She has been growing a mullet for 33 years. It won her a Guinness record. What does "professional hair" mean for women?
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Kim Grzywacz on combating impostor syndrome: Create your own personal mission statement
Newton's cradle. Getty Images.
In 2021, I found myself looking at all I had accomplished, participated in, been asked to be a part of, and I thought to myself, “Who is this person? I do not recognize her.” By the end of the year, I learned this phenomenon had a name: impostor syndrome. It was like a light bulb went on. I felt validated and relieved. What I was feeling was completely normal.
Then, 2023 rolled around, and I saw articles for ABI about impostor syndrome. The voice inside my head told me to reach out and offer to lead a book club on this subject. After all, I had led two book clubs on the subject in 2022 – one for a national council and one for a statewide association. I could do this again.

Then, I received this response: “Would you consider writing a guest column for Fearless sometime about impostor syndrome and what women can do to overcome it? Book recommendations would be wonderful, too,” wrote Nicole Grundmeier, a staff writer for the Business Record and for Fearless.

Me? You are asking me? All I did was offer my services to facilitate a book club. I had the materials, and I’d be ready to roll with a few alterations.
Do you see it? Do you see what was happening to me after one simple question? My impostor came knocking. I wanted to do what I was familiar with. I wanted to repeat my services with another organization. I was asked to create something new. I needed to silence my impostor long enough to remember that I had already thought I needed to create blog posts from the book clubs I have led. I have been longing to get creative again. Here was an opportunity to force me to do so. Thankfully, the knock of opportunity was louder than my impostor’s objections.

Still with me? (See, I even ask this question because I think at this point my introduction is too long and you have scrolled past my column.)
After leading two book clubs, I am going to share my favorite tips from the book “Overcoming the Impostor: Silence Your Inner Critic and Lead with Confidence” by Kris Kelso.

Using this book as a guide, here is my advice for Fearless readers.

Fake it until you make it
This has been one of my mantras for many years, but especially when I switched from 18 years as an elementary school teacher to working for (with) my husband, John, at his company, CIT Signature Transportation. It amazed me how my skills as a teacher transferred into my new roles.

It did take some time. Have you ever taken a personality assessment? I had not before joining the business world. When I took my first test, I was a “C” (Cautious Thinker) with a “D” (Dominant Director) personality trait as my secondary. I laugh now. It didn’t feel right. But, in my new role, I was very cautious and sought approval for most of what I did. That all changed. When I take the test now, I am a strong D, with C as my secondary trait. That feels right – even when I don’t want it to be. (And, yes, even Ds have an impostor.)

Do not let your impostor tell you that faking it until you make it is cheating. It is not cheating when you find within yourself the skills and knowledge to persevere and succeed. During the pandemic, which brought our business to a screeching halt, I wrote “Fake It Until You Make It - My Motto in Times of Grief and Exhaustion.” I was not cheating then. I won’t be cheating the next time I need to fake it.

Accept praise and compliments
One way your impostor shadows you is by rejecting praise and compliments. How often do you have a comeback when you are given a compliment? Here were some of mine:

Acquaintance: “I love your dress!”
Me: “Thank you. I’ve had it for years. Your shoes are great.”

Fellow board member: “Thank you for speaking up at the meeting today.”

Me: “I forgot to say … ”  

Instead, try this.

Co-worker: “That presentation was spot-on.”
Me: “Thank you. What did you like most about it?”

By not accepting a compliment, you reject the person giving you the compliment. You tell them they are wrong. They do not know what they are talking about. You feed their impostor. Once I realized this, I knew I had to change my response. I had the perfect opportunity to practice this. I was chosen to be the 2019 Annual Meeting and Marketplace Chair for the American Bus Association. This role makes you the face of the yearly conference and places you on stage – literally and figuratively. It was not easy, but I gave a lot of smiles of appreciation and “thank-yous” over those five days. I never want to reject someone when they are being nice.

Reframe your thinking
Your impostor knows you intimately. It knows your strengths and weaknesses. It knows your entire history. It will use your voice against you. It will feed your insecurities and manipulate you into feeling unique and special for all of the wrong reasons.

When I speak up at the American Bus Association board meetings, I always preface it with, “I am just a small company … ” After one spirited discussion, a large operator told me, “You may be small, but when you speak, people listen.” He did me a great favor by silencing my impostor. The next time I speak, I will say, “I represent the small companies.”

What language of yours needs to be changed?

Surround yourself with smarter people

What does your crowd look like?

Jim Rohn, an entrepreneur, writer and motivational speaker, frequently says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

My husband, John, knew that to be successful in his company, he needed to surround himself with smart people. He joined a business management group, attended industry meetings and served on boards. He knew that if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

This is the same direction he gave me. Six months into my employment with him, I attended my first solo industry conference, the American Bus Association’s Annual Meeting and Marketplace in 2013. (Yes, the same one I would chair six years later.)

Those people I met as a “plus-one” took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. I also started attending those industry meetings as a participant with John. Letting my “D” personality speak at meetings garnered invitations to join boards. I said yes. Being around leaders in the industry is how I increased my knowledge and leadership.

In 2020, I became the seventh Women in Buses award recipient. Five of the previous honorees are my mentors. (The sixth was 100 years old when she was honored. She retired long before I joined the industry.) Being a part of the Women in Buses Council surrounded me with many intelligent women. As I reflect, it is equally important this council allows me to meet up-and-coming women in the industry, providing them with the same support and encouragement. My thank-you speech was all about these relationships.

So, ask yourself: Who are the people that intimidate you? How can you spend more time with them? Learn from them? I challenge you to place yourself in one meeting where you feel you do not belong.

Success comes at a cost and requires sacrifice
Surrounding myself with leaders in the industry meant I was attending meetings, many of which required flights and days away from home. We have five children. Four of them were still younger than 18 when I began joining boards. My husband and I attend as many of their school events as possible. (Nothing like sitting on bleachers from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on a Friday night, watching your freshman football player followed by the varsity cheerleader.) Yet, there were missed events because I was away. I have never believed in work-life “balance.”

Even as a teacher, I stayed late and corrected papers after my kids went to bed. I finally came up with my own analogy: Work-life is Newton’s Cradle.

Success does require sacrifice. You never know what someone is sacrificing for their success. It could be as simple as never binge-watching a show to celebrating milestones on the next-best date because you are away from home. The idea is to be intentional in your sacrifice. It is important to define what success means to you. Are you eyeing an award? Do you want a specific position? Do you have learning goals? Do you want to develop a new skill? Are you following your passions?

At this point in my learning, I created my own personal mission statement. I now measure my success against this mission: To be authentically audacious in consistent, persistent actions as I become who God intended.

Kim Grzywacz is the sales director of CIT Signature Transportation. She lives in Huxley and can be reached at

A Closer Look: Get to know Amanda Wanke, CEO of the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority.
Photo by Duane Tinkey.
If you don’t already know Amanda Wanke, you probably have heard her name before. She first joined DART in 2015 as chief external affairs officer. She was named chief operations officer and deputy CEO in May 2020. She left DART in October 2022 to join New Flyer and MCI, a bus and coach manufacturer, before the lure of DART brought her back again. The DART board of commissioners announced in July that she would be the transit agency’s next CEO, beginning on Aug. 31.

What was the factor that made you decide to apply for the CEO position?
You probably know that they finished the first round of searches without a candidate. I still knew enough people in the community and was having conversations and was encouraged by some friends and mentors to give it a shot. I had some people ask me some good questions and encouraged me to look at things differently and at least have the conversation. And once I started having the conversation, I came back to why I love this place and why I’m excited to be leading in this era. There is so much opportunity, and I didn’t want to miss the chance to be a part of that. But I needed some friends and other people to encourage me to think about it as well.

What goals do you have for DART, both in the short term and long term?
Both short term and long term, the thing that is really going to define my mission and what I do in the years to come is to win over the hearts and minds of our community that public transportation is a good and essential investment in our future. We have to really win over those hearts and minds to really believe that public transportation is that essential economic driver and is a good return on investment for our taxpayers. My first few months, I’m really planning on having a lot of conversations to really understand the current dynamics. What are the current perceptions of public transportation? What are the challenges and the opportunities? I think it’s important we come to a shared vision of what it could look like and how public transit can have the most impact to drive our economy and our community forward.

What are some challenges public transportation is facing?
I look at challenges and opportunities together. One creates the other. The transition to zero-emission technology: It’s the opportunity to do things very differently to impact our world for the better and to think future forward. But the actual implementation of it isn’t easy. We have a lot to learn. How our community is growing is another opportunity and challenge. We know that public transit is essential to driving that economic development and connecting people to their jobs. I think the operations facility is another one of those things. Our current facility is surrounded by new development, and it’s wonderful and exciting, but a bus garage isn’t really the best fit over there anymore. But again, costs for buildings are going up. So there’s an opportunity and challenge. I hope people will see that I’m collaborative and I’m optimistic but realistic. I want to work with people to find a path forward for each of those things.

Can you describe your management style?
People would commonly say servant leadership, but it is really, truly what drives me. I don’t believe I’m here and can accomplish all this because of me. I believe we can accomplish this together and that leadership is all about inspiring and empowering others and giving them a vision to work toward and helping all of us work toward that vision together.

There’s a lot to be determined, but can you describe the funding challenges DART is facing and what is being done to address those challenges?
We have a budget that cannot meet the growing needs of our community, and right now, property taxes is the primary way to do that. And there’s agreement that that’s not the best way to do it long term. So we have this need to invest more in it, but what tool are we going to use and how are we going to get there, and how is everybody going to agree on who pays what? And that comes back to the mission of helping our community really understand and see that public transit is worth the investment.

Women Lead Change to honor 3 Iowa women who made history
Left to right: Heather Allen, Ethel "Marion" Helland and Lulu Johnson. Photos courtesy of Women Lead Change.
Women Lead Change announced its three honorees for the 2023 Iowa Women of Achievement Award: Heather Allen, Marion Ethel Helland and Lulu Johnson.

The Women of Achievement Award recognizes the contributions of historical Iowa women who made outstanding and lasting contributions to the citizens of Iowa, the nation or the world.

Heather Allen (1980-2020)
Heather Allen was a nationally recognized research microbiologist whose scientific discoveries showed that bacteriophages (viruses that infect and replicate inside cells of bacteria) can play a key role in enabling the exchange of antibiotic-resistance genes in the swine gut microbiome. Her findings filled critical knowledge gaps about the swine gut microbiome and helped inform regulatory policies guiding agricultural practices to counter antibiotic resistance in both animal and human pathogens.

Marion Ethel Helland (1927-2018)
Ethel “Marion” Helland was a teacher and a Civil Rights activist. Marion grew up in Cylinder, Iowa, and taught in Bode and Davenport schools. In 1965, Marion responded to an advertisement, “Teachers wanted to teach freedom,” which led her to spending summer breaks in the South, where she worked on registering Black voters in Alabama and Mississippi. She also assisted in desegregation efforts after the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Using her stories and photographs, Helland gave her students in the Midwest a firsthand account of what was happening during the Civil Rights Movement.

Lulu Johnson (1907-1995)
In 1941, Lulu Johnson became the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in the state of Iowa and the second Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in the U.S. As the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Iowa with a doctorate, Johnson was a trailblazer, paving the way for future students and battling racism and discrimination. In 2020, Lulu became the new namesake of Johnson County.

In addition to permanent plaques placed on the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge in downtown Des Moines, friends and family are invited to celebrate at the awards luncheon in conjunction with the Women Lead Change conference. It will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Iowa Events Center. Tickets are available
In the headlines
Sexual assault survivors can now track their rape kits in most states: It can take hours for a sexual assault victim to undergo the multiple swabs, hair samples, blood and urine collections, and other invasive procedures of a sexual assault examination. And then it can take months, sometimes years, for investigators to process that evidence kit. But now, responding to demands from survivors and their advocates, more states have committed to tackling yearslong investigative backlogs — and dozens are adopting tracking systems that allow patients to follow the forensic paths of their own sexual assault kits, according to the 19th. The tracking systems aim to address historical challenges, such as inadequate forensic evidence handling, delays in case processing and underreporting of assaults. (Read a 2022 story from innovationIOWA about Iowa's statewide tracking system.)

First-in-Iowa nurse-midwifery education program launches at the University of Iowa: The state’s first certified nurse-midwifery (CNM) program welcomed its inaugural class of nurse-midwifery students this month. The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics’ Nurse-Midwifery Education Program aims to address an increasing need for certified nurse-midwives in Iowa and nationwide to improve health care access and maternal health outcomes. The program is one of many initiatives made possible by the Iowa Maternal Health Innovation Program, a five-year project of the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with UI Health Care, to improve access to high-quality obstetrical care within the state, targeting underserved and rural populations, according to the University of Iowa. Nurse-midwives specialize in maternal health care and childbirth, and provide preventative and gynecologic health care, including annual well-person exams, contraceptives and family planning, and menopause care.

Des Moines clinic receives $2 million federal grant to improve maternal health outcomes: Primary Health Care, the Des Moines-based safety net health care provider, has received a $2 million federal grant to invest in maternal health care and address disparities among vulnerable populations. Officials with the nonprofit community health center say the two-year grant, which was part of more than $65 million handed out by the Biden administration to health centers across the country, will help providers improve maternal health outcomes by investing in care coordination and increasing access to needed services, according to the Des Moines Register. The money comes as Iowa’s maternal mortality rate has more than doubled between 1999 and 2019. “This program is aimed at helping any maternal health patient that comes through our doors,” said Marissa Conrad, a spokesperson for Primary Health Care.

Why ‘girls’ rule the internet: Online, where people go on “hot girl walks” and make “girl dinner,” the word “girl” is more a mindset than a statement about one’s age or gender, according to the New York Times. The word “girl” can be a noun, a verb, an adjective, or an exclamation, meaning something slightly different depending on how it’s said and who has said it — often it’s with the lilt of irony. It can begin a sentence, or punctuate one, or be a sentence on its own. In July, the Vanity Fair writer Delia Cai proclaimed: “We’ve Reached Peak Girl.” Yet despite the word’s flexibility, “girl” usually works to establish an in-group and relish a particular kind of bond. “I think especially if you’re among strangers or something, if you get the ‘girl,’ it’s like you’re accepted in this circle,” said Ashley Reese, 32, a writer in Brooklyn who said she used “girl” more often than “woman” to talk about herself and her female friends. “There’s a communal element.”

Worth checking out
Betty Friedan and the movement that outgrew her (the New Yorker). 20 ways women can build a supportive workplace ecosystem across all ranks (Forbes). Extreme heat is linked to higher risk of life-threatening delivery complications for pregnant people (the 19th). UK scientists tackle the taboo subject of periods in polar research (BBC). Women in journalism pass another milestone (Washington Post). New Lyft feature allows women to match rides with other women (New York Times).
‘Professional hair’ should be whatever makes us feel confident: Yes, that includes mullets
Photo by Wade Payne/Guinness World Records.
One of my earliest childhood memories is being jealous of my younger sister’s hair. As a toddler, she had blond spirals that resembled Shirley Temple’s.

My own hair was mousy brown, greasy, limp. It definitely wasn’t curly. But it wasn’t straight, either – not even close.

I have struggled with hair confidence all of my life. During one of my first jobs out of college, I had a woman supervisor with very short hair who heaped praise on a young female intern after the intern got her long hair cut to just past her ears. “It looks so much more professional,” she noted frequently, always in front of me.

My hair was long. Maybe I hid behind it. But it was me. Short hair was just not me.

As women, our professional status is often attached to our hairstyle – stereotypes about hair can be particularly harmful to Black women, to Jewish women, to Latina women, to anyone whose hair isn’t stick-straight.

There are numerous Facebook support groups devoted to women who want to stop dyeing their hair and embrace their silver hair as they age. These women often face pushback both professionally and personally. I have never seen similar support groups for men.

I think of my former supervisor’s assumptions often whenever I consider a trim. Short hair: professional. Long hair: unprofessional.

But what if professional hair was more about hair that makes us feel confident? I loved this Washington Post story about a nurse from Knoxville, Tenn., named Tami Manis. Guinness World Records recently announced that Manis’ “business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back hairstyle was the longest mullet in the world.”

Her hair is 5 feet, 8 inches long. She has been growing her mullet for 33 years.

“At my memorial, they can take it off then, and drape it across my urn,” Manis told the Post.

That is hair confidence.

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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