Plus, how to turn #MeToo into "#ISaidSomething"
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Good morning and happy Monday! Thanks to Emily Barske for taking over the newsletter while I was camping up north. It was my first time camping solo for multiple days out-of-state, so I spent some time reflecting on my experience with the hope that it inspires you to do something fearless, too.

Here’s what else you’ll find in today’s newsletter:

  • You may remember the story of Laura Ling, who in 2009 was arrested and imprisoned in North Korea for 140 days. She’s speaking at this year’s Chrysalis Inspired event on Oct. 11, and we had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about fearlessness and how she maintains hope.
  • Advocate Kirsten Anderson has a book coming out on Oct. 4 about her experience with being a target of workplace harassment and retaliation. We talked with her about the book and are running a brief excerpt from it.
  • We’re hosting a virtual Fearless Focus event this Thursday, Oct. 6, at noon about risk-taking. Join us!

Also, don’t forget to share your stories of fearlessness with us! We’d love to include as many as possible.

Lastly, please take a moment to share your thoughts on inclusion in Iowa’s workplaces with us. All responses are anonymous, but we’ll use them to help guide coverage for a future Business Record story.

Have a great week!

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

Laura Ling reflects on hope, fearlessness ahead of Chrysalis Inspired event
Photo courtesy of Laura Ling.
In 2009, journalist Laura Ling and a colleague were violently apprehended by North Korean soldiers along the Chinese border while working on a documentary about North Korean defectors. They were charged with trespassing and "hostile acts" and were imprisoned for 140 days under Kim Jong Il’s communist regime.

Today, Ling is the director of programming for Very Local, a streaming service through Hearst Television Inc. that celebrates and elevates local communities.

Ling will share her story and how she maintains hope at this year’s Chrysalis Inspired event on Oct. 11.

"Very few of us have a moment so defining as did Laura Ling, when she spent 140 days in captivity in North Korea. Her ability to navigate this ordeal is just part of her remarkable story of strength, hope and resilience," Chrysalis Executive Director Terry Hernandez said. "She is a tremendous model for the work of Chrysalis: to ensure that every girl and woman has the right to live in dignity and in freedom from fear and oppression."

We caught up with Ling ahead of the event. Below is a Q&A, which has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

What drew you to the Chrysalis Foundation and the work that they do?

I am so impressed and inspired by the work that [Chrysalis] is doing to change the lives of girls and women to empower them. Their after-school program for young girls is so critical and can be so impactful in the life of a teenager or a preteen. The fact that their mission as it relates to girls is to give them the tools so that they feel more confident and empowered to navigate this world, I think is just so needed right now. I have a 12-year-old daughter, and I think there's absolutely a correlation between the increase in mental health issues going on with young people and young girls specifically, and the fact that social media just kind of took off around 2019, at the same time that those rates started to increase. For Chrysalis to be dedicated to finding these safe places for young girls to gather, to learn from each other and to support each other in these after school programs, I think is life-changing.

You mentioned mental health and social media, but what are some other big issues and barriers for women and girls that you’re seeing?

On a general level, there are unfortunately so many barriers. I mean, women right now lead men in earning bachelor's degrees and master's degrees, yet we're so far behind in all industries, in positions of leadership, as well as in pay equality. And I think that we need to overcome some of the existing barriers that have been in place. The boys’ club … still exists. Giving women tools that they can utilize is also important. For employers to be aware of how they're hiring and who they're hiring. We all benefit when companies are more diverse. We all benefit when there's a diversity of ideas out there and diversity in leadership.

As a journalist, you've spent years reporting on some of the darker, underreported and misunderstood parts of our society. What are some issues that you think deserve more attention and action?

Well, since we're on the topic of women and equality right now, to further that, I think that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women when it comes to women in the workforce. And as we speak, women and men are gathered in Iran, in different parts of the world, speaking out for greater freedoms, that was spurred by the tragic death of the young woman who was not wearing a head scarf. So I'm paying attention to those big issues that are happening in the world, especially as it relates to women and freedom and equality around the world.

How did you continue to maintain strength and hope throughout your imprisonment in North Korea?

I was so overwhelmed with fear. When I was first captured, I did not think I would survive that situation. That first day of my captivity, I didn't know if I would survive that day. I had never felt that level of fear in my life. But then again, this may sound cliche, but throughout that experience, I was able to discover things about myself that I didn't know existed, strengths that I didn't know existed. It wasn't immediate. It took time. It took time for me to realize that there were internal tools that I could utilize. I started practicing the act of gratitude. It's a ritual that helped me sustain that situation and to maintain hope. Here I was isolated in what is perhaps the most isolated country in the world. There were things that I discovered that I did have control over. So I could control my communication with my interrogator and my guards. So in that respect, I began to think very strategically about how I communicated with everybody that I came in contact with. I meditated, I kept my strength and my energy up. So I focused on things that I had control over. So even in situations that might seem out of control, when you don't have control over anything, I think you'll discover that there's more that we have in control of ourselves than we might think in those situations and lean into those situations.

What does it mean to be fearless?

Being fearless means being able to use your voice. And I will be talking about this a little bit [at the event], but to not take our liberties for granted, especially at a time when liberties globally and domestically are at stake. To really look at our freedoms, not just as a right, but as a responsibility. I think that that's how we can be fearless for ourselves and for our communities.

The Chrysalis Inspired event will take place at the Sheraton in West Des Moines on Oct. 11 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are on sale on the Chrysalis website.
Kirsten Anderson is on a mission to end workplace harassment in her lifetime. Her new book shows how it can be done.
Kirsten Anderson is the author of "More Than Words: Turn #MeToo Into #ISaidSomething." Photo by Emily Kestel.
In 2013, Kirsten Anderson was fired from her job as a communications director of the Iowa Senate Republican caucus seven hours after formally complaining about repeated harassment and retaliatory behavior by colleagues at the Capitol. She then sued the state of Iowa and Iowa Senate Republicans for wrongful termination, harassment and retaliation.

In 2017, following a highly publicized case, a jury awarded her $2.2 million, which was then settled for $1.75 million.

Since then, Anderson has made it her mission to help educate others about the complexities of sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation in the workplace.

Her book, "More Than Words: Turn #MeToo Into #ISaidSomething," is part memoir, part guidebook. By sharing her story, Anderson hopes to help others who may be experiencing something similar.

The following conversation with her has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Tell me the meaning behind the title of your book and your goal for it.

One thing I’ve said a lot is, "Turn #MeToo into #ISaidSomething." I’ve been using that phrase for quite a while now. The book title, "More Than Words," is really meant to invoke action. I really feel strongly that we can’t continue to just talk around the situation and the challenge of workplace harassment, retaliation and bullying, and say, "Well, there’s just bad people in the world." If you want to see the change, you need to be the change. I want to show others that they’re not alone in experiencing toxic, bad, disrespectful behavior at their workplaces. I felt really alone after my whole situation. Making change is not hard, and it can be as simple as starting a conversation, and it can be so much more. I want to provide solace, support, validation and also take it a step further.

You’ve stated that your mission is to end workplace harassment in your lifetime. What will that take?

It will take a lot more people talking about it. Being action-oriented and leading by example. We need an army of allies. We also need confident employees who are willing to tackle this complex situation.

In the book, you use the word "target" instead of "victim" when talking about those who have experienced sexual harassment and misconduct. Why is that?

I want everyone to change their vernacular. That’s really important. There’s such a negative connotation with the word "victim." I never felt like a victim. I think it might be safe to say that a lot of people don’t feel like a victim. When you use the word "victim," it almost feels like something’s taken away, you should be pitied. And I don’t think that we should think in those terms. When you use the word "target," it’s a more empowering word. People who experience harassment, retaliation, bullying, they are a target for a time, for whatever reason. So I felt using the word "target" is more accurate for the time period that we’re in. It leaves more to that person rather than taking away from them.

During your trial, your attorney asked you, "What was the price of working in the ‘boys club?’" Tell me about some of those unquantifiable effects that you experienced.

The emotional damage, the depression, the induced anxiety. The damage reputationally to someone’s work. My reputational workplace damage followed me due to the fact that my employer made a decision to say that they fired me because I had poor work product. That followed me because it was in the media and I had trouble getting a job. It took me many months to try and get a job. Women are already paid less than men in the workplace. So that type of reputational workplace damage and it following you, I can’t calculate how hard it was and the numbers and the fact that maybe I had to take a job that paid a little bit less but it had benefits.

What would you say to people that believe "She was just in it for the money"?

I would say those people are being too judgmental. That’s one of the reasons why this book is so important. To show that this issue is so layered and so complex and there are so many shades of gray. This is a game of power and control. Those with the power most often win, and those who do not have the power most often lose. I’m really lucky in the fact that for a time, my power was taken away, but I won. And I came out stronger on the other side. I want to share my experiences so that no one else goes through what I went through, because it was a really, really low place. I don’t want anyone to have to experience that. I want to see other strong, confident employees make better workplaces.

There’s a quote in the book that says, "For years, I was yelled at, cussed at, shown porn, laughed at, called names and had my sex life and body parts scrutinized. Now I was being forced to defend myself on the witness stand where I not only had to shine a light on the embarrassing inappropriateness I experienced, but on my own descent into cattiness as a defensive response to the situation." I think so many people feel as though they’re imperfect victims. What would you say about that?

I think overarching, Americans have a problem with perfection. We strive for it far too often, when instead we should be striving for what is right for us. And I think that’s part of the problem. So what I would say to those people is, "Forget about the perfection." That’s unachievable, period. Instead, focus on what’s right for you in the moment. People do things they may regret, because in that moment they think it’s right. I fully admit – because I am not perfect, I’m a human, I’m flawed – yes, I participated in it as a defense mechanism. It didn’t work for me. It made me feel worse.

It’s been nine years since you were fired and five years since the judgment in your case was rendered. What has your life been like since then?

Things have calmed down. I had a flurry of activity upon my judgment in the case in that a lot of people wanted to talk with me, have coffee with me or ask for advice. Sometimes they really just wanted to unload and share their situation with me. That got to be pretty heavy. I’m not a licensed therapist. I’m not clinically trained to handle those types of situations. But it made me feel good that people felt comfortable coming to me with those situations. Over the years, those inquiries have slowed down, though I still get them. It got to the point where each time someone reached out to me, it was triggering. They’d ask me to relive and share my situations. Out of that was born this book in that I realized that, No. 1, I can’t continue to be triggered and relive every interaction, but is there a way that I can help people who have been through something similar? Is there a way that I can point them in the right direction of "Read this first and then let’s talk?" There was nothing out there. There was nothing I felt comfortable giving to someone. So I said, "You know what? I need to write it."

"More Than Words: Turn #MeToo Into #ISaidSomething" is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
In the headlines
Katie Couric said last week she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this summer, and underwent surgery and radiation treatment to treat the tumor. In an essay she posted on her website, she encouraged everyone to keep up with their annual mammogram.

Giorgia Meloni will be Italy’s first female prime minister after her coalition party won the majority in Parliament. But because of Meloni’s party affiliation – she is the head of the far-right Brothers of Italy party – many women in the country are not celebrating.

Chief Judge Rosemary Sackett, who in 1999 was elected by her peers as the first female chief judge appointed to the Iowa Court of Appeals, died at age 82 last month. "She was not an advocate, but really someone who worked from within the system to promote and encourage not only women, but young people, and worked for a better system," her daughter said.

Facebook whistleblower and Iowa native Frances Haugen is starting a nonprofit that will find solutions to harms created by social media. Haugen is a former product manager at Facebook, and revealed herself as the source of thousands of leaked documents that detailed the company’s failures to protect teen girls on Instagram.

With an estimated worth of $56 billion, Julia Koch is now the richest woman in America. Despite there being two more women on the Forbes 400 list this year, as a group, the richest women in the country are worth less than they were last year. The 58 women on the list are worth a combined $535 billion, down by by $29 billion from last year.

For more than two weeks, women across Iran have protested the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in custody of the morality police just days after being arrested for not wearing her hijab properly. Iranian women have burned their hijabs and cut their hair in public as a means of standing in solidarity with Amini. At least 75 people have been killed throughout the unrest.

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer and private employer, will begin offering fertility benefits under its insurance plan. Employees will get access to more than 30 fertility clinics and in vitro fertilization labs across the country.

The Des Moines Public School District is adding girls wrestling to its roster of sports and has hired Samantha Bush to be the program’s first head coach for the districtwide united team.

Women now account for more than half of the college-educated labor force in the United States, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. There are 31.3 million women over the age of 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 30.5 million men.

Worth checking out
The Ukranian women farmers fighting to keep the world fed (The Fuller Project). Girls are leaving high school basketball, and here’s why (Wall Street Journal). 8 mothers bare their bodies, forever changed after giving birth (Los Angeles Times). If I mention the ‘modern male struggle,’ do you roll your eyes? It’s time to stop looking away (The Guardian). See who’s on the Time100 Next list (Time).
Join us on Zoom this Thursday, Oct. 6, at noon for a conversation on risk-taking.

Through sharing both personal and business-related examples, our speakers will give advice on how to find success, how to learn from failure and how you can support yourself or women you know in their journeys of reaching toward their goals.

Joining us for the conversation is:
  • Connie Wimer, chairman-Business Publications Corp.
  • Kirsten Anderson, author and advocate.
  • Katie Hoff, team leader, Cyber Security Operations, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

See you there!

Reflections on my first solo multiday, out-of-state camping trip
If anything, I am my mother’s daughter.

If I tell her, "I’m going camping for a few days by myself next month," she won’t say, "Alone?! What are you, nuts?" or "You should really go with Jake (my husband), just to be safe."  

Instead, she’ll reply with, "Sounds like fun! Where ya goin’? Why not go for longer?"

I grew up in a family where independence was a trait my siblings and I gained – and I would almost dare to say inherited – from the time we could walk.

My mom is fiercely independent and is the most fearless woman I know. One example: When she was younger, she decided to live in Australia by herself for a year, just because she wanted to.

She instilled an I-can-do-it-myself mentality in my three younger siblings and me right from the start.

"You miss out on too much if you require company or assistance," my mom told me. "I wanted you to feel capable of handling life."

We were scraping our plates into the garbage at age 2.

When we could still count our age on one hand, we’d occasionally find ourselves stuck in the climbing tree in our front yard.

"Tough," she’d say. "If you can get up, you can get down."

At age 8, I was crossing five lanes of traffic and walking a block up the street from our house by myself to a weekly after-school program.

My siblings and I have all had our fair share of experiences of going off on our own in our teen years, too. My brother took a six-week solo trip across the country to visit the national parks at age 19. My sister traveled solo to Japan at age 15 and Europe at 19. My other brother joined the Army at 17.

So anyone who knows me well doesn’t bat an eye when I tell them I’m going camping alone.

For more than a month, I had been planning a trip up to Lake Superior. I was feeling worn down and overworked. I desperately needed a short break from a reality filled with deadlines, interviews and events where I had to be social. I needed time alone – away from people and away from my daily routine.

The North Shore of Minnesota and the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin seemed like the perfect spot.

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