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MAY 30, 2023
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Who is the first woman you remember admiring? I started the first grade in 1988 in Miss Alicia Leamer’s classroom in Onawa, Iowa. I knew the alphabet but I could not read. By the end of the year, I was flying through “Boxcar Children” books after Miss Leamer read the first one to our class.

Nearly two decades later, when I was working as a reporter for the Sioux City Journal, I received a small white card with my name and the newspaper’s address in perfectly spaced, handwritten print. Miss Leamer, long retired, had been reading my stories. I meant to have coffee or lunch with her but I never did. She died in 2015. Readers: Reach out to the women you admire. Have that coffee or lunch. Do not wait.

Today, I am proud to share the Business Record’s Women of Influence nominees in this e-newsletter. They’re all women we can learn from, like Miss Leamer. What will you learn from them? What have you already learned from them? Tell me:

In this issue you will also find a guest opinion piece about female family business leaders and a story about mentorship.

-- Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Business Record announces 2023 Women of Influence honorees
The Business Record announced the 2023 Women of Influence during a live broadcast on Facebook last week. 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 21 edition of the Business Record, and we’ll be honoring the women in person at an event on Aug. 3. 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:
Laura Sweet, vice president and chief operating officer, Des Moines Performing Arts.
Kim Willis, community champion.
Barbara Quijano Decker, executive director, Catholic Charities - Des Moines.
Maria Volante, president, Volante Consulting.
Angela Jackson, senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Athene USA.
Lisa Shimkat, state director, America’s SBDC Iowa.
Terri Vaughan, professional director, Emmett J. Vaughan Institute of Risk Management and Insurance, University of Iowa Tippie College of Business.
Mary Wells, Polk County treasurer and president of Investing In My Future Inc.

Iowa State University Ivy College of Business Woman Business Owner of the Year: Claudia Schabel, president, Schabel Solutions Inc.

Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines Emerging Woman of Influence: Shaimaa Aly, head of business assurance, Wells Fargo.

Join us to celebrate these honorees!

Event details
Date: Aug. 3, 2023
Location: Des Moines Marriott Downtown
Time: 4-7 p.m.

General admission tickets go on sale in July. With the purchase of a corporate table, you and your business will be able to fully engage in recognizing the honorees and support this group’s accomplishments live in the room. Your company will also have an ad presence in the Business Record edition that features the honorees.

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 30. There are a limited number of tables that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact your sales representative or Emily Schultz at if you have additional questions.

Learn more about the awards, our Aug. 3 celebration event and past honorees at
Working with family can be a unique challenge — and an opportunity. These eight women share their insights
Family business transcends any one industry — farmers, manufacturers and IT specialists all often find themselves working with their parents, spouses, cousins, siblings and children. This can create friction that not every family is equipped to handle, and some have a tough time balancing business and family when both are often in the same room. In addition, a lot of these family-owned businesses are in male-dominated fields.

According to a 2018 study by EY Global, only 9% of family businesses have a woman in a top leadership role and 24% have women in executive leadership positions. Leadership was historically passed from a father to a male heir, but KPMG found that family businesses are now creating succession plans driven by merit, capability and willingness instead of gender or kinship.

Opportunities are opening up for women in family-owned businesses, and the University of Northern Iowa Family Business Center sought out women in these spaces who were willing to share their experiences. What follows are eight vignettes from women in all corners of Iowa who are leading from where they are and encouraging you to do the same.

Megan Weiler Green
Megan Weiler Green is counsel and engineering manager and a second-generation family member at Weiler Inc., a paving equipment manufacturer in Knoxville.

“You can support women by allowing them to define what their limits are going to be. A lot of people try to do the right thing when supporting women in the workplace, at times shielding them from after-hours work or travel, but I think it’s important to trust women to make their own decisions and decide what’s best for their situation. Women also need to hold up their end of the bargain: If you want the opportunity, be available for it. If it’s not a good fit, be honest with yourself, define your terms and ask for what you need.

“The barriers I’ve faced as a woman in family business are often self-imposed. My background is as a lawyer and I used to feel that it was the only way I could add value to the company, but my dad told me I could add more. The same with my siblings, who, on the surface, you’d think maybe their backgrounds don’t fit with the business. But we’ve been allowed to experiment and expand our skill set to take on responsibilities that we didn’t see possible at first. We’ve approached those opportunities with humility and with the expectation that we would make mistakes, we’d own up to them and we’d be better next time.”

Rep. Shannon Latham
Wife. Mother. Entrepreneur. These are just three of the titles that Shannon Latham holds. She also serves District 55 in the Iowa House of Representatives and is co-owner/vice president of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds in Alexander. Shannon helped her husband, John, launch a traited seed corn business in 2004. Five years later their company purchased Latham Seed Co., which only sold soybeans, and began doing business as Latham Hi-Tech Seeds. Today Shannon, John, and John’s brother, Chris, are third-generation owners of a company that offers seed corn, soybeans and alfalfa to farmers across the Upper Midwest.

"As a female owner of a family business, I bring a different perspective to the table. I know what it’s like to juggle child care and work meetings. Before I joined our family business, I sometimes had to take an extra day of vacation to drive my children to my parents’ place so I could travel. When I joined Latham Seeds, I looked for ways to bring families together. For example, we provide activities for spouses and children while Latham dealers are attending our annual meeting. Spouse is no longer defined as a woman, and we let spouses decide how they wanted to balance their roles as parents and business partners.”

Latham said she also challenged the status quo in the workplace. When she asked why something was done a certain way, she didn’t accept “because that’s the way we do it” for an answer.

“I have been fortunate to have great mentors throughout my career, who encouraged me to raise questions and offer ideas. It's important to surround yourself with colleagues and friends who will lift you up and help you succeed. As the saying goes, 'empowered women empower women.’ I also believe strong men champion strong women. I am blessed to have these types of people in my life.”

Katie Kreis is the communications and marketing coordinator at the UNI Family Business Center.

Tina Turner. Wikimedia Commons.
In the headlines
Tennessee-born superstar Tina Turner died May 24 in Switzerland. The rock and soul icon relinquished her U.S. citizenship in 2013, according to the Washington Post. Her music was more popular in Europe than in the U.S. But she also found a more peaceful and better life there after an abusive first marriage.

A new movement to create
“menopause-friendly workplaces” is catching on, beginning in Britain, where menopausal women are believed to be the fastest-growing workforce demographic, according to the New York Times. The effort is now hitting the United States. New York City Mayor Eric Adams promised earlier this year “to change the stigma around menopause in this city,” and to “create more menopause-friendly workplaces for our city workers through improving policies and our buildings.”

The rush in some states to ban abortion after the overturn of Roe v. Wade is resulting in fewer medical services available to all women living in those states, according to NPR. Care for pregnant women specifically is at risk, as hospitals in rural areas close maternity wards because they can’t find enough professionals to staff them – a problem that predated the abortion ruling but has only gotten worse since.

The next leader of the University of Iowa’s sprawling health care enterprise and medical college will be retired U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Denise J. Jamieson, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Jamieson, 58, is the chairperson of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. She is also the chief of gynecology and obstetrics for Emory Healthcare. She will start her new job as UIHC vice president for medical affairs and dean of the UI Carver College of Medicine on Aug. 1.

Worth checking out
The tortured bond of Alice Sebold and the man wrongfully convicted of her rape (New Yorker). She holds the NASA record for time spent in space. This week she headed back (NPR). More women sue Texas, saying the state’s anti-abortion laws harmed them (NPR). Rude comments and bottom slaps: The things female doctors put up with (Washington Post).
Principal mentor guides South African businesswoman in partnership
Linda Nyembezi named her business, Insele Capital Partners, after a voracious omnivore with a unique adaptation.

“Insele” means “honey badger” in isiZulu, Nyembezi’s native language.

“A honey badger is a tenacious and determined little animal, quite ferocious, small. But the honey badger also has a symbiotic relationship with the honeyguide bird. A honeyguide bird helps the honey badger to track the beehive, and the honey badger cracks it open. So the honeybird feeds on the honey and the honey badger on the insects. So it’s a good, mutually beneficial relationship. And that’s how I like to see my relationship with my clients,” Nyembezi said.

Nyembezi, whose dedicated fixed-income brokerage business is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, spent 10 days in Des Moines in May as part of another mutually beneficial relationship – a mentorship with Amy Friedrich, president of U.S. insurance solutions at Principal Financial Group.
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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