2012 Women of Influence Winner: Janet E. Phipps Burkhead
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 2:01 PM
Attorney, Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen P.C.
It’s hard for Janet Phipps Burkhead to describe exactly why she’s in the military, and what it means to her.
Part of it is her family background. Phipps Burkhead comes from a military family, which included her father, who died in a helicopter crash, two brothers who have each served 20 years or more and her husband who is a retired colonel. Part of it is the rewarding feeling and the honor of wearing the uniform.
Perhaps the most important factor: “It’s hard to put into words, but you just feel you want to serve,” Phipps Burkhead said.
Phipps Burkhead, an attorney at Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen P.C., was a member of the Army Reserve from 1985 to 1996, and then joined the National Guard, where she has served in both Iowa and Michigan. Today, she serves as the deputy commanding general - sustainment, which gives her oversight of personnel, logistics and facilities.
In 2008, she was appointed as the second female brigadier general in the Iowa National Guard’s history. Phipps Burkhead said the honor of being a woman in that position wasn’t something she consciously thought about.
“I’m a soldier that wears a uniform,” she said. “I think of myself as a soldier first.”
That said, Phipps Burkhead is conscious that she can be a role model in what has traditionally been a male-dominated organization, a mindset that carries over to civilian life as well.
“I think it does have an impact, and we do have still a society of girls and young women who may not think they can do anything they want to do,” she said. “If I can give them that, if I can hold out a piece of myself for them to say, ‘I can do anything I want to,’ then I don’t want accolades for that, but it’s self-satisfying for me to think that girls and young women can think that as well.”
In her professional career, Phipps Burkhead has had some unique stops. Her current position at Dickinson has her practicing primarily intellectual property law. She became interested in law after working in the government for about 20 years, including as the state budget director during Gov. Terry Branstad’s previous period in office.
Her “first career” was in the field of her major at Iowa State University, food and nutrition dietetics.
Phipps Burkhead is a board member for Polk County Women Attorneys, works with women at Drake University Law School and serves on the board of the Rotary Club of Des Moines. She is also on the board of the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa.
“I feel I’ve been very fortunate in my life, and I believe in giving that back in some way – however I can do that to others, through mentoring of young women (and) service to the community,” she said.
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