Plus: New child care grants
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Good morning, Fearless readers! This is Emily Barske taking over for Emily Kestel this week. Here's what you'll find in today's newsletter:

  • I wrote a column about how it's important that we prioritize all the life journeys women may take and what that means for workplace flexibility.
  • We highlight new state grants that are meant to incentivize expansion of child care capacity.  
  • We feature a story from our sister publication dsm Magazine that includes Gada Hamoda, who says that "food brings us together."

As a heads-up, you'll get your next edition of Fearless on Tuesday, May 31, because of the Memorial Day holiday. Have a great week!

Emily Barske, Business Record editor

How to prioritize all life journeys through celebration and workplace flexibility
Illustration courtesy of Getty Images
A few weeks ago I saw an Instagram post about what we celebrate. The post said we often put a lot into celebrating what our society deems the big things: graduations, engagement, marriage, pregnancies, children, big career moves. But we don’t always put as much effort into celebrating our loved ones for other major life events if they aren’t looked at as typical milestones and achievements.

Why can’t we throw a shower for someone who is getting married but also put together a shindig for someone who is leaving a toxic relationship, the post suggested. Why can’t we plan a grand event for a wedding but also have a big party for someone who ran their first marathon?

It isn’t to say these other kinds of celebrations never happen, but I don’t see them happening as frequently. And, to be clear, I’m not advocating for the elimination of celebrating the big things. I love doing the "Cha Cha Slide" at a wedding reception and games at a baby shower as much as the next person.

But what we take time to celebrate and what we don’t says a lot about what we value, and that means some life journeys are celebrated more than others.

While the women’s movement has allowed women far more choice in what they want in life, career or otherwise, there are still elements of bias in shaming women who are single or don’t have children.

A woman is worthy of respect and admiration regardless of her relationship or parental status.

Beyond what’s celebrated, this has played out in workplace bias as well. So many conversations about flexibility have gained traction during the pandemic – and they needed to. A lot of those have focused on child care, and rightfully so. If we cannot fix child care challenges, women will never gain full equity in the workplace because they still often play the primary role in raising kids. But child care is not the only cause for women needing more flexibility.

There are plenty of reasons that women in particular – including those who don’t have children or whose children are grown – need flexibility.

The list could go on.

Some women who don’t have children are getting fed up with being left out of the conversation or with assumptions that their lives are easier. Just read the replies to this recent tweet: "I don’t know who needs to hear this, but: Being childfree doesn't mean being more available," Nedra Tawwab said.

I’ve recently heard from a few people without kids who have expressed frustration that they’ve been expected to travel frequently for work while colleagues in similar positions with kids have not been required to. Similarly, I’ve heard lots of companies offering flexibility around school schedules for employees with children, but this same flexibility is not always widely talked about for the myriad reasons others may need flexibility during some parts of the day.

This bias in the workplace runs parallel to "mom bias," which is when colleagues view mothers — or pregnant people — as less competent and less committed to their jobs.

What does this tell us? Women face bias and unfair expectations no matter if they have kids or not, no matter if they are married or not. So – let’s change that in both systemic and individual ways.

Systemically, we need to address this in the workplace and in public spaces. Business leaders who tout flexibility should talk with employees about what that means for them individually and should also question how their own perspectives may play a role in the flexibility they offer. When using examples of flexibility in team meetings, they should highlight different life experiences. It’s imperative to note that making workplace adjustments to address these issues that disproportionately affect how women show up in work and life would greatly benefit men as well.

Individually, we can all do a better job of questioning how our own biases may be playing a role in how we view women. Women are competent, capable and intelligent regardless of what their life paths look like. Let’s stop making assumptions that someone else has it easier and instead assume that everyone deserves our grace because stress is relative, after all.

The life journeys of childless women, single moms, married women – and, say it with me,
all women – are important. Every woman deserves support and celebration of what’s important to them.

See other Fearless coverage about flexibility:
  • Women have long begged for flexibility, paid family leave and equal pay from their workplaces. Post-2020, companies are starting to listen. Read the story
  • Annual Fearless survey: 80% of Iowa women say they’re burned out and top issues include child care, pay equity, harassment. Read the story
Reynolds announces $25M in grants to incentivize expansion of child care capacity
Gov. Kim Reynolds announced on May 18 that the state has launched a new Child Care Business Incentive Grant Program to encourage employers to offer child care as a benefit to their employees.

The grant program will provide a total of $25 million in state funds from Iowa’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act money to support child care projects across the state. The majority of the funds, $20 million, will be used to support local infrastructure investments to build or expand child care capacity.

The remaining $5 million will be used to support arrangements between employers and child care facilities to expand and reserve child care slots. Potential projects could include the creation and development of an on-site child care center or a partnership with an existing child care center to create new child care slots paid for by a local employer.

According to the Child Care Task Force Report released in November, 23% of Iowans live in a "child care desert," and Iowa has lost 33% of its child care businesses over the past five years. It’s estimated that Iowa’s child care shortage costs the state’s economy roughly $935 million annually in lost tax revenue, worker absences and employee turnover.

"I’ve heard from both parents and employers that child care is a barrier to work in our state," Reynolds said in a press release. "One of the top recommendations from my Child Care Task Force was to incentivize employer investment in child care. This program will do just that by encouraging employers to help deliver child care solutions to their employees, thereby bolstering opportunities for recruitment and retention of workers."

Related: ‘This is hope like we’ve never seen before’: An in-depth look at the Child Care Task Force recommendations
In the headlines
  • A former University of Iowa provost who resigned without public explanation after just one year — hinting on her way out she wanted to serve a campus aligned with her diversity, equity and inclusion values — is being accused in a lawsuit of taking that mission too far in her new job.
  • The U.S. men’s and women’s national soccer teams struck a labor deal that closes the contentious pay gap between the squads, an unprecedented step that will equalize both salaries and bonuses, providing a substantial boost to the decorated women’s team.
  • About two-thirds of Americans say they do not support overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
  • Two baby sleep products linked to nearly 200 infant deaths will soon be banned under federal law, a move child safety advocates say will save children's lives.
  • Spain's government approved a measure guaranteeing paid leave from work for period pain. But the leave policy has sparked controversy, with some feminist activists saying period leave stigmatizes women.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris attended the inauguration of Honduras’ first female president, Xiomara Castro.
Worth checking out
Women's work often goes unrewarded (Wall Street Journal). I can't wait to watch the inevitable documentary about how we all wronged Amber Heard (BuzzFeed). Taylor Swift gave NYU graduates heartwarming advice about learning from mistakes while remarking on her own public cancellation (Huffington Post). For these Pacific Islanders, the AAPI label can sideline their heritage (Washington Post).
Taste of home: Finding solace and familiarity
Gada Hamoda prepares asida at her home in the Oakridge Neighborhood. Photo by Emily Kestel.
Every Friday night, Gada Hamoda cooks a feast for her family. The asida, tagalia, shaiyah and other specialties not only are full of flavor but also help Hamoda feel connected to her homeland 7,500 miles away.

After landing in Des Moines in 2004 as a refugee from Sudan, Hamoda says the routine of cooking asida provided solace and a sense of familiarity.

"Asida helps me to remember," she said through a translator. "It is special to me because when I was growing up, it’s the food that my family cooked. Nobody ate out. Sometimes someone would bring bread, but we always cooked at home."

A staple in Sudanese cooking, asida can be served alone or with soups and other foods. Made from grains such as wheat or sorghum, the thick dough with a texture like porridge is typically eaten with the hands.

"When I cook asida, it makes me feel close to my country," says Hamoda, who was 15 when she learned to make the dish. "We usually learn to make it at 8 years old, but because I was the youngest and had older sisters, I learned later."
A Closer Look: Lindsay Racey
Since September 2020, Lindsay Racey has led CareMore Health’s Central East region, which includes Iowa, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Illinois; she’s based in Des Moines. Before joining CareMore, she worked for 14 years in nonprofit health care for Planned Parenthood.

CareMore entered the Iowa market in 2015 with the opening of a primary care clinic at 1530 E. Euclid Ave. that also serves as a community health resource for Medicaid patients. In January, CareMore launched a mobile clinic service based at its Des Moines clinic that provides outreach to members, including monthly visits to Newton. CareMore, which is based in Cerritos, Calif., partners with Amerigroup, which is one of Iowa’s contracted Medicaid managed care organizations. Both Amerigroup and CareMore are owned by Anthem, the largest for-profit managed health care company in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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