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OCTOBER 16, 2023
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Like many of you, I was focused on news in the Middle East last week.

My daughter is 7. I talk to her about global news events – even extremely violent ones – in age-appropriate language. I found this NPR story helpful in figuring out how to talk to children about the violence in Israel and in Gaza. My daughter attends a public Montessori school that is part of Des Moines Public Schools. Every year, the children do a peace walk on Dr. Maria Montessori’s birthday and sing "Light a Candle for Peace" by Shelley Murley. I found the lyrics helpful right now:

Light a candle for peace.
Light a candle for love.
Light a candle that shines
All the way around the world.
Light a candle for me, light a candle for you
That our wish for world peace will one day come true.

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

  • Takeaways by Emily Barske Wood from the recent Fearless panel discussion about risk-taking: What did you learn from our panelists?
  • A column by Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO of Business Publications Corp., about books that have shaped the women we have become.
  • In the headlines: Professor Claudia Goldin, a trailblazing economist at Harvard University, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her work exploring the role of women in the labor market.
  • A break from the news: Rachelle Keck, president of Grand View University, explains what it means to be truly future-focused.
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

4 takeaways from our Fearless Focus event on risk-taking
Having the courage to take a risk is a privilege – because in order to take big risks in work and in life, people first need their essential needs met and then often need some practice taking smaller risks, speakers said in a recent discussion.

The Fearless team hosted our final Fearless Focus event of this year’s three-part virtual series on Oct. 10. The event focused on risk-taking and overcoming failure.

Speakers included:
  • Jasper Chung, photographer and art teacher
  • Jann Freed, author and speaker
  • Laura Phillips, vice president of engineering, Pella Corp.
  • Sydney Rieckhoff, CEO, Almost Famous Popcorn

Watch the discussion:
See the replay of the event at

Here are a few takeaways from the event.

‘Be just a little more brave than afraid’
Chung talked about opening up to the world about their diagnosis of being bipolar. "I really wanted to show that people with mental illnesses look many different ways and live many different lives, including my life as a successful and compassionate business owner," they said. "In sharing this, folks began to come to me with their own stories of mental illness, of feeling alone, thanking me for sharing. I began a storytelling project that told stories of survivors of suicide attempts, and began to connect with people who really appreciated the vulnerability that I shared."

Chung also said they’ve had many different moments of coming out as queer and trans. "In Iowa, existing as a trans person, sadly, is a risk. … It is a risk in the world as a whole. I worried, again, about people misunderstanding, about rejection, hate, judgment and isolation. But I decided once more to be just a little bit more brave than afraid." As a wedding photographer, they’ve chosen to work with clients with similar values and their business has now become "a place of community and advocacy," they said.

Change is different than transition
"Change often happens to us, transition happens within us," Freed said. Change can be things like losing a job, divorce or an illness. Transition is how you respond to it.

To prepare for transition, she advises clients to imagine they’re swinging through a jungle. "It’s hard to let go of one vine if you don’t see another vine in sight," Freed said. She advises always thinking of your next move to make it easier to let go.

Success at any age
Rieckhoff is CEO of her company at 25 years old and started the business at age 14. She says people often tell her how great it is that she’s accomplished so much for her age or they want to know who’s helping her because they don’t think she could be where she is on her own. She tells them, "I definitely don’t have it all figured out and I definitely haven’t done it all on my own."

People can face ageism at any age. Much of Freed’s work focuses on retiring the word "retirement" because she sees it as a time of transition from a career, not retiring in life. Much of our identity can be wrapped up in what we do for work, Freed said.

"When we meet someone new, like at a networking event, we often say, ‘Well, what do you do?’" she said. "Now I’ve learned to say, ‘What are you interested in? What are you passionate about?’ Because if somebody says to you, ‘I’m retired,’ it’s just a conversation killer."

Asking what someone does can make those who are retired, have nontraditional career experience or are in a period of transition feel like they have no value.

Rieckhoff is glad to have mentors that don’t believe in her despite her age but because of her age. Those mentors know she brings a different perspective to the table that should be embraced. "Don’t ever let anybody tell you you’re ‘too young,’ ‘too old,’ ‘to this’ or ‘to that.’ Follow your dreams and just go get started and see where it can lead," she said.

The importance of mentors
Being the first and only woman in many settings has been common for Phillips in her career in engineering. A mentor advised that she be proactive about speaking up in meetings. To hold herself accountable, Phillips started keeping track of how many times she spoke up by ticking them off in her notebook. She said the simple technique helped normalize using her voice.

Mentors are so important for helping you find confidence, she said. A couple of the best mentorship traits she’s valued in her mentors have included being an empowering cheerleader and also having someone willing to disagree with you.

"In 2021 I was asked to rejoin the engineering department after being away from it for about 10 years," Phillips said. "I was terrified, to be honest, I knew when I came back, I was being asked to come back as a senior leader. I was going to be the only female on the senior leadership team. I was also going to be, by far, the least tenured. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re not going to want to work for me. They’re going to quit if I come to the team. This is going to be a complete disaster.’ This is the storyline I had created in my head."

Then a mentor asked her, "‘What good could come from this? What do you bring that they don’t already have?’ … Having her push on me a little bit helped me realize I bring great leadership skills, business acumen, strategy development, vision. I can lead through change, I can develop talent."

Use your fear as fuel to help you keep going, Phillips said.

"Push through and overcome that story that you tell yourself about not being enough," she said. Instead, reflect on the "unique strengths that you bring that can have a positive impact."

Books that shaped the women we have become
When I was a child, my English professor aunt and my book-loving mom gave my sister and me their own set of Nancy Drew mysteries. As we turned the dog-eared pages of these books, we were mesmerized by Nancy’s ability to solve crimes that stumped adults and marveled at her bravery, smarts and tenacity. At a time when there were few women detectives or professional women, Nancy and her friends showed us we could use our brains and break barriers.

Reading is important for all children, but for girls, female protagonists provide the opportunity for us to visualize and imagine ourselves in different roles or situations. When we see other women who look like us – in real life or in fiction – daring, trying, succeeding or persevering through obstacles, we also develop the confidence to explore and experiment. Reading helps us to confront our own insecurities and to be more fearless.

Since October is National Book Month, I turned to local leaders and asked them to share a book that influenced them or helped shape their confidence.
Ruby Herrera, 2023 Iowa Rotary Educator of the Year, Roosevelt High School, Des Moines: I remember my mother reading by my bedside and the sound of her imaginative stories would soothe me to sleep. As years went by, I read books that would overlook placing my cultural identity at the heart of the story. There was a gap between what I read and my own reality. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I read "Rain of Gold" by Mexican-American writer Victor Villasenor that I finally found a book that made me feel alive and proud to be in my brown Chicana skin. Villasenor beautifully crafted stories of my Mexican-American history and our rich culture on this side of the border. I stood a little taller after finishing his book. What’s more, Villasenor was a high school dropout and had dyslexia. At a conference, I had the opportunity to hug him and confess how tempted I was to drop out in high school, too. I had stayed away from books because I was a slow reader and I couldn’t find my voice in any books. But unlike Hollywood, which loved to portray us as the villains and gang members, Villasenor placed us as the heroes of our own destiny and brought us closer to God.

What are you reading now? "Cien Años de Soledad" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and "Strength for Today for Women," which is a daily Bible devotion and reflection short reading that I do each morning.
Macey Shofroth, community journalist, CultureALL: The Junie B. Jones series was how I fell in love with reading. I can still recite the paragraph that began each book. I learned to read when I was very young, and my mom bought me any book that kept my interest. Junie’s first-grade adventures mesmerized me. Junie was confident, curious, witty and always looking for fun. She always wore her heart on her sleeve and was never scared to share her feelings. She was the first fictional character I wished I could be. This love of reading and narrative has stayed with me my entire life, and I have Junie and her author, Barbara Park, to thank.

What are you reading now?
"The Secret History" by Donna Tartt. A group of misfit college students studying in the classics department at a small liberal arts college immerses themselves in the search for meaning beyond their everyday lives, but soon find themselves entrenched in a web of darkness they never could have anticipated.
Abena Sankofa Imhotep, executive director, Sankofa Literary & Empowerment Group: "Sister Outsider" by Audre Lorde. This is the book that helped me grapple with the beauty, the complexities and the contradictions of Black womanness against the backdrop of overwhelmingly male-dominant workplaces and feminist spaces that are hesitant to welcome Black women. Audre Lorde’s literary works insist that I must show up and stand in my power! "Sister Outsider" offered me the intellectual thrust that laid the foundation for the work I do today. Lorde describing the regret of her own silence had a way of emboldening me to not refuse an opportunity to speak, teach and lead with vim and vigor in the face of injustice and work at making meaningful impact in my community.

What are you reading now? "Unstoppable: The Nine Lives of Roxanne Barton Conlin" by William B. Friedricks. "Unstoppable" is a collector’s item – a beautiful compendium of the life of one of Iowa’s most towering powerhouses and trailblazers.
Sue Woody, director, Des Moines Public Library: Brené Brown is my go-to author when I am seeking inspiration. Brown writes a lot about vulnerability and her book, "Dare to Lead" really resonated with me at a time when we were all most vulnerable – during the pandemic. Her wisdom gave me courage to face the unknowable and embrace uncertainty. These lessons are still applicable today as our world becomes more and more polarized. This is why we need leaders who strive to find balance and compromise to bring people together. Another important concept she shares is the idea of the "rumble." I have used "rumbling" to come together and connect as a team. It’s an opportunity to lean into a challenge and make sure all voices are heard while having the confidence to contribute my own honest voice as well.  

What are you reading now? I am currently reading "The Covenant of Water" by Abraham Verghese.
University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics nurses (from left) Kelsey DeWeese, Courtney Heid and Julie Liebe helped resuscitate Iowa resident Ervin Imm, who experienced sudden cardiac arrest as he and his wife were leaving the hospital. Photo courtesy of the University of Iowa.
In the headlines
3 off-duty Iowa nurses save life near hospital skywalk: Three quick-acting nurses and some serendipity helped resuscitate Iowa resident Ervin Imm, who experienced sudden cardiac arrest as he and his wife were leaving University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, according to the University of Iowa. Julie Liebe was eager to get home after completing her nursing shift in the main operating room at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. She had been able to clock out a few minutes early and made a beeline to her car. That’s when fate stepped in. Imm was also leaving the hospital, headed toward the skywalk that leads to the parking ramp. He had just accompanied his wife, Sherry, to an appointment, when he grabbed a side rail in the hallway and collapsed. Liebe heard the commotion behind her and spun around. Before she knew it, she was on her knees at his side searching for a pulse.

Droves of men took over women’s tech fair:
An event meant to be a career-builder for women and nonbinary tech workers turned into yet another symbol of the industry’s gender imbalance after self-identifying men showed up in droves, according to NPR. The Grace Hopper Celebration takes the name of a pioneering computer scientist and bills itself the world’s largest annual gathering of women and nonbinary tech workers. Tickets for the four-day event, which took place in Orlando, Fla., ranged in price from $649 to $1,298, and included a coveted chance to meet one-on-one with sponsors such as Apple, Amazon, Salesforce and Google. With some 30,000 annual attendees, that career expo was already a competitive space. But this year, access was even more limited by what the organizers described as "an increase in participation of self-identifying males." Videos posted to social media showed scenes of men flocking around recruiters, running into event venues and cutting in front of women to get an interview slot. As one poster put it, "the Kens had taken over Barbieland."

Nobel economics prize awarded to Claudia Goldin for women’s role in workplace:
Professor Claudia Goldin, a trailblazing economist at Harvard University, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her work exploring the role of women in the labor market. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm said the prize honors Goldin’s work in creating "the first comprehensive account of women’s earnings and labor market participation through the centuries." Goldin is the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in economics, which has been awarded to 90 men. Despite decades of progress, women remain underrepresented in the workforce and earn less than their male counterparts. Goldin’s analysis of more than 200 years of U.S. labor force data shows how employment rates and the gender wage gap depend not just on the economy but also on evolving social norms related to women’s education and roles in the home and family, according to the Washington Post.

Kentucky had an outside-the-box idea to fix child care worker shortages. It’s working: With most of the federal government’s pandemic relief money for child care now spent, it’s up to states to step in with new ideas to solve the many problems plaguing the sector. A year ago, Kentucky came up with a creative solution that is already paying dividends, according to NPR. The state made all child care employees eligible for free child care, regardless of household income. "That is a beautiful incentive," said Jennifer Washburn, who owns and runs iKids Childhood Enrichment Center in Benton, Ky. "Any of my teachers who have children — they can work for me, and their children are paid for by the state." The idea emerged after the state saw a sharp drop in the number of children accessing child care subsidies in the pandemic — from roughly 30,000 to just 17,000 children.

Worth checking out
After 80 years, original members of an Iowa Camp Fire Girls troop meet for the last time (the Des Moines Register). Katalin Kariko: My exhilarating journey from developing a COVID vaccine to winning a Nobel Prize (Time magazine). Olympic champion Mary Lou Retton, who doesn’t have health insurance, remains in ICU with pneumonia as donations pour in (Associated Press). How a side hustle taking people on ‘urban hikes’ became a lucrative business (Entrepreneur). How an 8-year-old Hispanic girl paved the way for desegregation (Washington Post). Latinas are paid less than all other women. Could starting their own businesses be the answer? (the 19th).
Fearless Annual Event
Nov. 1, 2023  |  Des Moines Marriott Downtown
10:00 to 10:30 a.m., Networking  |  10:30 a.m. to noon, program
Register at

We invite you to join us and others equally passionate about empowering Iowa women as we celebrate three years of the Business Record’s Fearless initiative. Women, gender-nonconforming individuals and male allies are all encouraged to be fearless with us.

To celebrate Fearless, a lineup of inspiring women will share their stories of fearlessness and courage. Attendees will be seated at a table with female leaders, including some of our past Women of Influence honorees, who will lead powerful discussions to share perspectives and insights on succeeding in work and life. Attendees will build additional connections with leaders and other participants as they rotate to different tables throughout the event.

As part of our Fearless core values, this event will create an atmosphere where everyone has a seat and voice at the table. This dynamic interaction will give you not only a chance to learn from others’ experiences and engage in topics facing women in the workplace, but you’ll also have the opportunity to develop and deepen your relationships with women across the state.

Rachelle Keck: How to be future-focused
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: Rachelle Keck, president of Grand View University. Here are a few of the ideas she wrote in this year’s publication.

Seek future fluency to navigate the certain uncertainty that lies ahead
In our increasingly VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), the future can either paralyze or energize us. Fortunately, we get to choose. Regardless of how we feel about what lies ahead, there are strategies and tactics, as well as information and data that can properly equip and prepare us for whatever the future holds. As Peter Drucker once said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." I posit the following nine skills will be important as we navigate into and through this future; to achieve "future fluency," if you will.

After your formal education, you will no longer have a predictable road map for growth. You alone are in charge of your evolution. You must know yourself to grow yourself. How do you learn best? Adopt a growth mindset – your capacity to learn is limitless, regardless of what others tell you, regardless of what your past self tells you. Find a therapist, if needed. Develop a personal strategic plan (review and revise often and as needed). Convene your personal board of trustees to show you what you cannot see. Seek intellectual wholeness and agility.

Change fluency
According to New Work Mindset research, graduates may experience 17 different careers in five different industries across their workspans; many of those jobs do not yet exist. Additionally, the World Economic Forum predicts more than 50% of workers will need to upskill by 2025, primarily due to rapidly advancing technology. I often tell young people they should double-major in adaptation in addition to their chosen field. Change fluencers see possibilities, not problems. Expose yourself to calculated, manageable risk by continuously trying new and hard things. As you gain confidence through competence, you master the fear of change.

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!

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