Election preview, WLC takeaways, work-life balance
 ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌
View as webpage, click here.
Good morning and happy day-before-Election Day!

As you go to the polls, I hope you remember this quote from suffragist and Iowan Carrie Chapman Catt: "The vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guarantee of your liberty. That vote of yours has cost millions of dollars and the lives of thousands of women. … Women have suffered agony of soul which you can never comprehend, that you and your daughters might inherit political freedom. That vote has been costly. Prize it! The vote is a power, a weapon of offense and defense, a prayer. Understand what it means and what it can do for your country. Use it intelligently, conscientiously, prayerfully."

I wrote up an election preview, and examined the representation of women on the ballot this year. Spoiler alert: There is a record proportion of Iowa women running for office this year. Read the full story to dig deeper.

We’ve also got a guest opinion piece on work-life balance from UI associate professor Beth Livingston and takeaways from the Women Lead Change Central Iowa Conference.

Also: Don’t forget to register for the Fearless celebration, happening Thursday, Nov. 17, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Sheraton in West Des Moines! It’ll be a morning filled with inspiration, connection and storytelling.

Have a great week!

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

Midterm election preview: Iowa making ‘great strides’ toward women’s representation in state Legislature
The Iowa House chamber in 2019. Photo by Emily Kestel.
Editor’s note: The Business Record and all its publications, including Fearless, are apolitical. The Business Record has never endorsed candidates or covered day-to-day elections or party platforms. We’ve chosen not to do this intentionally because we know there are a number of national and local news organizations that make it their specialty to provide election and politics coverage, and we have instead focused our efforts on policy issues as they relate to the Business Record’s goal of helping businesses do business better. We encourage you to consume many different sources of news in addition to our products so you can be an informed citizen.

We are covering politics within Fearless because we know that decisions that are made in public office very much affect a woman’s ability to succeed in work and life. Our focus will be on representation of women in politics and policies that specifically relate to gender issues.

There is a record proportion of Iowa women running for state and federal office this year – barely.

Of the 217 candidates running for federal and state legislative office this year, 78 – or 35.94% – are women. In 2020, when the previous record was set, that rate was 35.17%.

According to a Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics analysis, Iowa has seen steady increases in the proportion of female candidates in recent years. When the Catt Center began tracking data in 2000, women made up 18% of candidates in the state’s general election.

The proportion of female candidates in Iowa's general elections has risen steadily for the last few decades. Graphic by Lauren Burt.
"Nationally, I would say there is steady but slow progress towards women's full representation in government. And at the state level, I would say that Iowa has made great strides in a relatively short amount of time," Karen Kedrowski, director of the Catt Center, said.

In the state legislative races, 20 women are running for Iowa Senate seats. One district features two women running against each other. In the other chamber, 50 women are running for Iowa House seats, and three districts feature races where two women are running against each other.

In the gubernatorial race, for the first time Iowa is guaranteed to have a female governor as Republican incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds and Democratic nominee Deidre DeJear face each other.

With all that being said, perhaps it is not the sheer number of women running for office that is newsworthy this year, but that it is becoming normal.

Kedrowski said when we’ve normalized women running for and holding office, female candidates are then able to dedicate more time to the issues. "It allows the candidates who are women to move beyond having to answer questions like ‘What's it like to be a woman on the campaign trail?’ to talking about issues, plans and ideas."

On the flip side, completely ignoring gender in the political arena shouldn’t be the goal.

In an Iowa Capital Dispatch article, Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics, said that in past elections, much of the attention on female candidates was centered on the number of women running for and winning office. This cycle, she said, there’s less attention being paid to women running, a decision that "really ignores the important ways in which gender is still shaping women’s decisions to, and experiences while running."

When asked about why representation of women in political office is still an issue worth talking about, Kedrowski summed it up: "Women remain underrepresented in public life."

Who’s running?

Seventy women are running for seats within the Iowa state Legislature. Forty-six of them are Democrats and 24 are Republicans. (See names and party affiliations in a Catt Center analysis.)

Five women are running for three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives: Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Christina Bohannan in the IA-01 race, Ashley Hinson and Liz Mathis in the IA-02 race, and Cindy Axne in the IA-03 race. Three are Democrats and two are Republicans.

Two women are running to be governor of Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds and Deidre DeJear. Across the country, Arizona, Oregon, Alabama and Michigan also have contests between two women, the most in history.

Republican Brenna Bird is running to become the state’s attorney general.

No Iowa women are on the ballot for the U.S. Senate.  

What does the national picture look like?

According to an analysis by the Center for American Women and Politics, there are a record number of women nominees in gubernatorial and state legislative races.

Twenty-five women are major-party nominees for governor, which is a 56% increase from the previous record of 16, set in 2018. Five women are running to be their state’s first elected female governor. Potentials for other firsts include the first Black woman governor and the first openly lesbian governor.

In U.S. Senate races, 20 women are major-party nominees, short of the previous record of 23, which was set in 2018. As it stands, 17 states have never been represented by a woman in the Senate, but that could change in Alabama, Connecticut, Oklahoma and South Carolina this year.

For U.S. House races, 259 women are major-party nominees, short of the previous record of 298, set in 2020. Three states have never been represented by a woman in the House, including Mississippi and Vermont, who have women on the ballot.

At 37 nominees, there are a record number of Latina and Hispanic women on the ballot for U.S. House races this year.

Let’s stop talking about work-life balance
Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the Business Record’s innnovationIOWA newsletter, which is curated by my colleague Sarah Bogaards. Sign up to receive the newsletter here.

I’ve lost count of how many companies talk about employee work-life "balance." Magazine articles, webinars, tweets and emails either bemoan our lack of balance or proclaim they can help you achieve it. But here’s something I’ve learned after studying it for 20 years.

Work-life balance doesn’t exist.

So why do we keep talking about it? And should we? Does our obsession with achieving work-life balance do more harm than good by making us feel like failures when we don’t?

Balance is difficult to understand and model, so much so that practitioners and academics are still debating how to even measure it. If we can’t agree how to measure it, how can we expect people to achieve it? And if we expect people to achieve balance, how do the people who aren’t paragons of balance feel when they fall short?

The metaphor of balance implies a person has it all together. They are like stacked rocks on the beach in the sunshine, perfect and pristine. In fact, we are nothing like that. Our roles are always in flux. Someone who feels balanced at 10 a.m. may suddenly not feel balanced when day care calls at 10:15 and says their child is ill. Should they feel guilty that they are no longer "balanced"? Unfortunately, they often do, because we keep talking about balance as a state of being that one can achieve if they just work hard enough.

So what do we do to get away from our obsession with balance? First, how we talk about these issues matters. "Balance" is too precarious a term, so I try to avoid compounding the real concerns that employees have by implying such a thing is attainable in the first place. Instead, I say they are "managing" their work and life roles. Or even "integrating" them. Or perhaps, during the pandemic, merely "surviving" them. But I avoid "balance."

Second, I talk about roles and boundaries. During COVID, we have come to understand that boundaries between work and nonwork are critically important. But what does that mean for how people experience their work while working? Each of us is a collection of roles and identities, all of which have different expectations and responsibilities. When they conflict, we feel bad. But when they are in sync, we feel in a groove, and it’s that groove we try to attain. Labeling this as balance, however, negates the active work that so many people do to find their groove. And it also fails to recognize how precarious it is.

That’s why, third, I talk about the dynamics of life. Everyone has a different idea as to how they want their work and nonwork lives to interact, which is why the debate between working at the office and working remotely so often misses the mark. What we want and what we need are specific to each individual’s preferences, and those preferences can vary even from day to day. It’s not a policy people need, it’s autonomy over how to do their jobs. This takes a passive recipient of work-life situations and turns them into an active author of their own work-life trajectory.

Finally, even those of us with total control over our jobs do not always have total control over our lives outside of work. Children get sick. Partners get divorced. Parents move in with us. If we are focused on feeling balanced, these shocks can set us back psychologically in ways that compound the lack of control we already feel. But if we foster a culture that acknowledges variance and fluctuation in our daily work/nonwork dynamics, we create workplaces that trust employees to manage their responsibilities in ways that work for them.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I took "mindful childbirth" classes and something the coach said has stuck with me for a decade: Don’t hit yourself with the second dart. In other words, bad things are going to happen that throw you off course. Don’t make yourself feel worse about it than you have to. Focusing on achieving an elusive state of work-life balance makes it more likely that you’ll face the guilt and shame of not achieving this impossible goal.

In the headlines
Laura Kavanagh became the first female commissioner of the Fire Department of New York last month. She said she hopes her appointment will pave the way for other women to hold the role in the future. "This moment – me being first – only matters if I am not the last," Kavanagh said.

Iowa National Guard Lt. Col. Martha Kester is making history as the first "co-first" female state chaplain in the country’s National Guard alongside Lt. Col. Heather Simon of the New Jersey National Guard. In a Des Moines Register article, Kester said it’s "about time" that female chaplains be promoted to high-ranking roles in the military, given the value in bringing a diverse range of perspectives to the role.

For the first time in New Zealand's history, a majority of lawmakers are women. The milestone places New Zealand among a half-dozen nations in the world that this year can claim at least 50% female representation in their parliaments, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Other nations include Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates. Globally, about 26% of lawmakers are women, according to the union.

A recent report from consulting firm KPMG found that the "mass exodus" of women and mothers from the workforce as a result of the pandemic is one of the most pressing diversity-related issues. "Working women need help immediately, and companies must offer flexibility to all working parents to care for children or elderly parents without professional repercussions," Zoe Thompson, social strategy leader at KPMG, said.

The first-ever network to focus on female athletes launched last week, offering 24/7 streaming of original programming, competitions, documentaries and a daily studio show. The Women’s Sports Network is a free, ad-supported network featured on Freevee, Tubi, FuboTV and smart TVs. "It’s a significant step towards narrowing the gap in media coverage for female athletes, for female sports," said Angela Ruggiero, CEO and co-founder of Sports Innovation Lab and four-time ice hockey Olympian, who is on the board of advisers for the new network.

Nominations are now open through Nov. 21 for the seventh annual Inspiring Women of Iowa awards. The event, whose proceeds benefit the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, celebrates Iowa women of courage, confidence and character, as well as the businesses and people that support them. For more information and to nominate someone, visit the Inspiring Women of Iowa website.

Worth checking out
Female musicians uniquely feel the impact of a lack of family planning options (Iowa Public Radio). Frustrated women and hopeful men: The gender gap in Americans’ moods (Time). Why more and more girls are hitting puberty early (New Yorker). Can you get ahead and still have a life? Younger women are trying to find out (Wall Street Journal). Why America needs more men working in health care and education (Time).
We invite you to join us and others equally passionate about empowering Iowa women as we celebrate two years of the Business Record’s Fearless initiative. Women, gender-nonconforming individuals and male allies are all encouraged to be fearless with us.

To celebrate Fearless, a lineup of inspiring women will share their stories of fearlessness and courage. Attendees at the Nov. 17 event will be seated at a table with female leaders, including some of our past Women of Influence honorees, who will lead powerful discussions to share perspectives and insights on succeeding in work and life. Attendees will build additional connections with leaders and other participants as they rotate to different tables throughout the event.

As part of our Fearless core values, this event will create an atmosphere where everyone has a seat and voice at the table. This dynamic interaction will give you not only a chance to learn from others’ experiences and engage in topics facing women in the workplace, but you’ll also have the opportunity to develop and deepen your relationships with women across the state.

Guest speakers are:

Details: Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, 10 a.m. to noon , Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel

7 takeaways from the 2022 Women Lead Change Central Iowa Conference
The Women Lead Change Central Iowa Conference. Photo by Emily Kestel.
Women Lead Change held its annual Central Iowa Conference last month, and like last year, I’m once again happy to summarize my 11 pages of notes in hopes that you’ll find something useful or inspiring to tuck in your pocket or refer to for future use.

Below are several takeaways from various keynotes and breakout sessions I attended.

Prioritize having fun

Science journalist Catherine Price was blunt when she said, "We need to have fun, and we aren’t taking fun seriously," during her keynote address.

"Fun is the secret to feeling alive," she said. "Fun boosts resilience and reduces burnout. Fun builds trust. Fun makes us creative, healthier and happier."

True fun often happens through playfulness, where you have a lighthearted attitude and let go of perfectionism; connection, where you share an experience with someone; and flow, a psychological state where you lose track of time, she explained.

Dubbing it a "funtervention," Price explained steps to having a more joyful, fun life through the acronym SPARK.

The S is for making space, in which you reclaim your time and give yourself permission to prioritize your own fun.

P is for pursuing passions, where you do things that you enjoy and explore new hobbies or interests.

A is for attracting fun, which includes identifying "fun magnets" and adopting a fun mindset.

R stands for rebel – though playfully.

K stands for keeping at it, which can be done by creating "booster shots" of always having something to look forward to, and seeking new opportunities to create playful, connected flow.

She also said one of her habits is saying the word "delight" out loud every time she sees or experiences something that sparks joy.

Build confidence with a growth mindset

In her keynote speech, author Nada Lena Nasserdeen laid out 15 challenges that female leaders face, and argued that many of them are related to confidence. Challenges she mentioned included: a lack of support from other women, speaking up, building alliances, asking for money, reentering the workforce after becoming a parent, overcoming perfectionism and tackling imposter syndrome.

Lack of self-confidence and "wasted human potential" are "the greatest tragedy we see today," Nasserdeen said.

She encouraged attendees to work on building "macroconfidence" instead of "microconfidence."

Macroconfidence, she said, is where you believe that you are enough simply because you exist, and you maintain a growth mindset. Microconfidence is when you have confidence in specific areas of your life, such as your career, relationships, speaking up, instead of a more holistic approach.

With a growth mindset, she said, you shift your frame of thinking from "I can’t" or "I don’t know" to "I can’t yet."

Nasserdeen gave several pieces of advice on building confidence, which included:
  • Practice failing.
  • Embrace new opportunities.
  • Don’t focus on what you don’t know; think about the value you bring to the table.
  • Forget perfection.
  • Remember that you are enough, and no one can convince you of that except you.
October leaves
These days, I tend to only follow accounts on Instagram that bring me joy or spark inspiration. This video from artist Karly Murphy of @kmpressed shows a leaf for every day in October.

Now that most of the leaves are gone, watching this video made my heart swell with appreciation for how lovely fall was, and how many different types of trees and plants are out there.

Like this newsletter? Please forward to a friend!
Did someone share this newsletter with you? Sign up here.

Business Publications Corporation Inc.

515.288.3336  |

Contact the group publisher of BPC:
Contact Fearless editor:
Submit press release:
Advertising info:
Membership info:

Copyright © BPC 2022, All rights reserved.
Reproduction or use without permission of editorial or graphic content in any manner is strictly prohibited.

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign