Fearless Focus event preview, women in wealth management, child tax credit
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APRIL 24, 2023
Good morning and happy last week of April!

This week, we’re hosting a free virtual conversation with five Iowa Womens’ Hall of Fame honorees about leadership. You can find a preview of some of the topics we’ll talk about below. We hope you’ll join us this Thursday at noon!

Also in this week’s newsletter, we’re running a few thoughts on women’s involvement in the field of wealth management, and a guest opinion piece on why the child tax credit should be reinstated.

Have a great week!

— Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

Lack of support, imposter syndrome, discrimination seen as barriers that women continue to face
Thoughts ahead of Fearless Focus event on leadership
From left: Dianne Bystrom, Christine Hensley, Mary O'Keefe, Mary Swander, Deborah Turner.
As part of last year’s Fearless Focus event on leadership, panelists talked about the personal and systemic barriers that women leaders continue to face and what can be done to address them.

This is a conversation worth having frequently, as little progress has been made on the front of gender equality in leadership positions, and discussions about challenges and roadblocks are a necessary ingredient for change.

In our upcoming April 27 virtual event on women in leadership, we’ll certainly be talking about the challenges – and successes – that women experience while ascending to or being in a formal leadership position, but we also will spend time talking about solutions, achievements and advice for up-and-coming leaders.

We asked our panelists to share their thoughts about the barriers that they see women continuing to face.

The following remarks have been lightly edited for clarity.

Dianne Bystrom, director emerita, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Iowa State University

Internally, many women underestimate their worth, lack advocacy and negotiation skills, and sometimes suffer from the impostor syndrome – a continuous fear of not living up to expectations.

Externally, women continue to face discrimination and barriers in the workplace that prevent them from achieving a healthy work-life balance as well as in society, with not enough women at the tables of power. Currently, women also are being affected by government policies that deny their rights to bodily autonomy.

Christine Hensley, retired Des Moines City Council member

What do these career positions have in common?: Head cook, day care provider, chauffeur, housekeeper, coach, employee working outside the home, teacher.

These are the many hats women wear today. These are all full-time jobs themselves. So I see the biggest obstacle as, how do you accomplish balance in your life personally and  professionally? Unfortunately the woman still carries the responsibility for many if not most of the above listed occupations. If you are wanting to get ahead in your career, how do you cover all of the above responsibilities?

Employers can eliminate much of the stress by providing assistance with child care, flexible working hours, time for participation with kids’ activities, and potentially assistance when needed for transportation to after-school activities.

Mary Swander, artistic director, Swander Woman Productions; executive director, AgArts

One: Unsupportive workplaces. Unlike "the good old days," women now get hired for professional positions, but once they are in the job, there is a lack of support. No child care, no parental leave, no leave to take care of aging parents, pay discrimination, and hostile environments — especially women attacking other women — all become workplace barriers.

Two: Women’s inability to be taken seriously when they raise red flags.

Mary O’Keefe, retired chief marketing officer, Principal Financial Group; owner, A&E Balm Co.

The list of potential barriers is long. Financial obstacles, lack of sponsorship, fewer opportunities to gain experience, to name a few. And for women of color, there are many more to add to the list.

On the personal side, women still carry a disproportionate share of work at home. It's women who take time in their prime career-building years (28-45) to have and care for families.

Women can be their own worst enemy. Lack of self-confidence, worrying about others' views (real or imagined) and overthinking issues can be real obstacles to advancement. My advice: Toughen up, take a chance, and get out of your own way, though that’s easier said than done.

Then there's discrimination and bias. Ambitious, self-promoting and hard negotiating women can be perceived as b- - - -es. In my time, women simply had to be better to get a promotion, gain profit and loss accountability, and to be considered for nontraditional opportunities.

Deborah Turner, board member, League of Women Voters

Change is manifested by power. I believe one of the greatest barriers we face as women is that we are reluctant to embrace our power. We are socialized to view power as a negative trait – it is not. Power is a key component of effecting change and women quietly power the world at all levels. Our reluctance to call out our power allows others to usurp it for their gains. So what do I see as one of our greatest barriers? Our paralysis around embracing our power.

To hear more from these panelists, register for the free event, happening virtually on Thursday, April 27, at noon.

5 thoughts on women’s involvement in wealth management
From left: Melissa Clines, Kristen Mott, Julie Wagner. Contributed photos.
Women’s involvement and representation in the field of finance and money management is growing, thanks to a variety of factors.

To start, women generally live longer than men. Roughly 70% of the assets in U.S. affluent households are controlled by the baby boomer generation, and many of them are still held by men. As the men pass away, many of the women will assume control of the assets. In fact, by 2030, American women are expected to control much of the $30 trillion in financial assets that baby boomers possess.

Another factor is the steady increase of women in the C-suite in corporate America. The more money that women are earning in C-suite positions, the more opportunities they have to save and invest.

However, according to a report from Barron’s magazine, only about a fifth of financial advisers are women, leaving ample room for improvement.

I recently talked with three women at Private Wealth: Melissa Clines, chief operations officer; Kristen Mott, associate wealth adviser; and Julie Wagner, chief compliance officer, about women’s strengths in the industry, and what can be done to get more women in the field.

Twenty-five of the 44 people working at Private Wealth are women, four of the six C-suite officers are women and a third of the founding partners are women.

Their responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

On how women are starting to making gains in the industry

Wagner: When I first started, when women – especially at big companies – held a high-level role, they almost felt they had to be dominant and strong in order to gain the respect of male counterparts, whereas now they can bring compassion into the role and it’s not viewed as a bad thing. There’s a lot of emotion when you're talking about money and finances. The transition started happening when people banded together other women in higher level roles and realized they didn't have to do that. They can be both.

Clines: I started out as an administrative assistant at a risk assessment firm and worked my way up. At the time, there weren't a lot of women that were strong enough or confident enough to put themselves out there. But as I've grown into the industry, I've seen so many more. I truly believe we can do just as good a job as any male out there.

Mott: I think the industry has changed over the last couple of decades and you're seeing more women in those lead roles and as lead advisers, which is fantastic. I’ve found in my role, relator and empathy traits are my strengths, and they really give me the ability to connect with women and get them in touch with their own finances. I think as women, we've always been capable of these leadership roles and everything that has historically been male-dominated. I think a lot of the changes came from women’s empowerment and building up confidence in each other, women supporting other women. The skills and the abilities have always been there. It was just feeling confident enough to put yourself out there, to fight for what you want, to apply for that higher position.

On what makes women successful in the industry

Mott: Working with clients, it used to be all about the numbers and the graphs and the data. Julie said it well earlier, people’s financial wellbeing is such an emotional thing. There's so much emotion and family and values and underlying factors in it. I think the way that we address those relationships now really gets underneath the surface of all the numbers, and down to what's truly important, what truly moves people. Anybody now who's successful in this type of role will tell you that the deeper connection you have on a relationship level, the more success you're going to have overall.

What it will take to get more women into the face-of-the-company roles

Mott: Women supporting women and making resources available. I think anything we're doing to encourage a more diverse group of people to apply for higher positions is also helpful and it's moving the needle. I think it just takes time.

Clines: Encouraging women to find somebody in the industry that they admire and learn from them to build that confidence so they can do it too. The more they see it, the more they know they can do it and they want to take that step forward.

Wagner: It's critical that men are also supporting women to take on those roles. Several years ago, you didn’t see that as much. Mentoring is a huge thing that we can offer.

In the headlines
A Supreme Court ruling last week will allow providers to continue providing mifepristone — one of two drugs used for medication abortion — as usual, despite recent efforts from anti-abortion groups to restrict access. Medication abortions account for over half of all abortions in the United States.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has announced the appointment of Kristen Stiffler as the executive director of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Stiffler, a Clive resident, will assume her new position on April 24.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order last week that instructs nearly every federal agency to take actions to increase Americans’ access to affordable high-quality child care and long-term care.

As part of its spring event series, the Chrysalis Foundation is hosting a conversation on May 2 about paving a path to entrepreneurship. The Chrysalis Conversations series features local people who share personal, professional and community leadership wisdom. Perlla Deluca, president of Southeast Contractors Inc. and Taufeek Shah, CEO of Lola’s Fine Hot Sauces will speak about the process of discovery, development, and deployment of resources that has led to their success. The event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Wakonda Club. Tickets start at $40, and can be purchased at this link.

Worth checking out
Three ways women can prepare for longevity in retirement (Kiplinger). "I love my babies. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy": One mother’s struggle to survive in pro-life Texas (Texas Tribune). Photojournalism is dominated by men. Women Photograph seeks to change that lens (The 19th). If we want to save Black mothers and babies, our approach to birthing care must change (Time).
Congress must expand the child tax credit
I was raised in Des Moines in a low-income family that struggled with homelessness and housing instability. I have dedicated my career to advocating for anti-poverty policies, so I have a deep personal and professional understanding of the impacts of child poverty and know the difference a supportive tax credit can make.

As the mother of a medically complex son who spent the first six weeks of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit, no one prepares you for the immense cost of simply trying to save your child’s life. In those first few months, his medical bills skyrocketed to more than $800,000. Then there are the diapers, wipes, breastfeeding supplies, clothing, crib and all the other expenses of being a first-time parent, all compounded by increasing prices of gas, groceries and interest rates.

After finally making it home, a new challenge emerged: the cost of child care. The average cost of child care for an infant is around $1,200 a month – similar to a mortgage or rent. Like many households, we need both incomes to make ends meet and that was a high price tag to consider paying. It’s even harder to find affordable child care for a medically complex child, which often involves years-long wait lists and requires the child to qualify for Medicaid for special needs kids.

We’re lucky. We are a two-parent, two-income household with great health care benefits and a medical team for our son that guides us through the avalanche of paperwork and bureaucracy needed for his care. These advantages made the costs we incurred as new parents bearable, though it doesn’t address the stress or how quickly our bank of paid time off was used up.

Now imagine we didn’t have those advantages and were handling those costs on a $15,000 per year minimum wage salary. Imagine being a single income household, not having a flexible job or enough paid time off, not having good health care or worse, not having any healthcare at all. What was bearable would become insurmountable.

That is why families need the expanded child tax credit. When Congress expanded the child tax credit in 2021, child poverty was cut almost in half, and parents got more freedom to make ends meet. But Congress let the expansion lapse after just one year, slashing the size of the credit for millions of working families and fully excluding 2 million others.

Re-expanding the child tax credit would mean not having to choose between buying diapers or filling our children's bellies. We could save for unplanned expenses and ensure our children have access to safe, loving child care settings. We could be more present in our children’s lives, instead of anxious and absorbed by pouring over expenses to make each paycheck stretch.

Congress must expand the child tax credit, especially to families with low incomes, in any tax legislation this year because our children deserve better. They deserve full bellies, a safe home, and to indulge in all the same joys that other children do.

Lakeisha McVey is a mother with lived experience of child poverty and a fierce advocate of anti-poverty policies. She currently lives in Des Moines with her husband and son.

The humbling tyranny of the photos our kids take of us
Screenshots from the Romper article featuring unflattering photos of moms.
We’ve all opened up our phones to a surprise front-facing camera, with a view of the bottom of our chins and a perfect look up our nostrils.

This article from Romper features a delightful collection of unflattering photos of moms, taken by their children. They are an unfiltered, raw look at what’s in front of them.

My favorite quote from the piece: "As unbecoming as they may be, the portrait a child takes might be the most frank visual diary of contemporary parenthood that can be found on one’s bloated camera roll. They are technicolor tributes to what it felt like to be in these homebound moments together, featuring us as we are, with a lot of chins, a lot of cellulite, a lot of messy hair. The photos do what kids do best: they wholeheartedly engage with the present moment."

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