View as webpage, click here.
FEBRUARY 19, 2024
Good morning, Fearless readers:

I was writing during the Super Bowl when a TV ad jerked me from my computer screen. I saw a young gymnast fall on the (relatively simple) Level 3 vault, landing hard on her bottom. She reminded me of the gymnasts I used to coach. This ad was legit. These girls were real.

I always told my gymnasts that it was OK to fall sometimes. After all, the goal of youth sports should be to produce better humans – adults who can stand up and try again after a breath-sucking fall. The Dove advertisement continued to the song "It’s the Hard Knock Life" with clips of girls falling in their respective sports. Then, it cut silently to a young swimmer looking at her body in the mirror while wearing a swimsuit. Text appeared: "The knocks don’t stop girls playing sports. Low body confidence does. 45% of girls quit sports by age 14. Together we can keep them in the game."

Did you see the ad and Dove’s campaign? What did you think of it? How will you help the girls in your life develop body confidence?

In this week’s Fearless e-newsletter, you will find:

  • A preview of upcoming Fearless Focus events you won’t want to miss.
  • A column by Business Publications Corp. President and CEO Suzanna de Baca about how you can create opportunities for women to lead in your organization.
  • A brief about the University of Iowa’s Tippie Women Summit in March.
  • In the headlines: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal allowing over-the-counter birth control advanced through a subcommittee on Feb. 12.
  • A break from the news: Learn how Des Moines freelance journalist Karla Walsh beat imposter syndrome and ended up at the Super Bowl – for work.
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Save the dates: 2024 Fearless Focus event series
Through the Fearless Focus event series, we give you the opportunity to learn from and connect with others around the state equally as passionate about these issues. Today, we’re excited to announce our topics and dates for the 2024 events, which are all held virtually and registration is free. Women, gender-nonconforming individuals and male allies are all encouraged to be fearless with us.

Fearless Focus: Financial empowerment
April 18, 2024, noon to 1 p.m.

Addressing the unique financial barriers that women face

Wage disparities and differing policies on paid family leave continue to be systemic issues affecting women’s economic standing. On an individual level, women often feel less confident than men when it comes to budgeting, investing and planning for retirement. In this conversation, we will talk about both the systemic and individual challenges women face financially. Leaders will highlight programs, opportunities and policies that support women’s economic mobility.

Fearless Focus: Child care
June 20, 2023, noon to 1 p.m.

A look at solutions to Iowa’s child care challenges

Issues with availability and affordability plague Iowa’s child care system. In recent years, the issue has been seen by many as a business issue: If workers cannot afford or find available child care, they can’t work. Adding more fuel to the fire, school districts that can’t find enough teachers are considering or have moved to four-day weeks, leaving working parents concerned about finding available child care on days when school is not in session. In this discussion, we’ll talk to those working to change the trajectory of child care in Iowa through unique policy, business and community solutions. Come learn what’s being done and other ideas that could be employed in the future.

Fearless Focus: Leadership and mentorship
Oct. 3, 2024, noon to 1 p.m.

The role mentors play in empowering women in the workplace

Elevating more women into leadership roles is still a key priority for equity advocates. Mentorship has been seen as one solution to the barriers that women face in ascending to formal leadership positions. In this conversation we will talk about the challenges women face in becoming leaders and how mentors can help guide the next generation. Hear advice on how to find a good mentor and how to be a good mentor. Come ready to be inspired and learn tips you can apply to your own career or community involvement.

Registration will be available on EventBrite a few weeks before each event, but we encourage you to mark your calendars now. Questions? Reach out to me at
Leading Fearlessly: How can you create opportunities for women to lead in your organization?
I never dreamed I would someday be a CEO until a man suggested it. In a summer job during my MBA program, my boss asked me what roles I aspired to in the future. I told him I could see myself as the head of marketing or sales somewhere. "You need to think bigger," he laughed, adding: "You were born to be a CEO." I was flabbergasted by his assessment. Even if I had already run projects and served as director of a nonprofit organization, I had not really ever thought of myself in those terms. I’ve often reflected on how his vision of what was possible for me gave me both the idea and the confidence to develop as a leader, especially at a time when not a lot of women were in business.

"When more women are empowered to lead, everyone benefits," asserted an article by the American Psychological Association. I was inspired by my boss and other role models to pursue opportunities to advance and lead. But, despite the countless studies outlined in that article that demonstrate women leaders help increase productivity and improve culture, the gender gap still exists. According to an article last year in Forbes, only 10.4% of Fortune 500 company CEOs are women.
What can you be doing to support and develop female leaders in your own organizations? The APA article noted, "Industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologists offer a host of evidence-based strategies for helping close the gender gap." They point to identifying leadership potential early in a woman’s career, skills and leadership training for women, allyship by men, and mentorship and sponsorship programs, among others.

I turned to top local leaders to ask for their advice. In addition to the strategies suggested by APA, they offered new insights on how to help lift up and support women on their leadership journeys.

Chris Koepplin, CEO, Ellipsis:
Address conscious and unconscious bias. I believe one of the most important things we can do to create more opportunities for women in leadership spaces is to address the conscious and unconscious biases in our workplaces and in our communities. When decades of research support the positive impact of having women in leadership roles, it is imperative that we address the barriers to getting them there. Women in positions of leadership need to be role models and mentors for other up-and-coming women with strength. Everyone in positions of leadership needs to serve as allies and cheerleaders for women, creating opportunities to develop skills and experience success. We all need to stop naming the same leadership traits and styles as positive in men and negative in women. Leadership is leadership, and when we do it well, we need to recognize it for its value.

Dr. Nalo Johnson, president and CEO, Mid-Iowa Health Foundation:
Invest in mentorship. Mentorship is key for anyone aspiring to a leadership position, as well as for continuing to grow their skills once they are in a leadership role. It is essential to have experienced individuals who can invest their time and knowledge in others to help them navigate the professional sphere. Studies have shown mentorship is a particularly important tool to successfully engage women and people of color in leadership roles. 

Anna Nalean, community impact coordinator, Delta Dental of Iowa:
Be intentional. Businesses have to be intentional about acknowledging and then growing the many talented female leaders that surround them. So many times I’ve seen organizations lose out on incredibly talented leaders, simply by not seeing her (she is often not the loudest voice in the room!) or seeing the potential she brings. Recognizing that leader, telling her you see her potential, and then being willing to invest in that potential through development opportunities.

Maria Volante, president, Volante Consulting:
Listen. Organizations can create opportunities for women by listening. Women have superpowers they may not always realize they have. Women can clearly see where they can make a difference but may hold themselves back by not asking, even suggesting, what they want. As an executive coach I have many conversations with women of all ages who have strategic thinking skills, creative ideas, ability to motivate and develop others – phenomenal talents. That said, women often hold back by waiting to be asked for their thoughts and ideas. All they need is encouragement and support to speak their brilliant minds. This is a two-way street – women can fearlessly put their thoughts on the table and organizations can listen. Truly listen, learn and leverage the infinite source of the superpower of the women in their organizations. 

Emily Williams-Bouska, business execution leader, Wells Fargo:
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and jump in. For businesses, get comfortable with the uncomfortable conversations – what does your leadership table look like? Why are there so few, if any, women at that table or other decision-making tables? How can you change that immediately and then really listen to them? Not next year. Not on a five-year roadmap – now!  

For women … take up space – in your daily conversations, during the all-hands meeting, during your performance evaluations, in front of leadership. Your voice is important, so make people notice. Do not be afraid to step into a space that does not look like you. That is where you are needed most. Take the opportunities that were never on your "professional path" bingo card. Never in a million years did I think my career would land me in corporate real estate, but I jumped and am using my voice and expertise in a space that is often lacking a woman’s perspective.

Kate Mersch, Adrienne Maxwell, Kristen Stradt-Johnson, Rubi Eichelberger and Kendra Belski attend the 2023 Tippie Women Summit. Photo courtesy of the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business.
In the headlines
Lineup for 2024 Tippie Women Summit in March announced
The Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa has announced the program for its 2024 Tippie Women Summit, which includes one in-person event and three virtual events in March. The public is welcome to register for any of the events. Topics include entrepreneurship, negotiation, financial strategies, managing workplace triggers and more. (Read more and learn about registration.)

Governor’s over-the-counter birth control bill advances:
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal allowing over-the-counter birth control advanced through a subcommittee on Feb. 12, despite pushback from some conservative advocates. The three-member legislative panel unanimously voted to move forward with House Study Bill 642. The bill would authorize the state medical director to establish a standing order, allowing pharmacists to distribute self-administered hormonal contraceptives without a prescription. The order would cover oral birth control, vaginal rings and patches, but would not include drugs intended to induce abortion, according to this story in the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Iowa City woman builds community, support for people of color: LaTasha DeLoach stood center stage before a podium earlier this month at the Iowa City Senior Center, scanning the crowd with a wide smile on her face. Her dress — a Ghanaian designer’s debut creation on American soil — trailed to the ground in ripples of vibrant orange and yellow flowers. The room was filled with the 100-plus attendees she hosted, the vendors she paid, the speakers she invited. All had gathered for Iowa City’s inaugural Black History Ball. "We specifically wanted to make this a beautiful night and a beautiful opportunity for you all here," DeLoach told her audience. "I’m just so proud." DeLoach, 42, is the coordinator of the Iowa City Senior Center, where she has worked for nearly six years to boost diversity initiatives through intentional programming and open discussions. It’s the latest of her longtime efforts to build support systems for people of color in Iowa, according to this story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Iowans flock to Capitol for heated hearing on Kim Reynolds’ bill defining ‘man’ and ‘woman’: Transgender Iowans accused lawmakers of trying to "erase" them, while others urged legislators to stand for "biological truth" at a heated hearing at the Iowa Capitol on a bill that would define "man" and "woman" in state law. Two dozen Iowans spoke Feb. 12 at an hourlong public hearing on the bill, House File 2389, while outside in the Capitol rotunda, hundreds of protesters with LGBTQ+ and transgender rights flags shouted and cheered throughout the hearing. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds introduced the controversial bill earlier this month. The legislation would add new definitions of man and woman to state law, as well as require changes to birth certificates and government collection of data, according to this story in the Des Moines Register.

Veiled in strength: Coralville’s World Hijab Day encourages pride, empowerment:
Dozens of Iowa City-area Muslim women gathered Feb. 1 in the Coralville Public Library to celebrate their religion and culture and debunk the misinformation and bigotry they often face. About 250 people, including many friends and family of the women, as well as curious community members, attended World Hijab Day at the library, according to this story in the Iowa City Press Citizen. Organized and co-hosted by the library and the Mariam Girls’ Club, a local group with a mission to connect, unite and empower young Muslim women, Hijab Day involved displays about the history of the faith-inspired head covering, conversations aimed at creating understanding and time to build solidarity.

Worth checking out
Corporate advocacy in a time of social outrage (Harvard Business Review). Why many older women are saying ‘I don’t’ to marriage (Washington Post). Uterine cancer was easy to treat. Now it’s killing more women than ever. (Wall Street Journal). Journalists are routinely vilified on social media and the beat, with women enduring the brunt of the abuse (Editor & Publisher). Why do women look for freelance, gig jobs? Avoiding the ‘old boys network’ at the office. (USA Today). Tech workers fear generative AI could ‘drive women out the workforce’ (ITPro).
Guest commentary: How I stopped sitting out on the sidelines of life
(Editor’s note: One of our goals with Fearless is to help Iowa women overcome imposter syndrome and develop absolute confidence. We recently saw a Facebook post by freelance journalist Karla Walsh about achieving both. We asked Walsh if we could publish her recent experience about attending the Super Bowl. Here is her story. – Emily Barske Wood, special projects editor, and Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer)

Sometimes it’s a really great thing to sit on the sidelines.

Nine days ago, the Pepsi PR team reached out with an invitation to be their guest at the Super Bowl. As a sponsor of the event, they reserve one extra ticket each year to invite a journalist.

In the "Wait, did they send this to the right person?!" email, they mentioned that they had been reading my work and asked me to join them to interview Guy Fieri, the host of a 15,000-person tailgate before the game that Pepsi co-sponsored. I would join them at the Super Bowl, and if desired, at a late-night afterparty (my words: that was far too cool for me but a total blast!) with snacks, dancing and rollerskating.

Fifteen years ago, I would have said "no" because I was afraid of the lack of control and short turnaround time. Five years ago, I would have said "no" because I was too glued to my computer to actually live life. Or I would have said "no" because I would spend the entire weekend feeling like an imposter.

But this year, this time, I said "hell yes." I just arrived home with half of a voice, pleasantly tired legs and feet, immense gratitude and several new friends from the ridiculously cool, creative and down-to-earth Pepsi team.

My phone is full of notes from that on-site Fieri interview, ready to craft into stories, along with some priceless snapshots that will always remind me of how much I’ve grown and how incredibly lucky I am.

Turns out, it’s far more fun to sit on the sidelines of a game, be it big or small, rather than sitting on the sidelines of life.

I share this as a reminder in case you’re afraid to step into your power or say yes to something that stretches what you think you’re worthy of or can handle. You can.

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!

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 staff writer:
Submit press release:
Advertising info:
Membership info:

Copyright © BPC 2024, All rights reserved.
Reproduction or use without permission of editorial or graphic content in any manner is strictly prohibited.

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign