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JUNE 5, 2023
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Our Fearless Focus event on confidence is just around the corner on June 22. Get signed up here for free.

For those of you with school-age children: How are you handling child care this summer? My daughter, Juliet, is 7 and just finished the first grade. Originally, I had planned to be home with her this summer. But after I accepted a job at the Business Record in May, my husband and I put together a hodgepodge of camps and activities that substitute for child care – dance camp, vocal music camp, vacation Bible school. Many Des Moines-area camps and youth activities filled up in February. There are long waiting lists. All too often, gaps in child care during the summer hamstring women. Tell me your plans and your challenges related to summer child care:

In today's newsletter, you will find a story by former Fearless editor Emily Kestel – she caught up with Pakistani business leaders who visited Des Moines in June 2022 and learned how they applied lessons learned in Des Moines about gender equity to workplaces back home. You will also find a Q&A with Mitzi Bolaños Anderson, the director of the Civil and Human Rights Department for the city of Des Moines.

Be sure to check out the headlines section. There is new research about how the greatest mortality risk to pregnant women is actually in the year that follows a birth. As a survivor of a postpartum blood clot (also called a deep vein thrombosis), I was very eager to read the findings.

Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

A year after American tour, Pakistani HR leaders share gender equity lessons from Iowa
Former Fearless editor Emily Kestel, in front, meets with human resources leaders visiting from Pakistain in 2022.
In June 2022, a cohort of human resources leaders from Pakistan visited Des Moines through the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

Through an opportunity with the Iowa International Center, I was able to spend an afternoon with them talking about gender inclusion in American workplaces, and what Fearless is all about. The group also met with leaders from Principal Financial Group, West Bank and Women Lead Change.

In the months after they left, I found myself wondering what they took away from their conversations, and so I asked a few of them to reflect on what they learned while in Iowa.

Raza Shamsi, human resources manager of the Punjab Vocational Training Council for the Government of Punjab, and Gurbuksh Rajpal, assistant vice president of the National Bank of Pakistan, shared their thoughts, which have been edited and condensed for clarity.

What surprised you in your learning about how American business leaders address gender inclusion in the workplace?

Shamsi: That there is no patronage for gender inclusion in the workplace at the federal level or state level. No specific quota for employment of females has been allocated by legislation.

Rajpal: The USA is portrayed as having a lot of gender and race biases. But when I got the opportunity to visit and experience their culture up close, my perceptions entirely changed. Despite all the challenges, organizations themselves are stepping up and they have put in place quite a lot of structures to address these issues.

What do you think American business leaders could be doing better in terms of gender inclusion?

Shamsi: American businesses could be doing better in terms of gender inclusion by ensuring equal pay for all. No doubt the American Equal Opportunity Commission has been established, but it seems to be not very effective because still there is not equal pay for males and females.

Rajpal: There are a few things that I felt American business leaders need to ponder on. First of all, make it a business imperative. Gender equality and inclusion should be viewed as a business imperative that increases profitability, not merely an initiative. Companies should lead by example and break the status quo by ensuring that there is more than just one initiative or program to address the various intersections of diversity and see that no group falls through the cracks. Always remember that gender equality and inclusion is good business. They should definitely start with a salary review of all employees to ensure that men and women in equivalent roles performing at equivalent levels are compensated equally. Secondly, create conditions that will ensure that they have a level playing field for success.

How is Pakistan a leader in gender inclusion? What are areas of improvement?

Shamsi: Pakistan is a leader in gender inclusion because it has ensured gender inclusion in public sector organizations by enacting legislation. A specific quota for recruitment has been allocated by the Fair Representation of Women Act, which says there must be at least 33% representation of women in governing bodies and boards of directors of each and every public sector organization, a 15% percent quota for recruitment of female employees in every public sector organization, and there must be one female member out of three members of anti-harassment committees of organizations.

The result of all these measures is that we have female judges in the superior judiciary of the country. We have female heads of organizations. We have female surgeons general in the Pakistan army. We have females as elite police officers.  

A lot is being done for gender inclusion, but there are still areas for improvement. There is a need to run programs to change the opinion of males about working women. There is a need to introduce flexible working timing for female employees.

Meet Mitzi Bolaños Anderson, human rights director for the city of Des Moines
Mitzi Bolaños Anderson moved to Des Moines from Anchorage, Alaska, to work as the city's human rights director. Photo by Emily Kestel.
If there were a contest of how many miles someone has moved to take a job in Des Moines, Mitzi Bolaños Anderson would surely come close to earning the top prize.

Before coming to Des Moines, Bolaños Anderson worked 3,500 miles away in Anchorage, Alaska, as the director of the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, where her expertise was in enforcing anti-discrimination laws.

She started her position as the city’s human rights director in May 2021, and leads a six-person team. We recently caught up with her to discuss her thoughts on the position over a year in, what she likes about Des Moines, and what changes still need to occur in the realm of equity, justice and inclusion.

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

As I’m sure anyone here in Iowa would ask you, why in the world would you come from Alaska to Des Moines?
We came for this position. I was really excited about the opportunity for a commission here to really make change and impact policy. A lot of commissions, they don’t have that, they’re just complaint-taking enforcement agencies. People get into this work because we care, but then you’re stuck in an agency that is so limited in what you can do. I knew coming in that there was more leeway to do advocacy, but I don’t think I realized how much we really can do here.

Personally, we wanted to be closer to family. Our family isn’t in Iowa, but we’re a lot closer to them than we were in Alaska.

I didn’t know anything about Iowa. But doing some research, I was like, “Wow, there’s pretty cool things there.” And there have been some pretty cool advancements in civil rights, at least a while ago.

What does your day-to-day look like?
We take complaints of discrimination. Folks will give us a call, walk in, or fill out our form online, and say, “I was fired from my job and I think it was because of my race or my disability,” or “I was evicted because of my race or national origin, or religion, class, sexual orientation, gender identity.” We’ll work with them to first make sure it’s jurisdictional. The complaints have to be within the housing, employment, public accommodation, credit categories and be based on a protected class. We’ll work with them to draft a complaint if all those jurisdictional elements are met. And then we will start their investigation. That includes all sorts of interviews, talking to witnesses, talking to the parties, asking for documents. Ideally for unemployment cases, the process should take 200 to 240 days. [The Department of Housing and Urban Development] likes housing cases to be done within 100 days. We’re working towards meeting those deadlines. The commission wasn’t taking complaints for a while while we were going through staff transitions. I feel like now we finally have our feet under us.

How many cases are usually happening in a given year?
Usually it should be 70 to 80. Because we weren’t taking complaints for a long time, and were referring them out, our inventory right now is pretty low. I think we’re probably at about 30 or so. But we expect that to pick up as we do more outreach and let folks know we are taking cases again.

In the headlines
There are more U.S. women in the workforce than ever before, a milestone that fixes the “she-cession” slump during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bounce back has several reasons, including the state of the economy itself, according to Reade Pickert, U.S. economy reporter at Bloomberg. She explains more in this video.

Journalism intern Elizabeth Pruitt came to Iowa from Missouri to start her career. Now she is starting over, according to the Quad-City Times. Less than 24 hours after she moved into an apartment in downtown Davenport, part of her building collapsed. Pruitt lost all of her possessions. She was reunited later with her cat, Lulu, who was rescued from the building. “I didn’t care about my stuff. I only cared about my cat,” Pruitt said. “I was still in shock. I think I’m still kind of in shock.” She plans to continue to work as a photography intern at the Quad-City Times and Rock Island Dispatch-Argus this summer.

Most people think of labor and birth as the most dangerous part of pregnancy. But new scientific research is challenging this assumption, finding that substantial risks persist for a full year after birth itself. The deadliest time for mothers is actually after the baby is born. This discovery is changing how doctors care for new mothers, according to the New York Times. “I wish every new mother was sent home with a box of chocolates and a blood pressure cuff,” said Aryana Jacobs of Washington, D.C., who developed life-threatening high blood pressure after her baby was born.

Intensive negotiations over the debt ceiling deal thrust Shalanda Young, 45, into the center of a fight with sweeping economic and political ramifications. To many participants, Young seemed to become an indispensable figure, a rare person who was known and trusted by members of both parties and could serve as a conduit at a moment when partisan recriminations have reached a fever pitch,
according to the Washington Post. Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, is the first Black woman to hold the top budget job.

Worth checking out
An Iowa mother’s love inspires inclusive triathlon in honor of son with autism (Des Moines Register). The case that being poor and Black is bad for your health (the New Yorker). America’s richest self-made woman grew up on a dairy farm – now she has a net worth of $11.6 billion (CNBC). For the few women who sit atop S&P 500 companies, thinner paychecks as median compensation slips (Associated Press).
Due to systemic and individual barriers, women may be on a continuous journey to improving their confidence. Confidence can come in many forms – body image, self-esteem, willingness to step outside our comfort zones – and they all affect one another. Confidence plays a role in whether we dive into challenges or sit them out, whether we negotiate our salaries and whether we stand up against inequity. In this online Fearless conversation on June 22, our speakers will talk about how we can empower ourselves or women we know in finding confidence in ourselves as we work toward professional and personal goals. You’ll leave feeling energized with a better understanding of why confidence can at times be hard and with strategies to inspire us to find ourselves worthy and in turn help others see that they are enough, too.

Register here.
Don’t assume you are too old to turn a cartwheel
By Nicole Grundmeier
At age 47, gymnast Oksana Chusovitina continues to compete – and thrive – in a sport that was once dominated by teenagers. Nadia Comaneci was just 14 years old when she won the all-around gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Iowa’s Shawn Johnson was 16 when she won three medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Chusovitina, who will turn 48 on June 19,
won the national gymnastics championships in her native Uzbekistan last month. Called “Chuso” by her fans, she received a standing ovation after her vaults in qualifications at the 2021 Toyko Games. She had announced she was retiring. But Chusovitina is now trying to qualify for Paris, which would be her ninth consecutive Olympic Games.

Adult gymnastics classes have gained popularity in recent years, but most programs are still concentrated on the East and West coasts. Some gym owners are concerned about the liability of having adults attempting gymnastics on their property. But you can always turn a cartwheel in your backyard this summer.
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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