Meet Jodi Long, tips on finding your voice
 ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌
View as webpage, click here.
JANUARY 16, 2023
Hello and happy MLK Day!

To celebrate and commemorate the civil rights leader’s legacy, I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on the inequities that may still exist for many of your colleagues or fellow community members and take action to help dismantle them.

Today we’re featuring a profile of Jodi Long, who is working to dismantle inequities in the maternal health field every day in her work as the health equity director at Healthy Birth Day Inc.

We’re also re-upping Suzanna de Baca’s column from last week, because the words of advice from Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame honorees were too good to not push out again.

All that and more below! Have a great week.

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

Get to know Jodi Long
Health equity director, Healthy Birth Day Inc.
Three days after giving birth to her daughter, Jaira, in July 2022, Jodi Long was diagnosed with postpartum preeclampsia, a rare and serious condition of having high blood pressure after pregnancy. At its highest, her blood pressure was 198/100. (A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80.)

The 3½-day stay in the hospital, and reckoning with the notion that she could have died had she not been seen by medical professionals, solidified her decision to leave the news industry and begin working in the health equity field.

"I left the news industry to tell the story about how the state of maternal health of women is in crisis, and there's something that we can do about it," Long said. "I've always been passionate about the work and had been involved with the organization in a volunteer capacity for a few years. Now it hits close to home."

Long has been in her position at Healthy Birth Day Inc. since October. We caught up with her to talk about her decision to leave WHO 13 and her goals for her position.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

You spent 10 years at WHO 13. Tell me about your decision to step away from the news industry and pivot to something different.

I never had thought that I was going to leave television. I wasn't even looking for this job. I was approached by [Healthy Birth Day CEO] Emily Price, who said, "We have to grow our health equity team, because equity is at the center of our organization. We’re creating a health equity director position. Would this be something that you would consider?" I had been a member of the influencer advisory board with Count the Kicks for about a year, and I had done stories on Count the Kicks throughout my time in journalism. I had been asked to host and emcee events for the organization, so Emily and I already had that relationship.

It was wild, because I had been thinking about how I was going to navigate the 1:45 a.m. wake-up call every single day with a toddler, a newborn, and my husband, who works 12-hour days, six days a week. When I was approached about it, I really started thinking, "Oh, yeah, maybe this is the time for me to leave." That was a big decision, to leave my dream job.

It's hard to avoid being on display [working in TV news]. People think that they know you because they see you every day from 4:30 a.m. until 7 a.m., and so you're just kind of thrust into the public eye. And then when you exit, people want to know how you're doing and what you're doing. I told my husband when I was considering leaving, "I'm just going to be regular now." I'm adjusting to life being out of a spotlight. I’m working for a cause that's bigger than myself, which is really cool. I’m part of a team. No one person is standing out. Everything that each one of us is doing is for the collective good of moving the needle.

What do your day-to-day responsibilities look like at Healthy Birth Day?

I oversee the health equity coordinator and her duties, but in essence, our job is to look at our work within the organization through an equitable lens and specifically address the racial disparities. African American women are 2½ times more likely to endure a stillbirth, so we have a big focus on helping out those who fit that demographic. The numbers for others aren't looking good, either. Indigenous women, that number is not good right now. Hispanic women, that's still at a disproportionate rate compared to white women. There's a lot of work to be done, and our focus is specifically in that area of work. We have a laser focus to help get into those groups, and learn what they need to help educate them on how to [avoid] a preventable stillbirth.

We're contacting groups all across the country. So, for example, I’ll reach out to somebody who's partnered with us in the state of Nevada and say, "How can I help? What are the ZIP codes that you guys are most focused on in terms of, this area has little access to health care or stillbirth rates are high in this county?" I kind of tap into that.

I'm looking at data from the states as well, to see where they're at and where we can help out with. I'm meeting with my team on ways to get further into these communities and reach more people. Strategy is kind of a big thing for us, because what works in one state might not work in another state. By the beginning of 2023, 23 states will have our free materials in them.

We do a lot of presentations virtually through webinars. It's a chance for us to talk with a group of people, who might be providers, labor and delivery nurses, doulas, or moms. We talk about who we are, that we're research- and evidence-based, how the app works, and what we're doing to move the needle in terms of reaching marginalized women in groups.

You mentioned your experience of having postpartum preeclampsia a little bit earlier, but I’d like to give you the opportunity to expand on your full story of that.

It was really traumatic. I was induced at 39 weeks for having slightly elevated blood pressure. And I'm a woman of faith, and I believe that God's hand was in every step of this, because as I researched this, the Preeclampsia Foundation recently pushed to have the threshold for blood pressure lowered.

The labor and delivery went fine. Blood pressure was fine. Baby was great. I went home a few days later and the doctor's office wanted me to come back just to make sure everything was OK.

I remember taking a picture of myself in the mirror and sending it to my husband, and I was like, "Already back in my regular jeans, feeling cute. Off to my doctor's appointment, I'll let you know how it goes." I got there, and they took my blood pressure several times before taking it manually.

The tone of the room got serious. It shifted. I remember the doctor came in and he was wearing blue funky modern glasses, and he’s like, "This is serious. You're on a stroke level. You could have a seizure any moment. You're gonna be here for a while until we get this figured out." I was like, "But I feel fine." He asked if I had any blurred vision or severe sudden headaches. I said no, and he said, "You're the scariest patient, because you're like a ticking time bomb. Something catastrophic would have happened to you if you did not come here today. You can't walk around with blood pressure levels like these and have something not happen to you."

It was the worst thing because it was like I was fine, and then I wasn't.

They immediately put me on a medicine called magnesium sulfate, which is an anti-seizure medicine that relaxes your brain from constricting on the blood vessels that are already working really hard to pump the blood. The best way to describe it is having your head underwater. You could hear things, but were out of it. You're bedridden. My eyes were all bloodshot. I was just sitting there and I had my baby with me who's five days old. My husband was there. I had so much medicine in me. We finally got out of there three days later. I left the hospital on eight blood pressure pills a day.

I was not better by my six-week postpartum checkup. I was right back up to seven pills a day.  I went to get a second opinion from a cardiologist, and I was so thankful that this cardiologist ended up being a person of color. He was like, "You are responding differently to certain medications based on your makeup. This could be a chronic thing, you could just have high blood pressure, but I don't think you will forever. We just need to get you on the right dosage and the type of medicine that you need." Already things are trending in the right direction. I'm having blood pressure readings back in the 120s again, but I'm still on four pills.

Five months out, it's still emotional for me to talk about.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the work that you're doing or the position that you're in?

Since I am the health equity director, it's not like we are part of the movement of organizations starting to get an equity person on board, or crafting DEI statements just for DEI’s sake. Our goal is to reach all moms, and we know that some moms need to be reached out to even a little bit more so that they have better outcomes. That’s just who we are. It wasn’t like, "Oh, shoot, we need to start reaching the Black population or the Hispanic population." It's always been like, "We're reaching everybody, and we realize that some areas need a lot more work. So we're going to hire a team to make sure the extra effort is being put towards that group so that everybody's equal." This is not a "We're just hiring a Black person to fill this Black role."

Be on the lookout for us. Our future is bright and we have a really big task. We are the only organization specifically and solely focused on stillbirth prevention in the country, and it's in the heart of Iowa. How random and how cool is that?

Insights from Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame honorees on finding your own authentic voice
From left: Dianne Bystrom, Mary Chapman, Mary O'Keefe, Mary Swander.
Editor's note: Last week, we published Suzanna de Baca's latest Leading Fearlessly column, which featured insights from Iowa Women's Hall of Fame honorees on how to speak up and find your authentic voice. We ran the first half of the column in the newsletter (and linked to the entire column online), and I wanted to give those who hadn't read the second half a chance to do so — there are a lot of great tips!
– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor
Advice for women working to find their voice:

Know your worth. Dianne Bystrom asserts that before anything, women need to develop self-confidence and realize the worth we bring to discussions from our experiences as women. "Women need to learn the importance of listening to others as well as strategies to present their ideas, including how to deal with interruptions by male colleagues," she notes, saying that we need to understand that if we do not advocate for ourselves, no one else may do so. Being smart and strategic about it helps. "I have never been shy about advocating for myself – and knowing my worth in a variety of work settings," says Bystrom. "But I’ve also learned – usually from other women – the best communication strategies to do so."

Don’t sit silently while others speak up. Mary Chapman notes that there are different opportunities at different points in time to speak up. "Your silence can cause you to lose an opportunity, not getting what you want or being dismissed," she says. "You may be the smarter one in the room, but no one will know unless you speak up." She observes: "Speaking up as yourself, you gain confidence with knowing who you are, your truths, finding purpose for yourself and inspiration for others."

Persist. Mary Swander recalls a time when she was in the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa and a famous editor came to visit. The editor told them that it’s not always the most talented writers who finally make it, establishing a voice for themselves in the literary world, but those who endure. "He saw many brilliantly talented, gifted writers get one rejection slip and hang up their literary ambitions forever," remembers Swander. The editor saw other writers with basic skills plug away at it, develop, fine-tune their craft, taking rejection in stride until they eventually produced and published prizewinning books. She says, "Don’t get caught in the swamp of negative thinking: I can’t do this. I don’t have the skills, the smarts, the time, the support." Just keep moving forward.

Support other women. Bystrom observes that during her 39-year career in higher education, she learned that she could use her voice to support and encourage other women – especially students – to develop their authentic voice and to speak up for themselves. "When I directed the Catt Center, we sponsored workshops to teach women how they could better negotiate through communication and knowing their worth," she says. "I also used supportive tactics to encourage women to speak up in meetings as well as in the classroom." One of the most meaningful gifts of appreciation you can give to those who helped, taught and supported you is to continue lifting other women up as well.

Practice being courageous. It takes continued practice and fortitude to find and use our voices. Chapman advises women to keep offering ideas, saying that even with rejection or failure you will learn something. Mary O’Keefe echoes this advice, saying it is important to use your voice effectively, even in new and difficult circumstances. "The key to that, for me, is courage," explains O’Keefe, who elaborates that she recently spoke out on a very painful topic – as a grieving mother. She says, "It took all the courage I have."

Have faith that you have a worthwhile story to tell. Swander’s advice for writers is to sit down in your chair at your desk and write, to "read, read, read, take some classes and find a mentor," and to have faith that you have a worthwhile story to tell." But her advice is equally relevant for those with different skills and goals. She advises women to enjoy the process and stop worrying about outcomes. "For now, get going, find the time, let others take up the slack, and rid yourself of guilt over unaccomplished mundane tasks," she notes. "Butt in chair, mouse in hand. Confidence in heart."
In the headlines
The Iowa Insurance Institute has announced Brittany Lumley as its new executive director, replacing Brenna Bird, who was elected in 2022 to serve as Iowa’s attorney general. Lumley has led government affairs efforts on behalf of III for the last five years.

Cornell College, a liberal arts college located in Mount Vernon, Iowa, has hired Kelly Flege as its new vice president, chief operating and chief financial officer. Flege has more than 30 years of experience in financial services and higher education and most recently she served as the first vice president at Lincoln Savings Bank in Waterloo.

Hummingbirds, a Des Moines-based online platform that connects businesses with hyper-local content creators, announced it has raised more than $1 million in funding. The fundraising round was led by Chicago-based venture capital firm M25 with participation by Next Level Ventures, InnoVenture Iowa, ISA Ventures, Mango Seed Investments, and angel investors.

For the first time in the 68-year history of the Fortune 500 list, more than 10% of the companies are being led by women. The Jan. 1 start dates for five new CEOs brought the number up to 53. Just a handful of them are women of color, including TIAA’s Thasunda Brown Duckett, Walgreens’ Roz Brewer and Advanced Micro Devices’ Lisa Su.

Iowa House Republicans have proposed new requirements for LGBTQ and gender identity curriculum and policy. One bill, House File 9, would prohibit school districts from providing any accommodations intended to affirm a student’s change in gender identity without written consent from the child’s parent or guardian. Another bill, House File 8, specifies that schools cannot provide instruction or material on sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade.

The state last week announced a second round of child care business incentive grants to help businesses support the creation of child care openings in their communities. A total of $443,234 will be awarded to five projects involving 11 businesses that will create 77 new child care slots. The grant program advances one of the top recommendations of the Child Care Task Force.

South Korea’s labor minister has put forth a plan that would extend its parental leave for working parents to 18 months, up from one year. The policy was created to help reverse its record-low birth rate – 0.81, in comparison with the U.S.’s rate of 1.66 – by enticing parents to have more children.

Worth checking out
Here’s what you need to know about new workplace protections for pregnant, nursing workers (Iowa Capital Dispatch). At this Texas school, every student is a teen mother (BBC). Melinda French Gates adjusts to a new, solo role (Wall Street Journal). Why are women’s health concerns dismissed so often? (NPR 1A).
Reynolds calls for increase for MOMS funding, OB-GYN fellowships
Pool photo by Kelsey Kremer/Des Moines Register.
Gov. Kim Reynolds held her annual State of the Union address last week, highlighting many of her policy priorities, which included education reform and a reduction in the state government bureaucracy.

Yet also in her speech, Reynolds called on lawmakers to increase funding for the "More Options for Maternal Support" program, created last year to connect women with pregnancy support services, including housing assistance, recovery and mental health treatment, as an alternative to abortion.

In her address, Reynolds said the program sends a "powerful message: that a pro-life state is one that surrounds every person involved in pregnancy — born and unborn, mother and father — with protection, love and support."

The governor wants to expand the program to promote parental involvement and address the needs of fathers. It would provide grants to help at-risk dads and mentorship for young men who are in school.

By doing that, it will help promote strong and healthy families, Reynolds said.

A district judge ruled in December against Reynolds' motion to lift an injunction that prohibits a law banning abortion after a heartbeat is detected from taking effect.

Reynolds also called on the Legislature to approve funding for two additional centers of excellence, building on funding for centers of excellence in Carroll and Grinnell that were approved in 2021. The centers are specialty hospitals that use primary care physicians to connect rural patients for OB-GYN care.

Reynolds also said she will ask lawmakers to fund four OB-GYN fellowships for primary care doctors to address the demand for services in rural Iowa.

Celebrating friends for a variety of reasons
I came across an Instagram reel a couple of months ago from friendship coach Danielle Bayard Jackson, who explained how to celebrate a friend for things other than getting married or having a baby – such as starting a podcast, getting a pet, paying off debt or leaving a toxic relationship.

Here's why it matters, she said: "A study from the International Association of Relationship Research found that when we show empathy during people’s positive times, it may have more of an impact on a relationship than when we show empathy during the negative times. ... If we fail to recognize the achievements in our friends’ lives just because they are not culturally elevated milestones, we run the risk of them feeling under-supported. Let’s work hard to attune our eyes to opportunities to celebrate our friends and the various range of their achievements."

That made me think of Emily Barske's column from last year, where she wrote about the importance of celebrating all of life's journeys.

"While the women’s movement has allowed women far more choice in what they want in life, career or otherwise, there are still elements of bias in shaming women who are single or don’t have children. A woman is worthy of respect and admiration regardless of her relationship or parental status," Barske wrote.

The message is evergreen — which is why I wanted to re-up it again. We could all use this reminder!
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 2023, All rights reserved.
Reproduction or use without permission of editorial or graphic content in any manner is strictly prohibited.

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign