Thoughts ahead of Fearless Focus event on leadership

By Emily Kestel

Representation matters – especially in leadership. The latest data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows that in Iowa’s private sector, women held 30% of executive-level leadership positions and 40% of midlevel management positions. Furthermore, women of color made up just 3% of leaders at the executive level and 8% in midlevel management. 

So what’s the deal? 

In our first event of the Fearless Focus series, we’ll talk about why these disparities exist and what can be done to address them. 

To preview the discussion happening at noon on April 28, we asked our speakers to answer: “What’s one barrier that you continue to see for women who currently hold leadership positions or women who want to advance into leadership positions?”

Here’s what they said. 

Amy Kristof-Brown, dean, Tippie College of Business, University of Iowa

“The continued lack of equal distribution of responsibility for homes, child care and elder care. Although many men have made significant progress toward being more involved in their family lives, and almost half of women in the U.S. are their family’s main income provider, women still bear the majority of responsibility for domestic and care responsibilities. Until these activities are shared equally, many women will continue to be held back from all that they could achieve professionally.”


Dawn Martinez Oropeza, executive director, Al Exito 

“As a Latina leader of a nonprofit organization, there are a multitude of barriers that I and others face, the main one being systematically and socially excluded from full participation in the institutional community, kinships and culture. Being a woman of color from a mixed-status family with a different social class and lived experience from the majority creates additional isolation and inequities. Under-resourced minoritized nonprofits face additional challenges in having their mission and work validated and appreciated. This limits access to the corporations and sponsors necessary to build the sustainability and influence needed to create an inclusive and thriving community for all.”


Tiffany O’Donnell, CEO, Women Lead Change

“Women are not alone in facing cultural and societal barriers. I consider being underestimated in the past and, at times today, a barrier AND a motivator. Identifying when it happens to me has allowed me to wear a lens that sees when it happens to others. For that, I am grateful. It’s a tool that allows me to advocate for those who experience it. In the interest of moving forward, l offer this well-known advice from an unknown author: ‘Never underestimate the power of a woman’s intuition. Some women can recognize the game before you even play it.’” 


Kelly Winfrey, director of graduate education and assistant professor, Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, Iowa State University

“One challenge I think women face in leadership, or aspiring to leadership positions, is the feeling that they must do everything, say ‘yes’ to everyone, and do it all perfectly. Women are often socialized to be people-pleasers and take care of others, which makes it hard to say ‘no’ to something that you don’t want to do or that doesn’t help your career. We need to feel empowered to do things our way, to say ‘no’ when we don’t have time or just don’t want to take on work because no one else will do it.” 


Evette Creighton, senior manager of talent, inclusion and diversity at Transamerica, will also be joining the discussion.

To hear more from these leaders, register for the free event, happening this Thursday, April 28, at noon.

Categories: Leadership

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