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MAY 20, 2024
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Much of today’s newsletter is about wins for women some small, and some big. And, Fearless readers, we know a win for women is a win for everyone.

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

  • A guest column by Holly Stevenson about how open-minded leadership advances women in the workplace.
  • A column by Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO of Business Publications Corp., about how after the "she-cession," women are back at work and shaping their own futures.
  • In the headlines: Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder is retiring, and Jan Jensen is taking over. Plus, a bill to promote stillbirth prevention, supported by the Central Iowa advocacy group Healthy Birth Day, passed the U.S. House.
  • In case you missed it: Caring Hands Outreach, the nonprofit that took over organizing the annual book sale previously hosted by Planned Parenthood, has announced it will postpone the book sale to address the increasing demand for food assistance in the community.
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Commentary: How open-minded leadership advanced women in the workplace
Today’s world is a polarized place. We cannot escape discussion of "sides." Whether it be political party allegiance or women’s college basketball, we live in an era of seeing those who think differently from us as "other" and "wrong." We are taught to be strong-minded and steadfast in our convictions; we often hear mantras such as "Stay true to yourself!" and "Never change who you are!"

While it is important to be committed to our values and beliefs, open-mindedness is a crucial skill both in daily life and in leadership. From a workplace perspective, cultivating our aptitude to be open-minded helps to advance underrepresented groups in the workplace — including women — enabling us all to thrive.

Here are three key skills of the open-minded leader.

Thirst for learning
The most honest sentence is "I don’t know." There is no shame in not knowing something. True knowledge — and leadership — stems from the realization that we don’t know what we don’t know. We should always be open to broadening our understanding on issues.

Further, since each individual navigates the world differently, given the identities they hold and the unique ways in which they intersect, it is impossible for one person to know everything. To claim as such only denies the experiences of those who do not have the luxury of being routinely listened to or asked for their views.

Learning can be exhausting. Debating viewpoints can feel like a personal attack. And we might worry that we will appear inept or weak when we ask for advice or admit that we don’t know it all. This is particularly true if we are in a leadership role and have others looking to us for answers. However, an open-minded leader’s thirst for learning overcomes the hurdle of feeling inadequate as they know that the real inadequacy is to fail to provide everyone with a voice and to shut down learning opportunities.

Although it can be frustrating when a child incessantly asks "why?" — this natural curiosity is a character trait that open-minded leaders retain and use to propel their desire to learn from others. Of course, they do not tokenize when asking for others to share and to teach. That is to say, they do not include diverse voices and minds to keep up appearances or check boxes. Instead, inclusion of all occurs organically in workplaces where open-mindedness is the norm.

When those in the workplace are more concerned with learning than they are with their ego, marginalized employees will feel they have the permission to actively participate. Additionally, research has shown that contributions of women are often overlooked or wrongly attributed to men. When women believe that they work within a culture of growth where learning is valued, they will be more inclined to speak up, have their work appreciated and feel confident in applying for promotions, wrote Jessica Nordell in her book "The End of Bias: A Beginning: The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias."

Acceptance of others
Brené Brown once said, "All of us fight hidden, silent battles."

It is important to treat everyone with the same grace we would hope to be extended toward us. When we begin to truly accept others, even those who dramatically disagree with us, we not only work on our open-mindedness and receptiveness to new ideas, but we also practice empathy and tolerance — two other critical character traits for effective leadership. Instead of calling out those who they disagree with or othering people due to their differences, open-minded leaders call in everyone to have productive dialogue where all parties learn and grow.

Accepting everyone as they are does not mean that we are all perfect. Instead, it focuses on respect and celebration of everyone despite our faults and fallibility, allowing us to make mistakes and share our true selves. It is only when we feel we do not need to cover aspects of our identity in the workplace that we can work toward equitable conditions. For example, according to Deloitte, women cite a lack of flexible working hours as the No. 1 reason for wanting to leave a job. When we accept the whole individual and respect that nobody is solely an employee, we can have crucial conversations about workplace equity that result in women staying and advancing in their careers.

Awareness of own limitations
Oprah Winfrey once said, "True humility is staying teachable, regardless of how much you already know."

Humility is severely underrated. Being able to recognize the importance of different perspectives comes hand in hand with the acknowledgement that everyone has biases we must always be trying to address. For example, halo bias makes us think favorably of people we like and can derail us into discounting the potential of those we know less well in the workplace. Recency bias also makes us unknowingly susceptible to focusing more on the accomplishments or contributions of those we spend more time with.

Occasionally stopping ourselves in our tracks to ask ourselves, "Am I potentially being biased here?" can be a helpful tool to ensure that, to the best of our abilities, everyone is receiving a fair chance to succeed in the workplace.

Helpful resources :
  • "Are You Open Minded? Three Ways to Break Thinking Patterns" by Paul Sloane, TEDx, University of Brighton: Watch the video.
  • "What is the true definition of being open-minded?" by Maryam Fuad Bukhash, TEDx, Zayed University: Watch the video.
  • "Four Benefits of Being an Open-Minded Leader" LinkedIn: Read the post.
Leading Fearlessly: After the ‘she-cession,’ women are back at work and shaping their own futures
When the pandemic hit in 2020, I remember reading the media headlines warning of a "she-cession," or mass exodus of women from the workforce. I witnessed this firsthand as countless women I knew quit their jobs, exhausted from bearing a disproportionate burden of juggling responsibilities at work and home. Many of us feared that decades of economic progress for women would be erased. But there is good news: Despite that massive exit, new data indicate that women are back at work, more ambitious than ever, and shaping their own futures.

According to the Mom Project, 1.8 million women left the workforce due to the pandemic. But a Recruitics article says that by January 2023, the number of women in the workforce had returned to pre-pandemic levels. One unexpected outcome of these shifts in the workforce is that the gender gap actually narrowed; women have surpassed the number of men in the labor force. The Pew Research Center data shows that women now make up 51% of the U.S. workforce 25 and older with a college degree.

Rather than permanently holding women back, it seems that the "she-cession" was not just temporary, but transformational. The pandemic actually changed how we look at work. Now, women’s desire for career development and advancement is on the rise, and women — including young women entering the workforce — are redefining their futures.

"Women are more ambitious than before the pandemic — and flexibility is fueling that ambition," says the Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey in partnership with

During the pandemic, women saw that a new or different model of balancing work and life was possible. While few women (or men) want to return to the way things were, the McKinsey report indicates that women are taking more steps to prioritize their personal lives while demanding advancement.

"These women are defying the outdated notion that work and life are incompatible, and that one comes at the expense of the other," says the report. In other words, women in today’s workforce want to be able to succeed on their own terms.
With these shifts in mind, I turned to local leaders and asked them: "What advice would you give young women joining the workforce today?"
Sammy Mila, owner, Crème:
My advice to the young women joining the workforce today, honestly, is to wake up every morning and remember exactly who you are. Think about the challenges you’ve overcome, the changes you’ve made so far, and impacts to come. Carry that confidence into the rest of the day and stay as authentic to yourself and your goals as possible. As women, our intuition guides us, so if a situation doesn’t align with our gut, trust that it wasn’t meant for us. We are so strong, so resilient, and without us, the world couldn’t exist, literally.
Dannie Patrick, senior director of community impact, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines:
Take up space. As women, many times we are judged for owning the space we are in (whether externally or in our own minds). When I started my career (and sometimes even now), I questioned if I had the knowledge or experience to be at tables or in conversation with individuals who had more experience than I did. My skepticism of my experience would get the better of me and I felt myself shrink or stay silent. I would share thoughts outside of a meeting and sometimes later others would be praised for what had been my work or idea. I realize now that we all have different skill sets and just because mine may be different does not make me any less valuable or less qualified. There is not a magic point in your career where you will know everything, but you are always worthy of being there.
Abi Reiland, vice president, JLL:
For whatever reason, growing up, I always viewed other girls and young women as my competition. It wasn’t until later in my professional life that I built a foundation of strong, supportive and positive women as my close friends and mentors. Surrounding myself with women who built me up not only changed my perspective on what a workplace could look like, it also changed how I viewed my own potential. Women often face at least some gender-specific challenges as they embark on professional ascension, and having a support system of other amazing women in place becomes a source of empowerment and possibility. Surround yourself with women you admire and respect, and who reciprocate those feelings, and there are no limits. And on your way to the top, be sure to shine a light on other women for an impact that extends well beyond yourself.
Dallis Roberts, community engagement manager, Broadlawns Medical Center:
My advice to all young women entering the workforce today is to embrace new experiences. Whether it’s volunteering for a project, attending events, or just stepping out of your comfort zone, don't hesitate to say yes. Experience is the cornerstone of learning and growth.

Throughout my career, I’ve discovered that some of the most unexpected and seemingly random projects I took on have become invaluable assets to me today. They’ve equipped me with diverse skills, expanded my network, and broadened my perspective. It is through these experiences that I have gotten to where I am in my career. So, to all the young women out there, remember that every experience, no matter how insignificant it may seem, has the potential to shape your future in ways you can’t even imagine. Embrace the unknown, embrace the challenges and embrace the opportunities for growth. You never know where it could lead.
Jan Jensen, photographed for dsm magazine's LGBTQ Legacy Leaders award, in 2020. Photo by Duane Tinkey
In the headlines
Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder retiring; associate Jan Jensen takes over: Legendary University of Iowa head women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder announced her retirement May 13 while handing the keys to the program to longtime associate head coach Jan Jensen, a stunning development for a program basking in the limelight of two consecutive national title game appearances, according to this story in the Des Moines Register.

Bill to promote stillbirth prevention, supported by Central Iowa advocacy group, passes U.S. House: The U.S. House approved a bill Wednesday that would make more funding available for stillbirth prevention throughout the country. The Central Iowa education and advocacy group Healthy Birth Day said in a news release that stillbirth, which is the result of about 1 in every 175 pregnancies, is far more common than deaths from SIDS and that as many as 25% of stillbirths might be preventable. The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act would specify that state health departments should use federal Title V grant funding on stillbirth prevention programs. U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, an Iowa Republican, was one of the House leaders on the bill. The U.S. Senate approved an earlier version of the bill; it will have to pass it again before it goes to President Joe Biden. The May 28 Fearless will include more coverage of this development and its backstory with Healthy Birth Day, the creator of the Count the Kicks stillbirth prevention program and mobile app.

Iowa City group hopes to replace regional sexual violence services from scratch by fall: This year, the University of Iowa said it will close the provider of sexual assault services in southeastern Iowa. A local provider has less than a year to fill the gap, according to this story by Iowa Public Radio. Amy Smith works with rural victims of sexual violence for RVAP. Smith said she is worried about the rural counties served by RVAP after the University of Iowa announced it was closing the program.

Iowa sex trafficking victim who killed alleged abuser sought by authorities: An Iowa teenage sex-trafficking victim convicted of fatally stabbing a man whom she accused of abusing her has absconded from her probation, authorities said in court records. The Iowa Department of Corrections issued a nationwide warrant for the arrest of Pieper Lewis this month after learning she had been removed from a treatment center in Atlanta and then failed to show up to probation meetings, according to this story by the Associated Press.

Worth checking out
How Liz Lidgett grew her East Village art gallery to 67 artists from around the globe (Des Moines Register). It took decades, but Japan’s working women are making progress (New York Times). Rutgers Ph.D. student delivers dissertation hours after giving birth (CNN). A fundamental stage of human reproduction is shifting: Can humans ever break free of menopause? (the Atlantic). Teen girls come up with trigonometry proof for Pythagorean Theorem, a problem that stumped math world for centuries (CBS News). Pregnancy shrinks your brain. But it strengthens it too. (Wall Street Journal).
Annual local book sale postponed, seeking new host
Caring Hands Outreach, the nonprofit that took over organizing the annual book sale previously hosted by Planned Parenthood, has announced it will postpone the book sale to address the increasing demand for food assistance in the community.

"While we deeply value the tradition of our annual book sale, we cannot ignore the urgent call to action in addressing food insecurity within our community," Jodi Urich, CEO of Caring Hands Outreach, said in a prepared statement.

"Our primary mission has always been to serve those in need, and at this critical time, our focus must remain on ensuring that no one in our community goes hungry."

A news release said Carings Hands Outreach is supporting the book sale committee in finding a larger organization to host the event in the future.

For further information or inquiries about the book sale, contact

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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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