Meet six fearless Iowans
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Good morning, happy Monday and happy one-year anniversary to Fearless! It has been an honor and privilege to share Iowans’ stories through this platform.

If you are someone who has been actively engaged with Fearless this last year, we thank you and look forward to having you along with us as we all work toward a more equitable world. We hope that you’ve been challenged to think differently and inspired to work toward a goal you didn’t think was possible. We know that this initiative has certainly pushed us in those ways and we encourage those who haven’t been engaged to come along with us as we continue the journey.

We are proud of the work we’ve done so far (see the always-available archive of previous Fearless newsletters here), but we recognize that there is a lot more to be done. To reflect on some of our highlights and see our goals for this next year, read our joint letter.

This week, I am so excited to share the latest round of Fearless profiles. These stories are ones of immigrants, business owners, cancer survivors, U.S. ambassadors and activists. We’re linking to all of them today, and we’ll run their stories in full throughout the year.

Join us: Happening today at noon is our virtual panel discussion where we’ll discuss the question: What can we focus on in 2022 to collectively support women in work and life? It’s not too late to register!

– Emily Kestel, Fearless editor

P.S. To help us celebrate our anniversary, we want to hear from you! Please reply to this email and let us know how Fearless has helped empower you in your personal or professional life. And, if you would be so kind as to take it a step further, please take our survey! We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make the Fearless newsletter valuable to you and worth your time. Thank you!

Meet six fearless Iowans
All photos by Emily Kestel. All illustrations by Kate Meyer.
Last year, to launch the Fearless initiative, we introduced you to 12 fearless Iowa women. Together, they were courageous, honest, confident, persistent, brave, purposeful, daring, resilient, authentic, unselfish, passionate and persistent.

The six people we talked to this year are no different. They’ve taken big risks, they serve as leaders in their respective communities in their own right, and they are confident in doing so.  

At the beginning of each interview, I ask them to tell me about a time that they were fearless. I let them take that prompt wherever they’d like. Many of them elaborate on particular moments, but what I found was that for most of them, they’ve lived their whole lives fearlessly.

Being fearless is making the choice to be honest about who you really are.
Read Jo Allen’s story.
Being fearless is demanding to not be invisible.
Read Suzan Erem’s story.
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Being fearless is taking care of your family after an immigration raid.
Read Maria Gonzalez-Alvarez’s story.

Being fearless is moving to a new country after spending 10 years in a refugee camp.
Read Dalia Kyi’s story.

Being fearless is saying yes when the president asks if you would consider serving as a U.S. ambassador.
Read Mary Kramer’s story.

Being fearless is continuing to move forward after unimaginable loss.
Read Teresa Zilk’s story.

All of these stories are purposely told in their own words to elevate and empower their voices. They have been edited and condensed for clarity.

I’ve always described the Fearless profiles as ones that shed light on who someone is, not just what someone does. That being said, these stories are deeply personal. I hope by reading them, you are able to empathize with them. Hold them close and share them with others. We all have moments of fearlessness, and I encourage you to share them with us.

At its core, Fearless aims to amplify the perspectives of all Iowa women and gender-nonconforming individuals. The stories in this issue represent all of us. We are all fearless.

In the headlines
  • A simple gesture of a palm facing outward with fingers curled around the thumb – like a closed fist – led to a recent rescue of a girl who had been kidnapped. The girl was reportedly making the gesture out the window of a car and a driver recognized it from a viral TikTok video and knew that it meant the girl was in danger. The driver called the police, and the sheriff’s office later arrested the driver. The gesture was created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation as a way to discreetly signal distress.
  • In October, 251,000 women rejoined the U.S. labor force, according to new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for women sits at 4.4% – with a rate of 3.9% for white women, 7% for Black women, 5.7% for Latinas and 4.4% for Asian women.
  • According to a new report from PitchBook, funding to female-founded companies reached $40.4 billion in the first three quarters of 2021, far surpassing the 2019 record of $23.7 billion.
  • Fifty Saudi Arabian women will learn how to become entrepreneurs, with the help of an educational program from the University of Iowa that will also connect them with mentors throughout the state.
  • Men continue to dominate the news media, according to a new report from the Women’s Media Center. The report found that men account for about two-thirds of all media credits and bylines across print, online, broadcast, cable TV and wire outlets in the U.S.
Being herself: Deanna Strable-Soethout
Strable-Soethout, 52, describes her professional life in three chapters. After finishing college at Northwestern University, she started at Principal in 1990 as an actuary. In the mid-1990s, she ran various product lines within Principal's insurance businesses and was named president of U.S. Insurance Solutions in 2015. In 2017, she became chief financial officer.

Through each chapter, she watched as other women leaders copied the styles and personalities of men. They didn’t let their guard down. Strable-Soethout wanted to bring her full self to the executive level, to not change who she was to fit someone’s else’s ideal.
Worth checking out
How to be a better ally to the disability community (Otherppl). I was the editor-in-chief of Working Mother, and I couldn’t hack working motherhood (HuffPost). Five women on how they quit their jobs (The Cut). The true cost of working from home on our physical wellness (Sidekick). What paternity leave does for a father’s brain (New York Times Opinion). Moms with access to remote work were most likely to leave their jobs during pandemic, new research shows (The 19th). How this Iowan helps female veterans find purpose when their service ends: 'No woman fights alone' (Des Moines Register).

Today (Monday) is the day! Join us at noon over Zoom as we hear from four women leaders across the state about some of the key issues women have faced this year and will continue to face in 2022. We’ll talk about leadership, child care, women leaving and returning to the workforce, burnout and mental health.

Joining us will be:

  • Renee Christoffer, president and CEO, Veridian Credit Union
  • Beth Livingston, faculty director of the Dore Emerging Women Leaders Program at the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa
  • Dawn Oliver Wiand, president and CEO, Iowa Women's Foundation
  • Toyia Younger, SVP for Student Affairs at Iowa State University
Six takeaways from the Women Lead Change Central Iowa conference
Thanks to everyone who pointed out the broken link for the Women Lead Change conference takeaways article in last week’s newsletter. Here is the correct link.

For those of you who hadn't read it, here's my favorite takeaway:

Yes, you do have time to do the things you want.

News flash: Everyone has the same amount of time as everyone else.

If it feels like you don’t have time to do what you need or want, perhaps you should track your time for a week to see where it’s going, author Laura Vanderkam said.

"We’re resistant to do this because we don’t want to know how much time we’re wasting," she said.

Vanderkam suggests creating categories for every type of task you do – whether it’s eating, working, sleeping, driving, running errands, watching TV or cooking – and then jotting down how much time is spent doing each.

Then ask yourself: What do I like the most? What do I want to do more of? What do I want to get off my plate?

Use that as a guiding point for planning out your weekly schedules. Do you enjoy cooking but hate going grocery shopping? Consider getting your groceries delivered and then use that time saved to cook a meal you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

"When you say, ‘I don’t have time,’ what you really mean is ‘It’s not a priority,’" Vanderkam said.
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