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FEBRUARY 26, 2024
Good morning, Fearless readers:

From grades five through eight, I spent my summers providing child care for two nurses in my hometown. I was 10 when I started caring for children ages 1 and 3. I saved my money for the ultimate prize: a TV-VCR combo. It never occurred to me that the women who left their children with me might be breaking the law.

This story from Waterloo caught my attention. A mother took her infant to buy diapers and left her older children – ages 12, 10, 9, 7 and 5 – at home alone briefly. Eventually, a squabble occurred, a neighbor got involved, and the mother was arrested for misdemeanor child endangerment and later found guilty at trial. The Iowa Supreme Court struck down the conviction, according to this story in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

Sometimes it seems like women who lack a village are punished unfairly. Can you imagine the sharp glances and rude comments if the woman had hauled all six children into the store?

What will you do this week to be a part of another woman’s village?

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

  • An exclusive Fearless Q&A with Jerrica Marshall, executive director of the Directors Council.
  • A news story about Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds pushing for tax breaks for commercial child care facilities – under her plan, they would be taxed like in-home ones.
  • A news story about the Coven, a network of inclusive co-working spaces based in the Twin Cities that is planning to expand to the Des Moines metro in 2024.
  • In the headlines: Nationwide and in Iowa, teachers are missing more school. There are too few substitutes.
  • In case you missed it: See who was named to the Business Record’s 2024 Forty Under 40 class!
  • Also, don’t forget to share your thoughts with us in our annual survey on the status of women’s and gender issues in Iowa. This year’s survey will remain open through March 1 at 11:59 p.m.
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Q&A with Jerrica Marshall: Issues affecting Black women in Iowa
Photo by Duane Tinkey
I recently interviewed Jerrica Marshall, executive director of the Directors Council, for a Closer Look feature in the Business Record. The Des Moines-based organization she leads strives to address inequities affecting Black community members in Polk County. In a previous role, she noticed the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market vendors did not mirror the community, so she worked with others to form a business incubator for Black-women-owned businesses.

I asked her a few questions for Fearless about what she learned in those efforts and other issues predominantly affecting Black women in Iowa.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What barriers do you see for Black women who want to start a business?
I think a lot of it is just learning all the pieces that you need to start the business. It’s the business side of business. The Directors Council has sponsored the Financial Empowerment Center at the Evelyn K. Davis Center because we want to make sure that things like small business boot camps, nonprofit leader camps are available. Once that piece is done, it’s access. If you’ve looked around at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market, it looks like more of a mixed crowd than you’ve probably seen before.

What other issues that predominantly affect Black women do you think the state needs to address?
Maternal health. The list could go on, but maternal health is probably the No. 1 for me. Seeing the mortality rate for Black women is alarming – and it’s something that we need to continue to fight to change. Recently we did a community conversation with Molina Healthcare of Iowa, one of our Medicare/Medicaid providers here in town. … A lot of different medical providers were there and really kind of highlighted some of that Black mortality for us when it comes to reproductive health. Really, it’s just about not being heard. A lot of it is not being understood, not being respected for the pain that they’re in or being told that it’s not something that’s a real medical emergency or necessity that we need to address. It’s indicative of a larger problem for Black women because it’s about not being heard. That’s a bigger issue in itself.

When I had further conversations with Molina, they have taken some initiatives to add on a service regarding doulas. The Iowa Black Doula Collective, and many others, have shown this is a need. But adding that as an insurance provider – that’s monumental. That can change things. We know having doulas can fix this, but doulas cost money. If you’re already someone that is having issues financially, how do I also tack on a service that is needed for my health?

What would be your advice on a solution to not being heard?
It’s so difficult because some of it is making sure that you have a health care provider that is listening to you. But that in itself is a roadblock because not everybody feels like they have the options, or maybe they do have options, but they don’t have the time to go through and interview doctors until they find the one that fits them. But that may be what it requires. For some people who work a regular 9-to-5 job, you’d say, “I’m taking lunch and I go see this doctor today, tomorrow I’m gonna go see this doctor.” But that’s not always the scenario for everyone. That’s a privilege in itself. My biggest push would be to advocate for yourself. Don’t be afraid to say what you’re thinking. Don’t be afraid to be loud about it. We want to make sure that people are advocating for themselves, no matter what that looks like.

What advice would you have for other women who want to be leaders?
The advice would be to not let anyone deter you from that dream, hope or goal. You know, there are some that will say, “Are you sure you want to go? Are you sure this is your next move?” They’ll build doubt in your mind of what you’re capable of or what you can accomplish. I’ve learned from many strong women board members behind me that you just can’t go into it with that fear. You have to be fearless. You have to go into it sure about yourself – sure about what you can do, what you can bring to the table and to be OK with saying this isn’t my strong suit, but I know someone who has that and pulling those people on your team. That’s going to be the biggest thing is to make sure that you go into it knowing exactly who you are, what you can bring and what you can accomplish, and then bringing all those people that can help you strengthen even more.

Reynolds pushes tax breaks for child care centers
File photo by Emily Kestel
Improving access to child care has been a bipartisan priority at the Iowa Statehouse for years. Although no single strategy will bridge the gap between the number of spaces available and what the state’s families need, lawmakers and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds are continuing to chip away.

The major effort that has emerged so far in the 2024 session is Reynolds’ proposal to tax commercial properties used for child care as though they are residential properties. That could mean cutting property tax bills for such properties nearly in half. Advocates said they hope the savings would be reinvested to help attract and retain staff and to, ultimately, make more child care more available.
Reynolds has said the plan also would enhance fairness, because commercial facilities would be taxed in the same manner as in-home child care providers.

Under Iowa law, property taxes for commercial property are levied against 90% of the property’s actual value above $150,000. All residential property, and the first $150,000 of each commercial property, owes property taxes, which fund local schools and government, on a smaller percentage of actual value. This is referred to as the residential rollback; presently, it’s set at about 46.34%. The state also appropriates money that is distributed to cities, counties, school districts and other local entities to replace some lost property taxes.

If a Dallas County property with an assessed value of $3.5 million was entirely used for child care, its property tax bill could drop by nearly $50,000. There is no current estimate for how many facilities statewide would be affected, but lawmakers said on Feb. 19 that they expect a nonpartisan analysis from the Legislative Services Agency.

The property tax change was one of the recommendations suggested in 2021 by Reynolds’ Child Care Task Force.
Reynolds’ proposal is part of a much larger tax plan that includes a decrease in income tax rates. Senate Study Bill 3038 got its first hearing Feb. 19. Lobbyists and lawmakers mostly praised the child care provision, although Sen. Pam Jochum, a Dubuque Democrat, said there might be more direct ways to improve child care availability.

“I think all of us have been trying to find ways to try to increase the number of child care spaces, and also more importantly, increase wages for the child care workers themselves,” Jochum said.

Sen. Dan Dawson, a Council Bluffs Republican, chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which handles tax policy. He said he wanted lawmakers to investigate the various parts of Reynolds’ plan in a more focused way and split parts of it into individual bills.

Senate Study Bill 3181 contains only the child care property tax provisions. No initial hearing on that bill had been scheduled as of Feb. 21. The Iowa House Ways and Means Committee has not yet acted on Reynolds’ plan.
The Coven, an inclusive co-working space for women and others, plans expansion to Des Moines
The Coven, an inclusive workspace for women, nonbinary and transgender workers – and their allies – is planning to open a space in Des Moines. Submitted photo.
While some companies are requiring employees to return to the office post-pandemic, some workers, and even their bosses, are pushing back.

The push and pull is especially challenging for workers who benefitted the most from work-from-home models – women, caretakers, those with chronic illnesses, the LGBTQ community and members of other vulnerable groups.

A company from the Twin Cities believes it has a solution: What would it be like if you could show up to work as your whole self? What would it be like to have women connecting with one another? What would it look like to have a trans-inclusive women’s space?

“This is the manifestation of that,” said Alex Steinman, one of the Coven’s co-founders and partners. “And so we really thought about, what would it look like if women could work, learn and play together and have a space that was really, truly built for them?”

The Coven is a network of inclusive co-working spaces. It has five locations in the Midwest but none in Iowa. Its owners are planning to expand into Des Moines in 2024. They’re looking for franchisees in Central Iowa and hope to open a location sometime this year.

“When we look at Des Moines, we’re looking for a community owner who is really a part of the community and knows the types of services and resources that that area or that market is going to need,” Steinman said.

The Coven was founded in 2017 by four women who’d met while working in the advertising industry. The Coven has two co-working spaces in Minneapolis, one in St. Paul, Minn., one in Eau Claire, Wis., and one opening soon in St. Louis Park, Minn.

The Coven’s research has shown that when workers feel safe – both physically and psychologically – they’re more productive and more willing to take risks, Steinman said.

“We know that when folks feel safe, they feel like they don’t have to hide themselves, that they have the ability to take bigger risks, like starting a business or leading a team or going for a new career opportunity. And that’s really what the Coven is all about. Our mission is around economic empowerment for women, nonbinary and trans people, so giving people that type of space where they feel comfortable in their own skin gives them the opportunity to take the leap,” Steinman said.

Men are welcome to work in the Coven’s spaces as allies.

“We have lots of male members who’ve joined as co-working members and have really enjoyed the space because it does center on belonging, because it does have amenities that they haven’t seen before in co-working. Something that’s really important to us is that men are part of the solution as well,” Steinman said.

Everything about the co-working spaces centers on belonging and including, she said.

“When we look at the types of things that we bring into the space from a design perspective, we think about the art on our walls being curated from community members that are local to this community. We think of size-inclusive furniture that fits all body types. We think of accessibility and making sure neurodiversity is a part of our considerations for colors and sound.”

A price list for membership is available here.

Getty Photos.
In the headlines
Teachers are missing more school in districts like DMPS, and there are too few substitutes: Nationwide, students and teachers are missing more school in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, writes reporter Sarah Mervosh in this story for the New York Times. Mervosh interviewed Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Ian Roberts for the story, who said DMPS is considering increasing pay for substitute teachers. Teachers are predominantly women, and some of them are missing school due to caretaking responsibilities and poor mental health.

Iowa Senate votes to extend Medicaid for low-income mothers; others would lose coverage: Low-income Iowa mothers would be eligible for a full year of Medicaid coverage after giving birth, under a bill that passed the Iowa Senate Monday. But the bill would also lower the income threshold to qualify for postpartum coverage under Medicaid, cutting off coverage for about 1,700 women and babies each month who are currently eligible for Medicaid coverage during and after a pregnancy, according to this story in the Des Moines Register.

Bill removing gender-balance requirement for Iowa boards and commissions clears Senate: Legislation removing Iowa’s gender balance requirement for state boards and commissions advanced through the Iowa Senate on Tuesday. Republican female lawmakers — Sens. Annette Sweeney, Chris Cournoyer, Carrie Koelker and Dawn Driscoll — spoke in support of Senate File 2096 during floor debate, according to this story in the Iowa Capital Dispatch. If the bill becomes law, the state would no longer require that state panels include an equal number of men and women.

Iowa House passes bill to let minors work unsupervised in some child care settings: In a 55-36 vote on Feb. 19, Iowa House lawmakers advanced a bill to allow some teenage child care workers to briefly care for infants and toddlers without adult supervision. House File 2305 would allow 16- or 17-year-old child care workers to care for kids under the age of 5 without another adult in the room. The change would only apply during nap time or for five minutes or less, according to this KCCI story.

Worth checking out
In an unprecedented decision, Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled frozen embryos are children. It could have chilling effects on IVF, critics say. (CNN). Private equity has its eyes on the child care industry (the Atlantic). 4 reasons why career success may not translate to financial success for women (Forbes). Fed up over bullying, Nevada women take secret video of ‘monster’ boss. He was later indicted for murder (CBS News). Heart health, women and the limits of exercise (Washington Post). The swagger of Caitlin Clark (New Yorker).
Business Record announces 2024 Forty Under 40 class
The Business Record is proud to announce the 25th annual list of Forty Under 40 honorees.

These 40 local business leaders, who were chosen by past award winners, are under the age of 40 and have demonstrated impressive career achievements and unparalleled community involvement.

Together, they join 960 past Business Record Forty Under 40 honorees to bring the total number of honorees to 1,000 since the Business Record began the awards in 2000.

Each of the honorees will be profiled in the March 22 edition of the Business Record and recognized at the event on March 28. Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees!

2024 CLASS:
Cole Amstutz, Vice president of commercial business development, ServiceMaster by Rice

Jaime Blue, Owner/managing broker, JLN Realty Co.

Nick Blyth,
Senior vice president, Holmes Murphy/Innovative Captive Strategies

Maria Brownell,
Attorney/shareholder, Ahlers & Cooney PC

Nick Callison,
Vice president of development, Forvis

Nana Coleman,
Chief product officer, RainyDayPal

Liz Cooney,
Manager, performance and capability management, F&G

Kacey Davis,
Director of employee health and wellness, Dotdash Meredith

Shannon Draayer,
Director of health and well-being, WesleyLife

Wesley Franklin,
Community impact director, American Heart Association

Siriaco Garcia,
Artist (Siricasso)

Olesya Holker,
Co-founder, executive director, HHD Production LLC

Jon Hummel,
Vice president, commercial banking, West Bank

Kourtney Kirkpatrick,
Director of advancement, Anawim Housing

Erin Knupp,
Director of business development, Boyd Jones

Lauren Kollauf,
Executive director, Avenues of Ingersoll & Grand

Kiersten Maertens,
Managing director, account strategy, Flynn Wright

Vanessa Carolina Marcano-Kelly,
Owner and lead linguist, Caracas Language Solutions LLC | Strategist, content, Principal Financial Group

Jerrica Marshall,
Executive director, Directors Council

Kristina Marshall,
Regional vice president, BH Management

Jessi McQuerrey,
Director of programs, Iowa Association of Business and Industry Foundation

Emily Mendez, Director of development, Proteus

Andrew Mertens,
Executive director, Iowa Association for Justice

Sammy Mila,
Owner, Crème

Morgan Miller,
Political director, Iowa State Education Association

Karoline Myers,
Director of education, Des Moines Performing Arts

Sharon Ndikurugamba,
Executive director, African Immigrants and Refugees Transition Services

Dannie Patrick,
Global inclusion specialist, Principal Financial Group

Leann Pederson,
Senior partner, health care studio manager, registered interior designer, RDG Planning & Design

Nick Peterson,
Strategic partnerships manager, Alliant Energy

Mollie Ross,
Vice president of operations, Technology Association of Iowa

Jenae Sikkink,
Senior vice president of talent development and inclusive strategies, Greater Des Moines Partnership

Zach Sims,
Client executive, Holmes Murphy

Anna Stoermer,
Executive vice president, chief marketing officer, Hy-Vee Inc.

Jordan Stokes,
Self-perform work leader, Midwest region, Ryan Cos.

Ryan Tousley,
Senior business development manager, Weitz Co.

Bridgette Uhlemann,
Senior vice president and general counsel, LCS

Rachel Wacker,
Executive director, Greater Dallas County Development Alliance

Danielle West,
Regional vice president, LifeServe Blood Center

Alec Wilcox,
Associate, Cushman & Wakefield Iowa Commercial Advisors

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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