At Business Publications Corp., the Business Record’s parent company, our mission is to inform, inspire, elevate and celebrate our communities through the power of communication, connections and recognition. Empowering underrepresented members of our business community who may face barriers in having their voices heard is a significant goal in our work. For two decades the Business Record has honored strong female leaders through Women of Influence, and for nearly a decade we have produced a weekly newsletter – Lift IOWA – geared toward professional women across the state. But we know there is more work to do. 

As part of our annual women’s survey, we asked audience members to tell us both about the progress and momentum they’ve seen around women’s leadership and about how we can best serve you through our content. We will be incorporating this feedback into some exciting initiatives going forward. 

Thanks to all those who took time to give us a pulse on key issues affecting professional women in the state, we have this analysis to share with you. This piece includes just some of what we heard in the survey. We will continue to use survey responses in different stories throughout the year. Every respondent has a different worldview, and we see it as our role to help bring all those perspectives to life. 

For the first time, we asked someone to be a guest editor for our survey analysis. Sara Kurovski graciously agreed. Kurovski wears several different hats: She is the mayor of Pleasant Hill, a candidate for Polk County Board of Supervisors and the Tocqueville Society director at United Way of Central Iowa. You can read her analysis of the survey with each question and get a glimpse of what a typical day looks like for her in the photos. 

– Emily Barske, associate editor


What is the most effective way for men to be allies to women, and how can we make that happen? 

Guest Editor Sara Kurovski: Sponsor women — this is different from mentoring. Being a mentor is about guidance and providing advice, whereas sponsoring is actively helping a woman achieve her goals. The Harvard Business Review covers the spectrum of sponsoring women and why it is so effective. 

I was blessed to grow up with parents who were equals, which is likely why I have always viewed my male and female associates as parallel. I believe that men residing in leadership positions, who have a lens on true talent and business acumen, have the ability to lift their female counterparts up when given the opportunity. I also believe the lifting up mentality goes both ways -- whether by gender, ethnicity, generation or otherwise.
Susan R. Hatten, chief operating officer, BrokerTech Ventures

Men can be allies by choosing to be curious. Mentor a woman. Be mentored by a woman. Choose to see greatness rather than the negative.
Amy Boyce, manager - people and culture development, Aureon

Look past stereotypes of both genders and take the pressure off accepting individuals as unique and amazing.
Mary Daily Lange

Progress comes slowly, but featuring jobs that give priority to women similar to the point system used in some government jobs would be helpful. I think it would be most interesting for employers to not know the gender or name and look at the applications based only on the experience and job. I wonder if that would make for different outcomes in the job market for women.
Mona Bond, president, Capitol Communications Inc.

Be a good listener and ask how you can help. Seek to understand the reasons behind overwhelm and confidence issues. Don't avoid difficult conversations or be afraid of hurting someone's feelings; instead, know that constructive criticism is often something women crave and need.
Jayme Fry, vice president, Bankers Trust Co. 

Ultimately, we want to be on the other side of this conversation, when professionals are judged based on merit and their contributions, and gender no longer serves to be a relevant part of the conversation.
Jed Gammell, vice president of risk management, Lincoln Savings Bank

To respect the different leadership and work styles instead of insisting that we act and react as they do.
Anne Bacon, executive director, Impact Community Action Partnership


How big of an issue do you perceive pay inequity in Iowa to be? 

Guest Editor Sara Kurovski: The largest indicator to me, that this is an issue, is how often I hear from women: “I don’t know how to negotiate.”

Somewhere in the middle. I have not seen this in my position or in watching other successful women around me, but I'm sure it happens.
Jennifer Walter, vice president and private banker, First National Bank

Major issue. There is still work to do — especially for marginalized communities.
Molly Hanson, conservation and community outreach specialist, RDG Planning & Design

Somewhere in the middle. In my experience, women have to have the courage to demand parity from the time of the interview and annually thereafter.
Mona Bond, president, Capitol Communications Inc.

Major issue. Gender pay inequity and widening income inequality in the broader population are growing factors impacting the health of our economy. 2007-2008 saw instability in the real estate market compound problems that pushed us into the second-largest recession in history. Income inequality presents similar characteristics that will negatively compound other economic conditions when the fiscal environment weakens.
Jed Gammell, vice president of risk management, Lincoln Savings Bank

Major issue. First, there are less incentives for women to flourish in a business and be motivated to pursue a career. And second ... if women are typically paid less than their male counterparts, there is often more pressure for them to compromise their career to care for their children.
Chris Widmer, associate planner, city of Pleasant Hill

In the past five years, do you feel women have made significant progress in obtaining a better balance of gender parity in politics?

Guest Editor Sara Kurovski: No. 

Yes. Two words. Cindy and Abby [U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenaur]. They have balanced our representatives in one big push and have inspired so many other women in our community to step up and respond to the call.
Eric Heininger, managing director, Eden+ Fundraising Consulting

Yes. You can see more women choosing to run and get involved. Women have moved from being a volunteer to taking on the key roles.
Kourtney Perry, owner, Privacy LLC

No. While more and more women have entered politics, particularly in the past three years, they are still not the decision-makers, the influencers, the ones that hold any power.
Jill Niswander, controller, Cemen Tech


How big of an issue do you perceive access to affordable child care in Iowa to be? 

Guest Editor Sara Kurovski: This is a significant and complicated issue. Not only is affordability an issue, but availability, environmental components, hours of operation and quality are also issues. When families have no child care options or decide that it is more cost-effective for their budget to have one member of the household stay home and not work, that hurts Iowa’s overall workforce economy. 

From Child Care Resource & Referral (2018 & 2019 data):
- Iowa has lost 42% of its child care providers in the past five years.
- 412 cities in Iowa (41%) have children but no known child care.
- 489 (48%) have some child care but fewer slots than there are children.

Major issue. “Quality child care should not be a luxury reserved for those who can afford it. No parent should have to choose between paying child care and buying groceries. This is a daily occurrence in Iowa, particularly for working-class parents whose struggles, though real and often dire, are glossed over in favor of a focus on middle- and upper middle-class demands for elite preschools and preparatory programs. For lower- and middle-income households with children, child care is a significant financial burden, accounting for more monthly expenditure than a house payment.”
Anna Clark, assistant professor, Drake University

Major issue. This is a huge issue even for people with good incomes. For lower-income workers, it's nearly an impossible situation. I don't know why we leave young Iowans so vulnerable and don't do more to support this important workforce need.
Susan Judkins, client development director, RDG Planning & Design

Major issue. Fifty years ago it was one of my biggest personal challenges, and it hasn't improved very much at all.
Mary Daily Lange

Major issue. Access to affordable child care is one of those barriers that affects so many different aspects of a person's life (most often a woman's life) down the chain. Without access to affordable child care, it is difficult to have a steady job, it is difficult to obtain an education, it is difficult to do many of the things a person needs to do to "get ahead." As a privileged mother that has a strong support system, family in town, schedule flexibility, and a supportive and active partner, I still have found affordable, safe and appropriate child care to be a challenge. When someone faced with additional challenges or someone who does not come from a place of privilege has to overcome this same barrier, it can prove impossible.
Annie Brandt, senior vice president, Iowa market, Bank of America

The single biggest challenge facing women in business is:
Word map analysis showed the key terms respondents used included: pay equity, child care, unconscious bias and confidence. 

Guest Editor Sara Kurovski: “The broken rung.” For the fifth year in a row, McKinsey & Co., in partnership with LeanIn, has produced the Women in the Workplace Report. The report states, “For every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired. This broken rung results in more women getting stuck at the entry level and fewer women becoming managers.” This has a direct effect on the number of women who are qualified for the next level of promotions. 

The lack of recognition (institutional, financial, advancement) for women's emotional labor on the job.
Anna Clark, assistant professor, Drake University

Unequal pay. Too many men hire only men.
Bunny Bruning, tennis director, Wakonda Club 

Advancement in what is still/often a predominantly male executive team.
Lore McManus Solo, owner/president, the Solo Consultancy

Courage — nothing comes easy and sometimes we settle for less than is possible.
Mona Bond, president, Capitol Communications Inc.

Desire to get engaged. There are so many opportunities outside of business, women may decide they can ignore it — to the detriment of the futures of business success.
Mary Kramer, U.S. ambassador (retired)

Guilt. Guilt from others and guilt we inflict on ourselves. Guilt we inflict on ourselves: We feel guilty if we have to come in late or leave work early. And we also feel guilty when we miss spending time with our children because of work. We try so hard to do it all and be everything to everyone, but in the end something has to give. Guilt from others — especially male co-workers, who fundamentally have a different mindset — can be just as crippling. Guilt from female co-workers with attitudes of "I managed to handle it all, so why can't you" is also a problem.
Karen Johnson, vice president assistant controller, Meredith Corp.

Being perceived as both competent and caring.
Cecelia Munzenmaier, owner, Writing Resources


The biggest issue facing future generations of women is:

Guest Editor Sara Kurovski: Maternal mortality. While this is not a business issue, it absolutely impacts our local, state and global economy. Women makeup over 50% of the population and are given the beautiful ability to provide life; it is also riddled with dangerous statistics. NPR helped bring attention to this issue when it reported that the U.S. has the worst maternal death rates in a first-world country. A $10 million federal grant was awarded to the University of Iowa, to study this issue in 2019. The study will span over five years, but this issue will continue to kill more women in Iowa than the flu, pneumonia or diabetes, according to a report.

Longevity. Giving up too soon can have a career long impact.
Kelly Altes, principal/client executive, IMEG Corp.

Where will the jobs be?
Susan Judkins, client development director, RDG Planning & Design

The biggest issue facing future generations of women is the same issue women have been fighting for hundreds of years: equal rights. In 1647, Margaret Brent was the first American woman to demand the right to vote, and it wasn’t until 273 years later in 1920 that the 19th Amendment was ratified. In 1812, Lucy Brewer was the first American woman to join the U.S. Marine Corps, and it wasn’t until 1917 that Loretta Perfectus Walsh was the first woman to enlist in the U.S. Navy, even though both agencies were established in the same year of 1775. The first female Fortune 500 CEO was Katharine Graham in 1972, and 48 years later, women make up less than 7% of Fortune 500 CEOs. Just 45 years ago, women were finally afforded the right to open a bank account in their own name. The first woman to run for United States president was Victoria Woodhull in 1872, and 148 years later, that piece of history is yet to be written. We have come a long way, but we still have so far to go to truly reach a place where women and men are treated equally.
Annie Brandt, senior vice president, Iowa market, Bank of America

Challenging the male status quo and other systems in place that put barriers up to be fully accepted in business.
Kevin Pokorny, owner, Pokorny Consulting

This expectation to figure out how to "have it all" so early in life.
Kate Banasiak, president and CEO, Diversified Management Services

Normalizing equality.
Susan Scharnberg, president, Iowa PBS Foundation

An overemphasis of college and university-based courses, and an underemphasis of applied skills training.
Kristin Hopper-Losenicky, assistant manager of content and communications, Intoxalock

Balancing motherhood and career advancement.
Cecelia Munzenmaier, owner, Writing Resources

Living with the perception of a perfect life that is so pervasive in social media.
Julie Matternas, executive director, EveryStep Foundation


What issues relevant to underrepresented women (women of color, LGBTQ, women with disabilities, etc.) would you like to see further discussion on across the state? 

Guest Editor Sara Kurovski: I can’t begin to understand the experiences that underrepresented women face, but I return to the issue of maternal mortality. I raise this issue because of the demographic of women it hits the hardest are ethnically and racially underrepresented women as reported by the CDC. Globally, the World Health Organization reports that, “Every day in 2017, approximately 810 women died from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.” The issues related to maternal mortality in Iowa are different from the international issues, but the key word is “preventable.” Business leaders and elected officials need to maintain awareness of this issue and work toward solutions, as it can literally save a woman’s life. 

I have a passion for small business owners in our area. I find it harder for these women to find their voice and to be taken seriously than those in the corporate world. It's tough out there for those who own small businesses, and we need to embrace and support them!
Jennifer Walter, vice president and private banker, First National Bank

Access to appropriate education/training for jobs of the future.
Lore McManus Solo, owner/president, the Solo Consultancy

Migrant farm women and under-the-table domestic workers are working hard and are the engine that keeps their families safe and healthy. Our communities rely on them for agriculture and service and the tacit approval with paychecks does not reflect the animosity they receive and fear they deal with every day.
Eric Heininger, managing director, Eden+ Fundraising Consulting

Admit the fact that black women and minorities are great people. We have been the core for companies and high-level stakeholders for a lot of years, and they wouldn't be in that place today without them. Stop being intimidated by these women when they have something to say. All people have a voice, and regardless of your color, race, and origin you should be heard. Stop looking at them crazy when they walk in the room. We all have the right to be wherever we want to be, especially if it is in a room where there is going to be greatness.
Kourtney Perry, owner, Privacy LLC

I had a cast on for about three months following a broken leg and surgery. It was appalling to me how many places right here in Des Moines are absolutely not [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant. It's easy to think your building is accessible, but more folks should really have that evaluated by a professional service. You might be missing out on an amazing employee, customer or business partner because your location is a barrier.
Kristin Hopper-Losenicky, assistant manager of content and communications, Intoxalock