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JULY 17, 2023
Good morning, Fearless readers:

Today's e-newsletter is a bit unusual. I'm asking for your voices, your perspectives, your experiences, Fearless readers, on sensitive topics that directly affect the lives of women.

You will find today:
  • A story about potential changes to Iowa's laws related to abortion. We want to hear how you think this could potentially affect your workplace, your life, individual businesses, and the overall business community in Iowa.
  • An anecdote about a young girl's near-drowning and challenges that Iowa families face regarding summer child care. Again, we want to hear from you.
  • Leadership: Meet the winners of the 2023 Ivy Women in Business Awards at Iowa State University.
  • In the Headlines: Women in their prime working years are storming back into the labor force. In June, 77.8% of women ages 25 to 54 were working or looking for jobs, up from 77.6% in May and the highest in U.S. history, the Labor Department’s recent jobs report showed.
  • In the Headlines: The Food and Drug Administration approved the first over-the-counter birth control pill. The move could significantly expand access to contraception.
  • A Break from the News: Meet the Fisher-Price Little People that we needed when we were children. Or maybe as adults?
  • Much more!

-- Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer
How will changes to Iowa's abortion laws affect your life, in the workplace and beyond?
How is your employer or your business adapting to potential changes regarding abortion law in Iowa? I would like to hear from you as soon as possible. Please email me:

While the Business Record is apolitical, we report on governmental decisions that affect business. Through our Fearless initiative, we believe it’s imperative to talk about policy related to gender and family issues.

Here is what happened last week, along with additional background: A law banning doctors from performing abortions in almost any circumstance in Iowa took effect with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signature Friday afternoon. State legislators had approved the restrictions Tuesday.

Under the law, doctors are generally prohibited from performing an abortion if an abdominal ultrasound can detect cardiac activity in the womb. That usually happens about six weeks after the end of a girl or a woman’s last menstrual period; girls and women often are not aware they are pregnant before that time.

Exceptions to the ban include a medical emergency for the mother, an unsurvivable fetal abnormality, a pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest and was reported to authorities before a deadline, and "any spontaneous abortion, commonly known as a miscarriage, if not all of the products of conception are expelled."

Lawmakers acted after the U.S. and Iowa supreme courts overturned constitutional protections for abortion rights in 2022. Republicans, who hold sizable majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, and Reynolds had hoped state courts would allow a nearly identical law, passed in 2018, to take effect for the first time, but judges said that was not permissible. That set up last week’s one-day special legislative session.

The courts will have a significant say in the fate of this law as well. At the moment Reynolds was signing House File 732, lawyers for Planned Parenthood and the state were arguing in a Polk County courtroom about whether the ban violated the Iowa Constitution and should be immediately blocked. District Judge Joseph Seidlin said he expects to rule today (July 17) or Tuesday.

Iowa joins 13 other states with the nation’s strictest abortion policies. Opponents of the law say not being able to terminate unwanted or dangerous pregnancies will threaten the lives of girls and women and have negative outcomes for families. Supporters said that abortion is the "human rights atrocity of our time" and that the exceptions in the bill will allow everybody to receive appropriate medical care.

More information about developments from late last week can be found here.

I would like to hear how your employer, business, nonprofit, university, school, etc. is riding the waves. As the Business Record and Fearless move forward and cover the effects on the business community, we want to hear how you think this could affect individual businesses and the overall business community in Iowa.

Can we come together to solve summer child care? Our children’s lives depend on it.
My friend witnessed a near-drowning on June 6 at Holiday Aquatic Center in West Des Moines.

She watched a mother drop off three children: a boy who looked to be maybe 13, and two little girls, approximately ages 6 and 2. The teenager did the best he could to watch the two younger children. But at some point the 6-year-old girl slipped away and jumped into the deep end.

She was not a strong swimmer. The lifeguards noticed her, sounded the alarm, and pulled her out of the water.

The lack of adequate summer child care can reduce the productivity of Iowa parents. It can also be dangerous or, at the very least, detrimental, in terms of child development.

My friend shared her story in a Des Moines parenting group on Facebook, advising parents to put weak swimmers in lifejackets and neon-colored swimming suits, which are easier for lifeguards to spot in the water.

Some of the comments that followed bordered on mom-shaming: "I would report the parent." "How can any mom just leave her children like that? Blows my mind." "I could not imagine ever doing this … What was she thinking?" "I worked at a pool for six years and this happened all the time. Sometimes even 10-year-olds were supposed to be watching toddlers."

But here is a reality check: Some parents often use the pool as a babysitter when they have no other options.

Of course, for many families, adequate child care is a riddle with no good answer year-round. But the challenge becomes more acute during the long summer off from school.

Moms are shamed for leaving their children at the pool. (Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a recent story by the New York Times.) But we rarely hear criticism of fathers for leaving their children at the pool.

Summer child care is challenging, especially for low-income parents, parents who work irregular or inconsistent hours, and parents who lack an adequate support network.

Summer child care programs at schools often have limited availability and limited hours. Some parents cannot afford the fees for these programs, let alone the pricier private day cares or camps. Those kids often end up in the care of older siblings or grandparents. Or, they’re alone.

Parents from higher income brackets can put their children in a dizzying mishmash of camps, athletics and other activities. They can hire nannies, but a nanny who wants to work for just three months is a rare gem. These parents struggle, too. Camps fill up quickly – often in February. There are long waiting lists. Some parents can work from home while their children are home for the summer, but their productivity suffers.

Summer child care is rarely easy. But there are solutions. Fearless readers: What has helped you that could help other parents?

What are your challenges? What has worked for your family? What hasn’t worked for your family? Do you know of an innovative program that has filled this gap? Please email me:

Opill could be available in the United States in early 2024. Photo by the Perrigo Co.
In the headlines
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved a daily oral contraceptive pill for use without a prescription, according to NPR. The move clears the way for Opill, which comes in tablet form, to be sold over the counter in a wide range of venues, from online markets to drug stores, convenience stores and grocery stores. The drug could be available in early 2024.

Women in their prime working years are storming back into the labor force, according to USA Today. In June, 77.8% of women ages 25 to 54 were working or looking for jobs, up from 77.6% in May and the highest in U.S. history, the Labor Department’s recent jobs report showed. The labor force participation rate for men also has risen steadily but, at 89.2%, is still slightly below its pre-pandemic peak. Women were especially hobbled by job losses early in the health crisis and are now benefiting from a robust recovery as well as the wider availability of child care, remote work options and other factors.

An Iowa woman became the only Powerball winner to take home a $2 million prize when her easy-pick ticket came just one number away from the near-record $725 million jackpot. Megan Balmer purchased her lottery ticket Monday night at a local Casey's near her home in Garwin, about 85 miles northeast of Des Moines, according to USA Today. Balmer said she plans to use her winnings to pay off her mortgage and her student loan and credit card debt.

Gracie Williams spends a lot of time thinking about her bills. As the primary earner in a household that includes her ailing mother and a younger brother, the South Carolina librarian is constantly weighing how to divvy up her $2,100-a-month-take-home pay and late father's retirement benefits. She is using Klarna, a buy now, pay later (BNPL) tool best known for helping people finance Pelotons, laptops and other big-ticket merchandise. Klarna and other BNPL services are increasingly being tapped for groceries -- usage surged 40% in the first two months of 2023, according to the Washington Post.

Worth checking out
Alone in an empty house, female real estate agents face danger (New York Times). Studying the link between the gut and mental health is personal for this scientist (NPR). As Afghan schools remain closed for girls, mental health crisis builds (Washington Post). Naomi Osaka announces birth of her daughter, hints at her own tennis future (Sports Illustrated).
Iowa State announces 2023 Ivy Women in Business Award winners
Iowa State University announced its 2023 winners of the Ivy Women in Business Awards Wednesday. The awards were created in 2018. They celebrate people and organizations for their "inspiration, leadership, and service as champions for women in business."

The 2023 honorees are:

Erica Jensen ('02 marketing) will be honored with a Champion Award, which recognizes people, businesses or organizations that serve as champions to inspire, lead and encourage women to reach their full potential. Jensen is senior vice president and chief communications officer at Dotdash Meredith.

The second Champion Award will go to CREW Iowa, a commercial real estate organization for women. Kristin Maletta, president of CREW Iowa, will accept the award on behalf of the organization. Maletta is director of real estate investments for Farm Bureau Financial Services.
The Inspiration Award honors a woman who has made a significant impact in her career while inspiring other women in business to become leaders and reach their full potential. This year’s award winner is Hillary Eckert ('03 psychology, '05 MBA), vice president of global solutions at Workiva.

The Outstanding Young Alumna Award honors an Ivy alumna, age 35 or younger, who has distinguished herself early in her career for her achievements. This year’s winner is Bridget Halbur ('13, accounting), associate general counsel at Anheuser-Busch.

The recipients will be honored on Sept. 27 at the Reiman Ballroom in the ISU Alumni Center from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The event is open to the public. People interested in attending the event can RSVP here.
Meet the Little People we needed as girls
I am still not ready to part with my daughter's Little People collection.

Even before she was born, I collected Fisher-Price Little People sets with the vigor that some people collect Funko Pops or classic cars.

I can't let go of the barn, the silo, the house, the castle that came with a (working) tiny catapult. There are seemingly hundreds of chubby plastic farm animals that I've stepped on and cursed.

My daughter is now 7 years old. But once in a while, she will still dig out the giant bin of Little People animals and build a farm out of whatever is available. Early childhood goes on, for a bit.

I have not added to our Little People collection since she was a toddler. But last week, the website A Mighty Girl featured a package of four Little People that caught my eye: Maya Angelou, Sally Ride, Amelia Earhart and Rosa Parks.

I remembered the Little People of my own childhood. In the 1980s, the spherical heads of the Little People sometimes popped off. They were considered a choking hazard. Their faces sometimes contained lead paint.

But their occupations were also somewhat problematic. The Little People women of my childhood were mothers, nurses, teachers. There might have been a stewardess at the Play Family Airport. That was about it. The Little People women did not have a lot of career choices.

My daughter's Little People collection contains women who are farmers, mechanics, doctors, ballerinas, police officers, mothers.

And now, she will have Angelou, Ride, Earhart and Parks.

I do not know if my daughter will play with them. But honestly, I want them on my desk.

-- Nicole Grundmeier, Business Record staff writer
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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