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JUNE 3, 2024
Good morning, Fearless readers:

June is Pride Month. Have you seen the new Pride mural at the intersection of Grand Avenue and East Fifth Street in Des Moines’ East Village?

Here is a list of 2024 Pride Month events throughout Iowa.

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

  • A preview of the Fearless Focus event on June 20 about Iowa’s child care challenges and solutions.
  • A story about how Iowa couples split household labor and responsibilities, according to the Business Record’s annual survey on women’s and gender issues.
  • In the headlines: Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird is resuming payments for rape victims' emergency contraceptives, but not for abortion.
  • In case you missed it: Have you met the Business Record’s 2024 Women of Influence honorees?
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Fearless Focus to feature discussion on child care challenges, solutions
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.

All of this will be part of a discussion during our next Fearless Focus, “A look at solutions to Iowa’s child care challenges.” The virtual event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on June 20. Registration is free and open to anyone.

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.

Ahead of the event, we asked each speaker: What’s one solution or idea you’ve seen that helps address child care availability or affordability in Iowa?
Deann Cook, president and CEO, Iowa Women’s Foundation:
In working with over 80 communities across Iowa, the Iowa Women’s Foundation has learned that local solutions driven by dynamic partnerships of business leaders, child care providers, policymakers and families are the most successful way to increase the availability and affordability of child care. Community members are the most knowledgeable about the opportunities and strengths they can leverage to address child care challenges. The first step is understanding the specific issue to be solved. The second is building a local coalition that can work together to guide solutions. The critical step is investment through public-private partnerships to build the resources required to sustain the child care infrastructure needed to serve the local area. Public-private partnerships are a key driver of success because they recognize quality, affordable child care is necessary for a community to thrive. Collaborative leadership and shared investments speak to that priority.
Bethany Davis, vice president – early childhood, Oakridge Neighborhood:
The Shared Visions Preschool program provides quality child development programs for at-risk children, including at our Oak Academy preschool. The program makes child care more accessible for income-restricted parents who may not be working but are taking steps to become self-sufficient. Their children can receive full access to day care at qualifying facilities when parents have a disability, do not have a home, or are actively looking for a job or participating in classes like English language or citizenship. This is game-changing support for parents who are trying to build a better life for their families, and we are proud that Oak Academy is one of the few early enrichment programs in the area that can provide this benefit.
Teresa Hovell, benefits manager, Vermeer Corp.:
Acknowledging the challenges of working parents, particularly women, has been invaluable in moving the conversation of affordable and accessible child care forward. The impact to the already tight Iowa workforce is staggering, with families choosing between working and child care. Businesses are starting to step up in a variety of ways to help their team members, from flexible work arrangements to on-site child care centers. Like the parents who are balancing parenting with the workplace, businesses are starting to balance the workplace with parenting.
Renee Hansen, external relations manager, Sukup Manufacturing Co.:
Statewide grant funding enables businesses to invest in child care options for their employees. Sukup has experienced positive outcomes by partnering with child care facilities in Mason City and Clear Lake, securing child care slots for its employees. Additionally, state grants have facilitated the construction of a new child care center in Sheffield, accommodating up to 110 children in a child care desert. Companies that invest in employee child care options benefit from improved retention rates and reduced family child care costs.
Ashley Miranda, assistant director and family development coordinator, Conmigo Early Education Center:
To address child care availability and affordability, there must be an increase in the Child Care Assistance income eligibility guidelines, child care provider wages and focus on infant and toddler care. There are many families just above the 160% federal poverty level that cannot afford child care and are denied any assistance. Too many families are slipping through the cracks and are left without child care. Staff are working long days with low wages and minimal benefits, contributing to frequent burnout and high turnover rates. An increase in compensation for staff would, in turn, create sustainability while improving child care quality. The largest need in child care is for infants and toddlers, an age group that is not offered at most centers. This is in part due to the high cost per child, resulting in the need for more staff, training, furnishings, etc. Advocating for infants and toddlers would increase availability.
Dave Stone, advocacy officer, United Way of Central Iowa:
Workforce remains a critical barrier to increasing availability of child care in Iowa. As the third-lowest paid profession in the state, child care providers perform an essential service to families and employers, but it can be challenging work with low pay and limited benefits. Child care centers must compete for staff with businesses with more lucrative job opportunities. Professionalizing child care can help address workforce shortages, which would allow existing providers to expand the number of children in care. This includes raising wages, increasing available benefits, and ensuring that staff have the skills and education to provide a high-quality early learning experience.

As Iowa is No. 1 in the nation for the percentage of families where all available parents are working, we need to address flexibility in the state’s Child Care Assistance program, ensure providers are reimbursed at current market rates and expand the number of families eligible for this program.

“A look at solutions to Iowa’s child care challenges”
Noon to 1 p.m. | Virtual | June 20 | Register for free
Iowans tell Fearless how they divide household labor, responsibilities
Getty Images.
This coverage is from the Business Record’s annual survey on women’s and gender issues as part of our Fearless initiative. While nonscientific, we believe the results of this questionnaire illustrate current opinions about Iowa women’s equity in and outside of work. Read previous coverage here.

We asked those taking our gender issues survey a variety of questions about women’s equity, both in work and life.

We asked: If you live with a partner, who does the majority of the work in your house? How do you split up responsibilities?

Comments from respondents who identify as women and nonbinary:
“My husband does most of the physical labor, as I have a chronic pain condition. I do most of the mental labor. We split up responsibilities based on who has the physical and mental energy to do what and on who is experiencing the most overwhelm.”

“We split. I do laundry; he cooks. We share bedtime. We each have one night a week (sometimes more for me) that we go out with friends.”

“I do most of the work at home. Responsibilities are ‘split’ when I ask for help.”

“My husband said that since I took on the majority of responsibility for many years that he traveled for work, it was his turn to support me so that I could come home and relax.”

“Our roles are fairly equitable, but a lot of the mental load of running a house/raising a family still is mine.”

“We split up the responsibilities. I do the grocery shopping, and my husband cooks. We use a cleaning service. He mows and does all outside upkeep, and I decorate the home and plan any home improvement projects, along with budgeting. When children were little, it was a little harder; when children were sick – we tried to take turns with that, but his job seemed a little more flexible for him to take the time off.”

“Ninety-nine percent me. My husband mows the lawn.”

“My spouse and I do not have set responsibilities in our home. Some days I carry the load, and other days I don’t. We both work full time and recognize each other’s humanity that some days are better than others, and we support each other as much as we can based on our varying levels of mental and physical capacity. We also don’t strive for perfection. We prioritize time together and investing in things that bring us joy and rejuvenation over having a perfectly clean home or perfectly manicured lawn.”

“I do not live with my partner. I have a fear of being trapped with someone in stereotypical gender roles within the home.”

“My husband actually does all of the cooking and most of the cleaning at my house.”

“My husband quit his job at the age of 48 to raise our five daughters, at the time ranging in age from 2 to 12. Despite that, we continue to divide work along gender lines where I contribute more in the house and he to the outside. I take care of financial budgeting. Although, he picks up the inside slack if I am stretched at work.”

“My husband does the grocery shopping and the majority of the cooking. I am responsible for cleaning and laundry. Our children are a part of these processes. They actually take care of most of the lawn work.”

“I do slightly more than my husband. He doesn’t notice things need cleaning as much, so if I want him to help with things, I generally have to ask. I do ask, but that leaves the brain burden on me. We’re working to create more automatic systems to help with this. (For example, every other Saturday, you vacuum. It’s on the calendar so I don’t have to ask.)”

“My husband doesn’t think of the things that need done, so most of the time I have to tell him what needs done or do it myself.”

“We share fully in responsibilities based on our skill set.”

“I do the majority of the work in our house, kids, appointments, camps, child care, toy cleanup, laundry. He does lawn, snow removal, most meals and most dishes (puts them in the dishwasher).”

Comments from respondents who identify as men:
“My wife is high capacity and yet still finds time to do the majority of our housework, but she also needs a break. She loves to cook and prepare gourmet meals, so the least I can do is clean the dishes after a fabulous meal.”

“Fifty-fifty split with all items just needing to get done. No discussion of split responsibilities, although we tend to have duties we each prefer.”

“My wife is now a small-business owner, and I work for a large company, so ‘career’ time is split fairly evenly; however, she takes on the additional load of picking up the boys from school and caring for them on her own until I come home from my 9-5. Therefore, she does the majority of the ‘work’ as we define being working parents, and then we split household duties.”

“I do the majority.”

“Divided equally. Our genders have never been part of that conversation. We both do what needs to be done, usually with each person focusing on responsibilities that are strengths compared to the other.”

“Wife does all the financial work. I do all the rest.”

“We try to divide as equitably as possible. Her focus is inside, while mine is outside. We cross boundaries, though, to assist one another.”

“She does. It’s an issue we continue to work on. We have a mixed family, and the majority of the kids are hers, which skews things.”

“Sixty percent woman. Forty percent man.”


A recent Fortune magazine poll found that two-thirds of U.S. working women with at least one direct report pay for some type of hired help. In our gender issues survey we asked: Which of the following supports do you utilize? (Respondents could select all that applied.)
This question includes answers from all respondents.

A nanny or family member who watches your child(ren) at home: 6.4%
A housekeeper or cleaning service: 45.7%
Grocery delivery services: 24.5%
A personal trainer: 10.6%
A life or leadership coach: 2.13%
Other: 41.49%

Getty Images.
In the headlines
The push for embryo rights worries IVF patients and doctors in the Midwest: During the legislative session in 13 states, lawmakers introduced bills that could give rights to embryos and fetuses that generally protect a person. The Iowa House passed a bill that would increase criminal penalties for causing someone to lose a pregnancy without their consent and would change the term “terminates a human pregnancy” to “causes the death of an unborn child.” A West Des Moines family is among those affected, according to this story by Iowa Public Radio.

Iowa AG resumes payments for rape victims' emergency contraceptives, but not for abortion: The Iowa Attorney General's Office will resume paying for emergency contraceptives — the so-called "morning after" pill — for victims of sexual assault in Iowa after pausing reimbursement for more than a year in conjunction with an audit. However, Republican Attorney General Brenna Bird, a staunch abortion opponent, said she will permanently end the office's practice of reimbursing in rare cases where a sexual assault victim seeks an abortion following an attack, according to this story in the Des Moines Register.

Sioux City’s first community inclusion liaison speaks out following termination: Sioux City’s first community inclusion liaison was fired from her job on May 28. She said her termination is unfair. Semehar Ghebrekidan, who was hired by the city in 2021, was placed on paid administrative leave three months ago. Her termination letter says she violated standards of conduct, work rules and the Iowa Code, according to this story by Iowa Public Radio.

How an Iowa teacher found her ‘aha!’ moment with students after a traumatic brain injury: One Ankeny teacher's life changed after slipping on a patch of ice on Feb. 7, 2020, causing a traumatic brain injury that would affect her job as a teacher, her way of life and her dreams, according to this story in the Des Moines Register. After a concerned parent, who happened to be a doctor, said something about it after volunteering in the class, Schmelzer went to the ER, where she was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.

Worth checking out
Less than 2% of philanthropic giving goes to women and girls. Can Melinda French Gates change that? (Associated Press). Girls’ periods are starting sooner, more irregular than past generations (Washington Post). We know very little about neurodivergent women — and they may be entirely overlooked at work (Fortune). America’s premier pronatalists on having ‘tons of kids’ to save the world: ‘There are going to be countries of old people starving to death’ (the Guardian). After a traumatic C-section, journalist takes on the medicalization of birth (NPR). Shakedown or fair shake? How to get pay equity for women (Forbes).
Meet the Business Record’s 2024 Women of Influence
For over 25 years, the Business Record has recognized women who have made outstanding contributions to the community in a variety of areas with the Women of Influence awards. Awards will be presented at a reception on Thursday, Aug. 1.

The Women of Influence awards celebrate the work of women who have made a difference. They have devoted their lives to doing things most wouldn’t. They have spent countless hours on various boards and are role models with impeccable ethics. They have blazed a trail either personally or professionally for other women to follow.

The Women of Influence event will recognize Central Iowa women for their contributions in the public or private sector. Winners are chosen based on the impact they have made in their chosen field or for their contributions through civic and philanthropic organizations. This event will also award the Woman Business Owner of the Year and Emerging Woman of Influence.


Rona Berinobis, Senior vice president of corporate social responsibility, organizational development and internal communications, Athene USA

Monica Chavez-Silva, Vice president for community engagement and strategic planning, Grinnell College

Jean Duffy, Senior vice president and principal, CapTrust

Miriam Erickson Brown, Chair and CEO, Anderson Erickson Dairy

Jann Freed, Owner and leadership development consultant, Jann E. Freed LLC

Myrna Johnson, Executive director, Iowa Public Radio

Rachelle Keck, President, Grand View University

Deidre Williams, Vice president of organizational effectiveness, EMC Insurance

Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines Emerging Woman of Influence
Jenna Knox, Foundation director, Mission Cancer + Blood

Iowa State University Ivy College of Business Woman Business Owner of the Year
Melissa Ness, Founder and CEO, Connectify HR

Women of Influence Event
Thursday, Aug. 1   |   Downtown Marriott   |   Networking 4-5:15 p.m.   |   Program 5:15-7 p.m.

Tickets are available here.

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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