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APRIL 15, 2024
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Do you know your worth? Are you being adequately compensated for your time? Have you ever had a conversation with an 8-year-old girl about these tangled questions? I have.

My daughter is in second grade. She wants to start a babysitting business (in our home, naturally). She recently made a flier. She plans to charge clients $3 for unlimited child care for any child ages 3 and younger.

I asked her some questions: How much do you think the food would cost to feed the children? How many hours would babysitting take out of your week? What activities or hobbies would you be OK with giving up for your business? Would you consider charging parents more? How much do you think a customer is willing to pay for unlimited child care?

It is never too early to teach a girl her worth. What will you do to help the girls and women in your life realize their value?

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

  • A story about our 2024 Fearless annual survey on the status of gender equity in Iowa.
  • A column by Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO of Business Publications Corp., with a second installation about the mentors who made us strong women.
  • In the headlines: Iowa lawmakers have paved the way for the state’s rules on enforcing a six-week abortion ban — if the Iowa Supreme Court allows it to go into effect.
  • In case you missed it: Jennifer Wollesen was named the executive campus dean of the DMACC Carroll Campus and Templeton Regional Center.
  • Plus, don’t forget to sign up for our free virtual Fearless Focus event on financial empowerment. It will be held over the noon hour this Thursday, April 18.
  • Lots more!

– Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer

How can Iowa work toward gender equity in 2024 and beyond? Fearless audience shares thoughts
In this year’s Fearless survey on the status of gender equity in Iowa, women told us they continue to balance competing expectations. Graphic illustration by Kate Meyer.
Editor’s note: This is the first part of coverage from our 2024 survey on the status of gender equity in Iowa. We will feature parts of the survey throughout the year.

One name came up a number of times in responses to this year’s Business Record survey on gender equity in Iowa: Caitlin Clark.

Several respondents noted the University of Iowa basketball star’s achievements among the biggest advancements for women in the last year. It’s not surprising, as she’s garnered international attention with her unprecedented record-breaking college career. In early March, Clark broke the NCAA scoring record, which includes both men and women. Among many other businesses paying attention to her accomplishments, Nike launched an advertising campaign to acknowledge her contributions to the game, and in particular her ability to make long-range 3-pointers, with a tagline: "This was never a long shot."

But many survey respondents noted that achieving gender equity across the board does seem like a long shot. For instance, women and nonbinary respondents on average believe women are only 51% of the way toward experiencing full equality with men. Respondents mentioned this is due to inadequate workplace pay and benefits, health care imbalances and underrepresentation in leadership.

Yet, respondents also highlighted women like Clark and others who have shattered glass ceilings in the last year. Some also mentioned that women’s issues seem to be more widely discussed, a first step toward equity.

The Business Record has published its annual survey on women’s and gender issues as part of our Fearless initiative for the last several years. While nonscientific, we believe the results of this questionnaire illustrate current opinions about Iowa women’s equity in and outside of work.

Respondents were invited to answer multiple-choice and short-answer questions, and leave comments when they wished. They could pick which questions they responded to, and we did not require that they submit their name in hopes of getting more honest answers. We did, however, ask that respondents tell us their gender identity; we note where we’ve broken down answers based on respondents’ gender.

We selected the comments, which have been edited for clarity, to represent a wide range of perspectives.

In reading this coverage, we hope business leaders and individuals can identify new ways in which they can empower Iowa women to succeed in work and life.

What do you consider to be some of the biggest advancements of women in the last year?
"More small business owners are now women. More corporations seem to be promoting women. More women’s issues are being looked at more seriously."

"Women continue to make strides in traditionally male-dominated fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as in leadership positions in corporations and organizations. Women’s enrollment and participation in higher education continues to increase globally, leading to greater opportunities for career advancement and economic empowerment."

"Powerful female figures in sports and entertainment have risen to stardom and validated our right (and ability) to excel in these spaces. Examples include Caitlin Clark (Iowa women’s basketball) selling out stadiums all across the country, and Taylor Swift’s the Eras Tour, which is the highest-grossing tour in the history of the music industry. Politically, it has been refreshing to see at least one serious presidential candidate who is a female (Nikki Haley) in a sea of blustering men. In the financial sector, it is refreshing to see more women take on leadership roles."

If you are a woman or nonbinary, do you feel that you’ve been treated equally to your male co-workers?

We asked: "If you are a woman or nonbinary, do you feel that you’ve been treated equally to your male co-workers?" Seventy-one percent of respondents said "No," while 28.9% answered "Yes." Graphic illustration by Kate Meyer.
"Yes, in my current position, but not always in the past. I was once told that I was hired for a position because I was done having my kids and they wouldn’t have to worry about me being pregnant."

"I feel on the surface and personally they treat me the same. However, I feel like there are higher expectations for the women in my office than our male co-workers. The women in our office have shown time and time again that we’re willing and capable to go above and beyond, when a lot of the men in our office struggle with time management and organization. I think because of this, at times we can be taken advantage of."

"I make less money than my less-qualified and less-accomplished male counterparts."

"I have seen men actively disregard the input of a female colleague only to have the male come back in a meeting and propose exactly what the female colleague stated."

"I recently lost a lot of weight and have noticed how differently I’m treated in professional settings. I doubt men would have the same experience. So while I’m successful and can’t point to any specific discrimination as a woman, I am aware that my appearance influences how people treat me."

"Gender-biased words and descriptors. A man can be direct and confident, while a woman who communicates in the same manner is bossy and difficult."

Leading Fearlessly: Good, better, best: The role models who lifted us up
Chances are, if you ask a young girl in Iowa who her role model is these days, she’ll mention University of Iowa basketball player Caitlin Clark. Clark’s athletic skill and leadership have inspired girls, boys, women and men all over the state – including me – and even people across the nation. Role models like Clark and her teammates can make a positive difference for anyone at any age by helping us dream of what is possible and aspire to be the best we can be. For youths, being around exemplary athletes and artists, coaches and teachers, mentors and supportive leaders can have a significant and lasting impact. And for young girls, watching role models in action can be transformational.
Last fall, Amazon and Gallup released "Role Models Matter," a report that indicated having a role model in youth has a profound effect on career fulfillment of working adults, as well as career success. That research indicated that 82% of young adults whose childhood role model had similar life experiences say that their role model helped them to believe in themselves. That research showed that role models can be beneficial for people of all ages, including early career professionals, and that sharing similar life experiences with a role model can strengthen their impact.

An article in the HR Director cites LinkedIn research that further validates the importance of role models for career development. That study said: "Further demonstrating the need for more visible role models, professionals who have one, say they taught them to believe in themselves (76%), inspired them to achieve more (75%) and lifted them up when they were low (74%). Importantly, seven in ten say this influential figure has shown them what people of their gender can achieve, despite societal barriers."

For my Fearless column last month during Women’s History Month, I wrote about role models and asked some local leaders who inspired them. Many readers wrote to me to tell me how much that column resonated with them, so I decided to share even more leaders’ stories of women who made a difference in their lives.

Dwana Bradley, owner, Iowa Urban Media

My second and fourth grade teacher, Delores McNear. She was a God-loving, fierce, confident, didn’t-take-no-mess kind of woman. She was the first woman to tell me I was going to college. At that age, I didn’t even know how to spell college, but when Mrs. McNear said it to me, it stuck in my heart. As an adult I got to see Mrs. McNear before she passed away. She shared how proud of me she was, and she told me, "Do not let anyone stop you from what God has for you to do." I keep those words close to my heart as I continue to live in my purpose and make an impact on a community in the way Mrs. McNear made an impact on me. She was a fearless woman and has been part of shaping me into the fearless woman I am today.

Mashal Husain, chief operating officer, World Food Prize Foundation

Dr. Rizwan Shah was a healer and hero of abused children – and my friend and mentor for more than half my life. She inspired me to be the best I could be as a humanitarian and professional. Dr. Shah lived that mantra every day as she witnessed the devastating impact of drugs on newborns and treated methamphetamine-exposed babies.

Following her 1968 arrival in America from her native Pakistan, Dr. Shah made Iowa her home and Iowans her family. She was the visionary who launched Blank Children's Hospital’s Child Protection Center and was a champion for all children. Recognized as a "Local Legend" by the National Library of Medicine, Dr. Shah tackled the most challenging and heartbreaking cases and made the well-being of children her life’s focus.

This selfless and angelic caregiver made all those around her feel special with her comforting words and reassuring smile – she remains my inspiration and idol.

Molly Lopez, chief operating officer, Iowa Economic Development Authority/Iowa Finance Authority

Mrs. Janet Singer, my third grade teacher at Duncombe Elementary in Fort Dodge, challenged me to think bigger, try harder and expect more from myself and others. She shared this quote from St. Jerome with me when I was 9 years old: "Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until your good is better, and your better is best."

Even after 50 years, the message still resonates.

Mrs. Singer’s belief that I could do better inspired me. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with incredible teams, making an impact. We can always strive for improvement, individually and collectively. We can do better.

Today, I reached out to Mrs. Singer to thank her. We had a lovely conversation. Don’t wait 50 years – express gratitude to the teachers who inspire you.

Nicole Paseka Grundmeier, staff writer and copy editor, Business Publications Corp.

I spent years terrified of Barbara Mack. In the fall of 2000, I was a shy freshman in Barbara’s Journalism 101 class in the auditorium of Mackay Hall at Iowa State University. Barbara called me to the front of 300 people to do an impromptu skit about nonverbal communication. My performance was so embarrassing that I sat in the balcony for the rest of the semester, hoping she would never notice me again. Slowly, I got to know Barbara. She observed that I always introduced myself as "Nicole," even when meeting important guests. I was ashamed of my Czech surname, "Paseka," which was difficult to pronounce. Barbara told me that women must always introduce themselves by their first and last names. That’s how men introduce themselves, she said. If women only introduce themselves by their first names, they wouldn’t be taken seriously – and they wouldn’t be remembered. I started introducing myself by my first and last name. Barbara urged me to apply to become editor-in-chief of the Iowa State Daily. I succeeded. By the time I was a senior, I had found my voice. I no longer hid in classrooms. I spoke, loudly and firmly, without using the filler words that Barbara abhorred.

Financial Empowerment: Addressing the unique financial barriers that women face
April 18, 2024 | Noon to 1 p.m. | Virtual event

Wage disparities and differing policies on paid family leave continue to be systemic issues affecting women’s economic standing. On an individual level, women often feel less confident than men when it comes to budgeting, investing and planning for retirement. In this conversation, we will talk about both the systemic and individual challenges women face financially. Leaders will highlight programs, opportunities and policies that support women’s economic mobility.

  • Kara Hoogensen, senior vice president and head of workplace benefits – benefits and protection, Principal Financial Group
  • Marcie Ordaz, executive director, Lift Women’s Foundation
  • Sonya Sellmeyer, consumer advocate, Iowa Insurance Division
  • Ashlee Vieregger, senior lead adviser, Foster Group
  • Michele Williams, associate professor, management and entrepreneurship, University of Iowa Tippie College of Business
Erin Huiatt. Contributed photo.
In the headlines
‘An inspiration’: Des Moines entrepreneur named 2024 Women in Business Champion for Iowa: A Des Moines entrepreneur whose ventures include a women’s business networking group is the 2024 U.S. Small Business Administration Women in Business Champion of the Year for the state of Iowa. Erin Huiatt is the owner of Des Moines Parent, a website she purchased in 2015 that provides tips, ideas, events, activities and suggestions to Central Iowa parents.

Iowa rules for 6-week abortion ban clear legislative hurdle as courts consider legality: Iowa lawmakers have paved the way for the state’s rules on enforcing a six-week abortion ban — if the Iowa Supreme Court allows it to go into effect. On Monday, the Iowa Legislature’s administrative rules review committee allowed the framework for Iowa’s abortion law, which bans the procedure when cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo, to move forward unchanged, the Des Moines Register reported.

Women's NCAA title game outdraws the men's championship with an average of 18.9 million viewers: The women's NCAA championship game drew a bigger television audience than the men's title game for the first time, with an average of 18.9 million viewers watching undefeated South Carolina beat Iowa and superstar Caitlin Clark, according to ratings released Tuesday. The Sunday, April 7, afternoon game on ABC and ESPN outdrew the Monday, April 8, men's final between UConn and Purdue by four million, KCCI-TV reported.

Iowa City’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program plans to add sexual assault support services: Iowa City’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) will have to grow considerably to add the sexual assault support services once provided by the University of Iowa. The university is laying off 12 full-time workers as part of its transition. Currently, DVIP runs an emergency shelter, a hotline, a mobile response program and advocates for victims in the hospital and in the judicial system. But before it can begin working with survivors of sexual assault, DVIP anticipates adding between 10 and 15 staff for the new services, according to this story by Iowa Public Radio.

Worth checking out
Why women can’t overwork themselves out of workplace inequality (Forbes). Health and Human Services increases loan forgiveness for OBs, midwives who practice in rural areas (Iowa Capital Dispatch/States Newsroom). Family of real estate agent Ashley Okland, killed 13 years ago, urges people to come forward (KCCI). Infertility in the workplace: How employers can support workers (Forbes). After abortion attempts, 2 women now bound by child (Washington Post). Fortune magazine names Anastasia Nyrkovskaya as its CEO, the first woman to run the 95-year-old business publication (New York Times).
Wollesen named DMACC Carroll Campus executive dean
Des Moines Area Community College has named Jennifer Wollesen executive campus dean of the DMACC Carroll Campus and Templeton Regional Center. She started her new role April 1.

Wollesen has served in several leadership roles at the DMACC Carroll Campus since starting in 2011, including counselor, adviser and housing director. Most recently, Wollesen served as the career advantage site director, overseeing the launch of the new Templeton Regional Center that offers credit programming to regional school districts.

"My desire to serve as the Executive Campus Dean stems from my passion for providing and expanding relevant opportunities to rural Iowa communities," Wollesen said in a prepared statement.

Before joining DMACC, Wollesen served as a counselor, math instructor and coach at Iowa high schools. She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary math education and two master’s degrees in technology-based learning and professional school counseling.

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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