Plus, takeaways from The 19th's annual summit
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Good morning and happy Monday! Here’s what you’ll find in today’s newsletter:

  • I tuned into The 19th’s annual summit earlier this month to listen to speakers from across the country talk about representation in politics, sports, Hollywood and business, among other areas. I’m notorious for taking notes of everything that comes through my ears, so I figured I’d share some of my key takeaways and favorite quotes.
  • Seeta Mangra-Stubbs, who is the person behind Whole Damn Woman – a self-reclamation and women’s empowerment company – penned this week’s guest opinion piece. In it, she talks about body confidence and poses the question: What  would our social power look like if instead of investing in diet culture, women instead invested in our retirement and other skills?
  • We’re looking to share stories of a time that you – yes, YOU – were fearless for an upcoming print issue of the Business Record. Please fill out the form toward the bottom of the newsletter if you’d like to share your story. Feel free to pass it along to friends and family, too. The more, the merrier!

Have a great week!

Emily Blobaum, Fearless editor

Representation, equal pay, allyship and the importance of involvement: Four takeaways from The 19th’s annual summit
Earlier this month, The 19th – a national nonprofit news organization that covers the intersections of gender, politics and policy – hosted its annual virtual summit.

More than 50 speakers, including Billie Jean King, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Priscilla Chan, Michelle Obama, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Whitney Wolfe Hurd, discussed topics of democracy, sports, business, culture and voting.

I often tune in to events like these for research and story ideas. Although Fearless covers women’s and gender issues locally, it’s helpful for me to get a sense of what’s being talked about at the national – and occasionally international – level for context.

I encourage you to check out their coverage of the summit, but if you’re strapped for time, here are four of my takeaways.

"If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu."

Last year, Rep. Ritchie Torres, along with Rep. Mondaire Jones, became one of the first two openly gay Black men to serve in the U.S. House. When asked whether being a first felt like a cause for celebration, Torres talked about how although he feels the "weight of history" on his shoulders, it’s humbling to know that he has a seat at the table.

"If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu," Torres said.

In a separate conversation, Layshia Clarendon, a point guard for the Minnesota Lynx, was blunt about representation needing to go beyond visibility.

"We need more than just seeing a Black girl out on the page, putting a Black girl in a Gap commercial. … Who’s the CEO of the company? Who’s really going to make the decisions on how these people’s lives are changed?"

Representation actually means that we are creating institutions that can do their best and greatest work because they have minds that are reflective of the actual country that we live in, Nikole Hannah-Jones said in her keynote address.

"A lot of institutions want phenotype diversity. … Representation means you are represented, you are there, you have power and you have a voice."

Women "deserve the cake, the icing and the cherry on top."

If you’ve followed tennis legend Billie Jean King’s story at all, you’ll know that she is an outspoken advocate for pay equity in sports.

Girls and women are taught to be quiet, thankful and to not ask for what they want or need, King said.

"Don’t be happy with the crumbs. No. No. No. We deserve the cake, the icing and the cherry on top."

Another panel, featuring soccer player Jessica McDonald; Andrea Nix, director of the documentary "LFG"; and sports lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, discussed the issue of equal pay for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

McDonald said the USWNT’s equal pay lawsuit at its core is about equality.

"At the end of the day, we’re fighting not just for ourselves but for all females everywhere. This is bigger than us."

Kessler chimed in and said, "Women don’t have to perform at a world-class level to be entitled to an equal rate of pay."

(Side note: Billie Jean King just released her memoir, "All In." It’s on my to-read list – would anyone be interested in reading it along with me this fall?)

"Being the best accomplice doesn’t always mean your voice is needed."

Recently, there’s been a movement to transition the word "ally" into "accomplice." To sum it up, an ally is someone who advocates for groups of individuals who come from a different place of privilege while an accomplice assists others in creating a space of inclusion, often at the risk of their own standing.

Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice gives an example where allies will volunteer at a local racial justice-focused organization, while accomplices will join an organization with an explicit aim of naming and disrupting racial injustice.

Often, being a good accomplice means that you step aside and listen, rather than centering yourself.

"Being the best accomplice doesn’t always mean your voice is needed," Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner said during a panel. "But your presence can help so others’ voices can be heard."

"Women are always at the helm of historic gains."

During her brief remarks on the final day of the summit, former first lady Michelle Obama touched on the importance of women’s involvement in their communities.

Women "set the tone of our households, of our health care, where our kids go to school," Obama said. "Women are always at the helm of historic gains. It’s up to us as women to step up to make sure that the issues we care about are addressed."

Three days later, I listened to a podcast featuring Malala Yousafzai where she talked about how change begins at home. Now, granted, she was talking about her father breaking away from traditional patriarchal norms in Pakistan and being a strong advocate for girl’s education and women’s equality – but I think it has broader implications, too.

"Oftentimes people want to fix the world rather than look at their own role in it and how they can change themselves," Yousafza said. "It’s easier to tell others what to do, but can you do it yourself?"

This is something that I am trying to work on myself. In any situation – be it a natural disaster, a humanitarian crisis, challenging a practice or policy, or simply aiding a friend in need, stop and ask yourself: "What am I actually doing to help?"

Your new look
Please do me a favor. List the things that make you or would make you feel confident in your body, your intellectual abilities, your skills, your family – anything you value. Your list need not be a certain length, and it’s OK if you struggle creating it. In fact, that’s common. But even if you jot down the first word that pops into your mind, you’ll have a list.

Done? OK, great! Thanks! We’ll come back to that in a bit.

My name is Seeta, and I run a business called Whole Damn Woman, a self-reclamation and women’s empowerment company. You likely don’t know me from any person on the sidewalk, but maybe I look familiar … except you’re not feeling confident enough to take the awkward chance of saying hello. Basically, you have no reason to trust what I’m about to say plus you’re doubting yourself to even get started with a simple "hello." This is tough, right?

If we feel uncertain in basic things like saying hi, imagine how hard it is to find confidence in deeper matters like our bodies or minds. It’s no wonder we might struggle to make a confidence list. But there’s an uncommonly discussed reason for that.

The major portion of the things we list rarely come from within. We list things society tells us to list, not items deriving from our true selves or, as Glennon Doyle would dub it, our "knowing."

For example, maybe you listed landing that big promotion, getting married, having thousands of followers on TikTok, or buying a home. However, I’m willing to bet at least half of us listed losing weight. Since my teens, that’s been my main confidence wish list: Drop the pounds.

But why? Is this a drive within me to be smaller? From where does this compulsion come? We don’t often question why our common goals for personal improvement are so steeped in our bodies and especially our weight. We must ask ourselves where those body-based confidence builders came from and who deemed them important. We serve ourselves best when we ask those questions.

I was not put on this planet to focus intently on the numbers that explain my relationship with gravity. None of us were. Our purpose in life is not to make ourselves smaller, yet the diet, fitness, fashion and medical industries promote it as the main solution to health, happiness and personal fulfillment.

Women especially are encouraged to shrink. We’re taught that being thin makes us beautiful and that beauty makes us confident and powerful. On the contrary, I argue focusing on losing weight makes us hungry, which keeps us tired, stressed and unhappy. It keeps us distracted from what matters.

None of us can be or feel powerful when our basic need for energy is unmet. Consider the social power we forfeit when we’re too tired to think about anything but not eating those cookies or that ice cream. Moreover, think of the energy and money it takes to constantly think we aren’t good enough as-is!

Per multiple sources, the diet industry alone regularly profits anywhere from $60 billion to $100 billion a year. Individually, we pay thousands for diet foods and programs. But imagine if women collectively said "no" to that. What would our social power look like if we instead invested in our retirement, our skills and our knowing? How much more energy would we have?

The temporary, expensive and false confidence that image-based industries promise us cannot compare to the confidence of trusting in our true, honest, authentic, vulnerable selves. I ask you to look back at your list. What would you change if you remade this list from within? Does that give your list — and not you — a totally new look?  

Seeta Mangra-Stubbs is the founder and CEO of Whole Damn Woman, a former college educator and a stereotypically long-suffering writer. She’s a Des Moines native, and she loves chai.

Left: Former WHO-TV reporter and anchor Sonya Heitshusen. Center: Former Time's Up CEO and president Tina Tchen. Right: Sportscaster Erin Andrews.
In the headlines
  • Former WHO-TV reporter and anchor Sonya Heitshusen filed an age and discrimination lawsuit last week against WHO-TV’s parent company, Nexstar Media Group, Inc. The lawsuit alleges Heitshusen, 54, was "thrown out to pasture" because she was no longer seen as camera-worthy, after years in which she saw her male colleagues receive better treatment from management.
  • Time’s Up CEO and president Tina Tchen resigned last week in the wake of revelations that leaders of the sexual harassment victims’ advocacy group advised former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration after he was accused of misconduct. Monifa Bandele, a Movement for Black Lives organizer who left MomsRising to become chief operating officer of Time’s Up in October, will serve as interim CEO.
  • Sportscaster Erin Andrews revealed in an essay that she has been undergoing in vitro fertilization since she was 35. "It can sometimes be embarrassing when you are in the waiting room and they say your name out loud. It makes me think, 'I want this to be quiet, I don't want people to know,' but I don't care anymore!" she wrote. "It sucks, but I am right there with all these other women in the waiting room. It's a team that no one wants to be a part of. We're all going through this and having a tough time. It can be so isolating, but in reality, we are all there together."
  • When Kathy Hochul was sworn in as the governor of New York last week, she became the 45th woman in the history of the U.S. to hold the position. Of the 44 women before her, 11 got the position through succession. Six later won full terms, including Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
  • Des Moines will soon be home to a new option for midwifery care. On Sept. 1, the Des Moines Midwife Collective will open its doors and will become the first clinic in Central Iowa to retreat from cash-only pay and accept insurance for home birth midwifery services.
  • Old Navy announced earlier this month that it will be the first value retailer to offer sizes 0-30 and XS-4X for all women’s styles with no price difference.
  • A recent survey by theSkimm found that nearly two-thirds of millennial women view remote work as a priority, including 43% who said remote work is very important or extremely important moving forward and 22% who said they would no longer consider working for an employer if work-from-home wasn’t an option in the future.
Empowering Others to Succeed: Betty Lee
"I’m driven to do more to help underserved people understand how money works. If you give them a sense of financial security, the more they have to give back to their communities." – Betty Lee, managing director, Principal.

Having experienced past financial hardships of her own, Betty now makes a point to emphasize the "why" of money decisions, helping people—particularly those with limited access and means—understand the importance of budgeting, paying down debt, and saving.

And she’s an advocate outside of work, fighting for the underserved. She feels it’s her job to speak up and do more.
Worth checking out
The climate crisis is worse for women. Here’s why (New York Times In Her Words). Women are entering a trucking industry that’s not build for them (Bloomberg). Judge a book not by its gender (Longreads). The beauty ideal (Ted Radio Hour podcast). Is ‘Big Day Care’ the solution to America’s childcare woes—or is it risky to mix profits and toddlers? (Fortune). Her name is not Honey Boo Boo (Teen Vogue). The remote work-fertility connection (The Atlantic). Rashida Jones on mentorship (9 to 5ish podcast).
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.

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