View as webpage, click here.
OCTOBER 9, 2023
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Last week, the federal government narrowly avoided a shutdown but another crisis could come in November. Did you know that Native Americans are disproportionately affected by shutdowns of the federal government? I had no idea.

Here is more from the New York Times: "Generations ago, tribal nations reached treaties with the U.S. government that guaranteed basic services like health care and education in exchange for huge expanses of land. Tribal governments have long criticized the United States for failing to fully live up to those treaties. But when the national bureaucracy stops functioning, the impact is still severe."

Here is a list of 10 news sources that you can follow to learn more about Native communities.

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

  • An in-depth news story about Rachael Denhollander’s upcoming visit to Central Iowa. Denhollander, the lawyer and former gymnast who was pivotal in putting former U.S. national team doctor Larry Nassar behind bars, will be the Chrysalis Foundation’s keynote speaker at its Inspired event on Nov. 13 in West Des Moines.
  • A short story about Jessica Meisner, who is the Business Record’s 2023 Dentons Davis Brown Human Resources Professional of the Year. Meisner is the vice president of human resources at UnityPoint Health.
  • In the headlines: Iowa promises services to children with severe mental and behavioral needs after a lawsuit cites failures.
  • A break from the news: ‘Slay in your lane,’ plus two other ideas from Shekinah Fountain, senior DEI associate at the Weitz Co.
  • The Fearless Annual Celebration is coming up soon from 10 a.m. to noon on Nov. 1 at the Des Moines Downtown Marriott. Register today!
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

Rachael Denhollander’s advocacy journey will bring her to Central Iowa
The first woman to publicly accuse former U.S. national team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse is the Chrysalis Foundation’s 2023 ‘Inspired’ keynote speaker.
Almost six years later, she is still leading armies of survivors.

Rachael Denhollander, a lawyer, former gymnast, writer and homeschooling mom of four, was pivotal in putting former U.S. national team doctor Larry Nassar in prison. She and other women exposed a culture of silence and cruelty within some gymnastics communities that enabled Nassar to groom and sexually abuse young victims for decades.

Denhollander is the keynote speaker at the Chrysalis Foundation’s annual Inspired event, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13, at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel. The Chrysalis Foundation is a nonprofit based in West Des Moines with the goal of ensuring that "all girls and women are safe, secure, educated and economically empowered."

Denhollander’s lecture is titled "What Is a Girl Worth?" She published a memoir with the same title in 2019 and has written two children’s books with similar themes. Tickets to the event are available here.

Denhollander was the first Nassar survivor to go public, telling her story to the Indianapolis Star and giving the newspaper permission to use her full name and to publish video of her interview. In the interview, she described how Nassar abused her under the guise of performing legitimate medical procedures. Denhollander told the IndyStar that she didn’t come forward as a teenager because she knew, even then, that sexual abuse victims were treated poorly and rarely believed. She wasn’t ready to tell her story.

After the IndyStar’s coverage, other Nassar survivors felt comfortable coming forward and being identified in the media. They eventually became a self-named army of more than 500 survivors, some of them confronting Nassar face-to-face in Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s courtroom in January 2018.
Terry Hernandez, above, executive director of the Chrysalis Foundation, said that, as a women’s group, the Chrysalis Foundation "has long tried to stand up for women who couldn’t speak for themselves."

She followed news stories about Nassar’s abuse and watched "Athlete A," a Netflix documentary about abuse in gymnastics that featured Denhollander, as well as gymnasts Maggie Nichols, Jamie Dantzscher, Jessica Howard, Jennifer Sey and others.

Hernandez said the Chrysalis Foundation staff started discussing Denhollander as a possible guest speaker whose message aligned well with their mission.

"She is one of the brave women who, following the #MeToo and some of the other more public initiatives, was well before her time in exemplifying the courage it takes to stand up to an abuser. And then learning more about her story, and the fact that she opened the floodgates that made it OK for girls and young women to report that sort of abuse, was such a symbol to us because we’ve always maintained that you need to believe the victim and never discount what they’re telling you, and that so rarely occurs in the public sector," Hernandez said.

Iowa’s ties to elite women’s gymnastics
Iowa has been a hotbed for gymnastics success in recent years, and some Iowans have close ties to USA Gymnastics – as athletes, parents of athletes, coaches, judges, gym owners, choreographers and fans.

Shawn Johnson East, who grew up in West Des Moines, won four medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Gabrielle Douglas, who trained in West Des Moines for two-plus years, won two medals at the 2012 Olympics in London and one at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. There are at least five other Iowa girls and women who have been on the U.S. national team in the last decade – gymnasts who accept international assignments and compete for Team USA.

The U.S. classic, an elite qualifying meet to the U.S. national championships for girls and women, was held in Des Moines in 2009. Des Moines also hosted the national championships for USA Gymnastics’ elite rhythmic, acrobatic, and tumbling and trampoline ("T&T") athletes in 2019 and again in 2022.

Denhollander’s watchdog work outside of gymnastics
Denhollander’s advocacy for abuse survivors goes far beyond the gymnastics world.

A devout Christian, she has become a nonyielding watchdog for sexual abuse within church communities, often tweeting on X, the social media website formerly known as Twitter. She has also written about mental health, including a recent essay in the New York Times about Simone Biles, unhealthy expectations and toxic cultures.

Denhollander’s background has been unifying in some ways, Hernandez said.

"Unfortunately now, the conservative voice is lost in the clamor of the crazies — in the MAGA and all of that — but the conservative voice is no less valid than what someone might consider a liberal voice. It is a truth-telling source of information, and her story is as true as anything else would be, so I think it’s really important, especially for those people who might say, ‘You know, this is another bleeding-heart liberal.’ The fact is that is not the case. This is a woman who is telling her truth and leading others to feel comfortable sharing their own stories that may be reflective of a little bit more moving toward the center, and that would be my hope," Hernandez said.

This story continues below.

Six years since the #MeToo movement
It has been six years since the #MeToo movement brought attention to the prevalence of sexual abuse and sexual assault.

Hernandez said her sense is that more attention is being paid to victims who are making reports, and that victims feel more comfortable reporting things that "aren’t right or that don’t feel right." But she has big-picture concerns.

"I also see the societal climate having changed over the last six to eight years to where people are much more mean-spirited and rude, for lack of a better term, that feel entitled to criticize others or give opinion when there isn’t opinion needed, or ridicule someone when there isn’t that need," she said.

Hernandez said her hope is that as a society, we are moving forward in recognizing abuse, reporting abuse and realizing just how prevalent it is.

But she doesn’t think there is less sexual abuse. "I think we’re just learning more about it. And/or, it’s being suppressed even more, and that’s my fear," Hernandez said.

Understanding common forms of sexual violence
Shannon Knudsen, a sexual assault nurse examiner coordinator in Central Iowa, said she is often rebutting myths about the prevalence of sexual abuse. "A lot of times, especially in those rural areas, people believe, ‘Well, it doesn’t happen here. We know everybody in our community.’ Things like that," she said. "So they don’t see a great amount of reports, but I know that they’re happening there. Those [victims] are driving hours to get services or they’re just not getting services at all because they don’t believe that they can."

Sara Hulen is sexual assault forensic response coordinator in the Iowa attorney general’s office. Both her and Knudsen’s jobs involve making sure that medical professionals throughout the state are aware of training and other resources to help them be effective responders when patients come to them after being sexually assaulted.

Hulen said that she has been listening to Denhollander’s book and that the author "does a fabulous job of advocating for what you would call ‘normal’ sexual abuse."

"The way the media portrays sexual abuse is that it’s a stranger jumping out of the bushes. And what she experienced in her life has been actually more of what most people do experience," Hulen said.

Denhollander’s experience is consistent with what Hulen and Knudsen said they see most often in their work: people without obvious physical injuries, without much independent evidence of what happened to them.

"Do we see those ones that society has in their head, that ‘Law & Order’ does a great job of portraying? Sure, but that’s not the majority," Knudsen said.

Perpetrators are often somebody the victim trusted, and it often takes time for a victim to process what happened, and then more time to be ready to talk about it.

Hulen noted that Denhollander’s experiences also illustrate the common reality of how the grooming of victims operates. Denhollander’s mother was often in a room with her when Nassar abused her, blocking her mother's view with his body. Nassar was often personable. "The general public who have not experienced this, those are the ones saying, ‘Oh, he would never do that, he’s so nice!’" Hulen said. "And that’s part of that grooming, and that’s part of grooming not just the victim, that’s grooming the family, it’s grooming the community. Grooming goes so much deeper than just the individual that’s been harmed."

Nassar being held to account many years after his crimes began helps to illustrate another valuable point about the varied ways in which victims come to grips with their experiences and seek healing, the advocates said.

"I think one of the biggest things is recognizing that everyone’s timeline is different, when they’re ready to have those conversations," Knudsen said. Victims might be told, unhelpfully, about another girl or woman’s story – "‘She told, she was very vocal. So if this really happened, you should too.’

"That’s not how it works. Everyone’s journey is going to be different."
Jessica Meisner named as 2023 Human Resources Professional of the Year
The Business Record has named Jessica Meisner as the 2023 Dentons Davis Brown Human Resources Professional of the Year. Meisner is the vice president of human resources at UnityPoint Health.

The award, launched by the Business Record in 2020, is designed to highlight an outstanding HR professional from Central Iowa for their professional accomplishments and community engagement.

Matthew Romanin, chief operating officer for UnityPoint Clinic, and Maria Volante, president of Volante Consulting, nominated Meisner for the award.

"In a health care industry rocked by the recent pandemic, Jessica has been a steadfast leader on behalf of all our stakeholders," Romanin wrote in a letter nominating Meisner. "Employees feel the value of her expertise, and critical and forward-thinking in benefits and role design. UnityPoint Health can deliver on its mission to serve our communities with a healthy and vibrant workforce. And those communities are healthier because of their access through various pathways to the care and service that we provide."

Meisner has worked for UnityPoint Health since 2004, becoming vice president of human resources in July. Before the recent position change, she served as vice president of human resources consulting from 2022 to June 2023 and was vice president of human resources for UnityPoint Clinic and UnityPoint at Home from 2014 to 2021.

Meisner’s community involvement includes serving on the Des Moines Golf and Country Club board of directors, as well as serving as a board member for Des Moines University Masters of Health Care Administration and Vision Soccer Academy. She’s also been a board member for Friends of Iowa CASA and Foster Care Review (2021 to 2022), Junior Achievement of Central Iowa (2020 to 2022), a committee member for Des Moines Golf and Country Club Solheim Cup (2018), and a member of the Couture for the Cause planning committee (2015 to 2018).

Meisner will receive the 2023 Dentons Davis Brown Human Resources Professional of the Year Award during the Business Record’s Jobs Outlook event on Oct. 19.

Getty Images
In the headlines
Iowa promises services to kids with severe mental and behavioral needs after lawsuit cites failures: Iowa’s health agency will take steps to develop home and community-based services for children with severe mental and behavioral needs as part of an initial agreement with civil rights groups that filed a class action lawsuit, according to the Associated Press. The lawsuit was filed in January on behalf of three children. It alleges that Iowa has for decades failed to meet its legal obligations to Medicaid-eligible children who should have access to individualized and coordinated care plans, in-home therapy and emergency services. The complaint includes children who have been institutionalized for services that they were previously recommended to receive — and say they were entitled to receive, given the Medicaid Act — in their communities or homes.

Dia de los Muertos event remembers victims of domestic violence: The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence will host its third annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Tribute on Saturday, Oct. 14. This year’s tribute will be held at Union Park (between the Heritage Carousel and rocket ship slide) from 12 to 4 p.m. Community members are invited to remember the names, faces and stories of victims who lost their lives due to gender-based violence. Attendees are encouraged to bring a photograph of a loved one they would like to honor – organizers want to elevate the stories and names of those who have departed too soon. More information can be found here. The tribute includes live music and performances; children’s activities, including a bounce house and face-painting; a community resources fair; food and drinks; and more. The event is free.

Federal appeals court blocks a grant program for Black women entrepreneurs: A legal battle between a program that awards grants to women entrepreneurs of color and a conservative nonprofit organization is expected to raise broader legal questions on the use of diversity programs in corporate America, according to NPR. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled to temporarily block the Fearless Fund from running its Strivers Grant Contest, which awards $20,000 grants to small businesses that are led by at least one woman of color and other requirements. The panel of judges decided 2-1 that the venture capital fund is "racially discriminatory." The American Alliance for Equal Rights filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the program in August, claiming it violates the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The Fearless Fund argues that the grants are awards and not contracts and are protected by the First Amendment. The mission of the Fearless Fund is to bridge the gap in venture capital funding for women of color. It says that less than 1% of total venture capital funding raised by U.S. companies in 2018 was allocated toward businesses founded by women of color.

Innovative free housing program helps child care workers’ salaries go further: As the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns showed, early childhood educators are necessary for the rest of the economy to thrive. To work outside their homes, parents need someone reliable to watch and teach their young children. But early childhood teachers will not stay in jobs that do not allow them to pay the bills. And child care centers have trouble paying good wages without making the cost to parents unaffordable. Cities and states across the country are wrestling with the same challenge — and coming up with a range of solutions. With affordable housing scarce, one Connecticut child care center is providing its staff with rent-free homes designed by Yale architecture students, according to the New York Times. "It’s a sense of security," said Kristen Calderon, who was having to choose which bills not to pay before the housing program.

More schools are adopting 4-day weeks. For parents, the challenge is day 5: It’s a Monday in September, but with schools closed, the three children in the Pruente household have nowhere to be. Callahan, 13, contorts herself into a backbend as 7-year-old Hudson fiddles with a balloon and 10-year-old Keegan plays the piano. Like a growing number of students, the Pruente children are on a four-day school schedule, a change instituted this fall by their district in Independence, Mo. For parents, there is the added complication, and cost, of arranging child care for that extra weekday, according to the Associated Press. Hundreds of school systems around the country have adopted four-day weeks in recent years, mostly in rural and western parts of the country. While districts cite cost savings and advantages for teacher recruitment, some have questioned the effects on students who already missed out on significant learning during the pandemic.

Worth checking out
Why don’t more women propose? (Time magazine). Gen Z wants feminine care brands to just say vagina (New York Times). Why the ‘mother of the atomic bomb’ never won a Nobel Prize (New York Times). Kentucky found a solution to its day care worker shortage. Other states could follow suit. (NPR). How a unitard could help keep women in gymnastics past puberty (USA Today). Viola Fletcher waited 102 years for reparations. She’s still waiting. (Washington Post).
Shekinah Fountain: ‘Slay in your lane’ + 2 other ideas
The Business Record hosted our annual 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes event. Here’s a little inspiration from one of the women who offered her insight at the event and in our publication: Shekinah Fountain, senior DEI associate at the Weitz Co. Here are a few of the ideas she wrote in this year’s publication.

Do the "crazy" thing with or without cheerleaders
In 2005 the idea of two Drake University freshmen (myself and Deidre DeJear) hosting what is now the Back 2 School Bash at the Grubb YMCA was a "crazy" idea. Eighteen years later, over 16,000 students have benefited from this event while over 1,000 businesses have participated.
In 2016 I worked to increase community involvement in a multimillion-dollar municipal process. This idea was also labeled "crazy" at the time. This project was later awarded by the Iowa City County Management Association as Program of the Year. Doing the "crazy" thing is innovation. Do the "crazy" thing … within legal and moral confines, of course.

Slay in your lane
Bridget Cravens-Neely, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, once said, "Slay in your lane" and I thought it was simple yet profound. Simply put, it means to do your thing and do it well. Don’t focus on others, what they do well, what you’re not doing well, just focus on mastering your craft and do it well. Busy and effective are not mutually exclusive. This practice promotes focus, effectiveness, strategy and prioritization. It’s very easy to compare others’ highlight reels to your efforts professionally and personally – I challenge you to slay in your lane only!

Recognize opportunities to be grateful
Life is a gift and can be volatile. While intently working for wins and success, sometimes we need reminders to recognize opportunities to be grateful. It places things in perspective and fills your personal cup. The presence of gratitude does not remove the need for drive – it fuels it. There is always something to be grateful for; it’s our job to see it. Though there is always room for improvement and countless problems to solve, there is always space for gratitude.

See all her ideas
Watch her remarks

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!

Like this newsletter? Please forward to a friend!
Did someone share this newsletter with you? Sign up here.

Business Publications Corporation Inc.

515.288.3336  |

Contact the group publisher of BPC:
Contact Fearless staff writer:
Submit press release:
Advertising info:
Membership info:

Copyright © BPC 2023, All rights reserved.
Reproduction or use without permission of editorial or graphic content in any manner is strictly prohibited.

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign