Plus, how to welcome women back to work
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Hello, happy Tuesday and happy September! The news cycle has been jampacked these last few days (and months, if we’re being totally honest), so we’ll jump right into it.

Here’s what you’ll find in this week’s newsletter:

  • Last month, Emily Barske talked with LaNisha Cassell, executive director of the African American Museum of Iowa, via Zoom about confidence. We’re sharing their full conversation as well as highlights.
  • I watched a panel discussion from theSkimm last week on what the return to work needs to look like for women. It was eye-opening for me, and I think it will be for you, too. Read my takeaways! (Yes, this is different than the takeaways I had in August from The 19th's summit.)
  • It was a big week for women in the news. We’ve got a roundup of the big headlines.
  • My co-workers throughout Business Publications Corp. have been hard at work with several different events and projects. See links to the Iowa Stops Hunger panel replay and the latest issue of dsm Magazine at the bottom of the newsletter.

Keeping in line with our topic of mentorship and professional development this month, I’ve been thinking a lot about how career development and progression looks different for everyone. Sometimes it means taking a break and reassessing what you want to do. Have you done this? I’d love to hear from you!

Have a great week!

Emily Blobaum, Fearless editor

P.S. If you haven’t signed up for the Business Record’s free, virtual Power Breakfast event, you can do so here. We’ll be discussing the future of corporate culture this Thursday at 8 a.m.

LaNisha Cassell on how to build confidence
Last month, Business Record Editor Emily Barske spoke with LaNisha Cassell, executive director of the African American Museum of Iowa, about the topic of confidence.

I encourage you to watch the full conversation, but below are highlights.

On what confidence means: "For me it’s understanding and valuing what my strengths and capabilities are and making sure I boldly walk in them. It’s understanding what my worth is."

On why confidence is more of a struggle for women than it is for men: "We’re used to gender roles. Women have traditionally been tasked with wearing so many hats, you almost feel like you can’t do everything great, even though that’s not the case."

On how we can support others in building their confidence: "Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Seek understanding. We have to remind ourselves that we are at the table because we belong there, we deserve to be there, we’ve put the work in and that we have a voice that we can use when necessary."

On often being the only person of a particular identity in a room: "I think a lot of people of color in a place like Iowa … we are used to being in those situations. I am often cast in the role of trying to make other people feel more comfortable about my presence versus me feeling comfortable. We shouldn’t have to do that, but I think that’s often a necessity so you can be an active participant. I try to have personal conversations. Let people know that you have the right to be there and you have a voice."

On what you can do to make sure all voices are being heard: "Take the opportunity to include other voices. Maybe it’s making sure that I hear from every voice in the room and not just call on the person of color just to say that I called on the person of color. As a leader, it’s our responsibility to include all voices at the table."

On how people can build the worth they see in themselves: "Take advantage of opportunities for growth. We also have to see ourselves where we want to be, not where we are right now.  I try to surround myself with other women who are going to be encouraging. Not people who are going to lie, but people who are going to tell you the truth in love and transparency so you can be better. Read books on professional development and growth, surround yourself with other professionals who are successful. You won’t grow if you’re not challenged."
How we can welcome women back to safe and inclusive work environments
Takeaways from theSkimm’s "Back to ‘Normal’ Power Panel"
Last month, theSkimm co-founders and co-CEOs Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg hosted a virtual panel about what the return to normal needs to look like for working women.

Panelists were Tina Tchen, now ex-president and CEO of Time’s Up; Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center; Ai-jen Poo, co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; and Tami Forman, CEO of Path Forward.

A replay can be found on theSkimm’s website, but the following are my personal takeaways.

What role do we all play to ensure that women return to safe, inclusive and welcoming working environments?

Background: At the start of 2020, women held the majority of American jobs for the first time in nearly a decade. By February 2021, 2.3 million women had dropped out of the workforce entirely. Across the nation, calls for increased flexibility in the workplace, greater access to affordable child care, better family leave policies and better pay flooded social media platforms, opinion pages and congressional mailboxes.

In the 2021 Fearless survey conducted earlier this year, the average length of paid parental leave that respondents believed mothers deserved was 14 weeks. For fathers, the average response was 11 weeks. Currently, only 19% of workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave through their employers and the median lengths of leave for mothers and fathers in the U.S. is 11 weeks and one week, respectively.

Goss-Graves, on tackling the underlying issues: "We need to be moving beyond specific policies related to harassment to looking at the built-in structures that allow it to happen." Sometimes you might have the right policies in place, but you may have systemic structures and power imbalances in place, too, she said. For example, businesses in the leisure and hospitality industries may have harassment policies in place, but because of the reliance on tips, workers may be more vulnerable to harassment from customers, co-workers and bosses, especially during the pandemic.

Tchen, on investing in caregiving and paid leave policies: "Companies are realizing that it’s in their best interest to invest in caregiving. … A company doesn’t have to wait to put paid leave policies in place." Tchen also encouraged people to think of paid leave policies not just for newborn and adopted children, but about caring for elderly or loved ones with disabilities, taking time for bereavement and "safe days" for domestic violence survivors to go to court or change living conditions.

Goss-Graves, on the importance of standard paid leave policies: "Paid leave is not just a nice-to-have thing, it’s a critical part of the care infrastructure that we need. It can’t just be about lucking into the right boss; it needs to be a standard."

Further reading in Fearless:

Survey: Better flexibility, child care and family leave necessary for pandemic recovery

‘Child rearing is not just a mother’s job’: Three men’s stories on their role at home

Why was it so easy for women’s progress in the workplace and society to be set back so far and so quickly?

Background: Even before the pandemic, many mothers with young children found themselves driven out of the workforce due to the lack of adequate paid leave and affordable, quality child care. More than half of the people in the U.S. live in a child care desert.

Forman, on the pandemic exacerbating these problems: "These are not new problems. These were cranked up to 11. There were day care deserts before COVID, so it felt inevitable," she said. "There’s finally a recognition of how constrained the system is. It wasn’t as visible to some people in power." Zakin likened the pandemic to a dangerous game of Jenga. "One person moved a tile and it all crumbled," she said.

Further reading in Fearless:

2021 Women’s Survey: Pandemic shines spotlight on disparities

Access to child care in rural Iowa is an issue

What is there to feel hopeful about?

Poo, on this being the most hopeful moment for caregivers in generations: "Pre-pandemic, [caregivers] were struggling quietly behind closed doors. It was a private, simmering crisis." Before the pandemic, caregivers thought that some of these systemic issues were personal failures. COVID blew our minds because we realized that there was nothing in place to support us, even though we were doing everything we could, she said. Poo also highlighted the importance of recognizing child care as infrastructure and amplified a quote she believed to be from Sen. Bob Casey: "Some people need bridges to get to work. Other people need child care."

Left: Journalist Kay Henderson. Center: Director Nia DaCosta. Right: Paralympian Jessica Heims.
In the headlines
A Woman of Quiet Wisdom: Elizabeth Balcarcel
Some people are drawn to their life’s calling almost naturally. For others, like Elizabeth Balcarcel, that larger purpose finds them — perhaps by fate, by chance, or a bit of both.

Balcarcel serves as director of state program technical assistance at Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (IowaCASA), a nonprofit dedicated to providing services to survivors of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault and
preventing sexual violence. She oversees a team that provides training for IowaCASA’s 28 statewide programs for survivors. She couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

But getting there wasn’t so straight and narrow. And as she reflects today, Balcarcel is astonished by how far she has come — as an immigrant turned fearless advocate. READ THE FULL STORY>

Worth checking out
Yes, marketing is still sexist (New York Times). The pandemic is making dads reevaluate their work-life balance (The Atlantic). Hilarious before and after pictures of kids’ first day of school (Upworthy). Female hummingbirds avoid harassment by looking like males (New York Times). Des Moines’ Black applicants more than twice as likely to be denied home loans than their white peers, analysis shows (Des Moines Register). Closing the gender gap in funding (Entrepreneur). The rise of women in the gig economy (Axios). How the pandemic set back women’s progress in the global workforce (Washington Post).

Join us Friday, Sept. 4, for a free virtual conversation about mentoring and professional development. We’ll also be joined by several of the Business Record’s 2021 Women of Influence. Register for the event on our website.
Share your fearless story with us
As part of the 2021 annual Fearless edition of the Business Record, we want to know when you've been fearless. We also want to know what it means to find confidence, to be a leader or to take a risk. We want to know your life experiences.

We'll select some of the submissions to feature in the Fearless edition – which publishes Nov. 12 – and other Fearless publications, including our website, social media and e-newsletter.

In case you missed these events
Last week, Business Publications Corp. hosted its virtual Iowa Stops Hunger event, where nine panelists detailed specific ways businesses can help fight hunger and food insecurity. Rewatch the event.

Read the latest issue of dsm Magazine, which features this year’s LGBTQ Legacy Leaders.

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