4 posts categorized "Des Moines"

September 19, 2013

A Week of Dining on Nuggets


I'm not talking about bite-sized pieces of breaded and fried chicken. I'm referring to the pithy content I'm devouring from attending food-filled events featuring speakers with delicious content.

"The central moral challenge of this century is oppression of women and girls throughout the world." — I heard that last Thursday at the Chrysalis Foundation's "Inspired 2013" event. Sheryl WuDunn, author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, shared details of sex trafficking and slavery, maternal mortality, brutality and mutilation, and lack of educational opportunities for women and girls across the globe. Some 60,000 to 100,000 females are missing in our world, and we aren't just talking Cambodia: it's an issue in the U.S. and yes, even Iowa. There's no formula for solutions, but gender inequities worldwide need to be fought with education for girls and access to capital for women. 

"The quality of your communication with yourself determines the quality of your communication with the world." — The Wednesday luncheon of the Greater Des Moines Chapter of American Women in Communication featured my friend Deb Engle, an author, publisher, president of Golden Tree Communications and co-founder of Tending Your Inner Garden. We have 70,000 thoughts a day, so what are we telling ourselves? Any chance that it's negative? (I'm not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, etc.) Time to focus on self-talk that's positive and productive. Change "I'm overwhelmed..." to "I'm powerful and I ask for support when I need to." Science is proving that we can create new inner pathways in our brains, and with strong self-affirming statements we're carving out trails for successful inner dialogue. Deb's upcoming book, "The Only Little Prayer You Need" — with Foreword by the Dalai Lama — will be published next year. It's based on a six-word prayer: Please heal my fear-based thoughts.

"Do you want to win or do you want to make a point?" — Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, learned that phrase from Walter Cronkite during her 25 years of advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. At today's breakfast meeting of a group called the Consortium, Donna — who came to Iowa for the climate, and she doesn't mean weather — shared that for her "the political is personal and the personal is political." She's worked nationwide for basic rights in the workplace and the ability for LGBT individuals to live with human dignity and be out of danger. She'll marry her partner of 26 years on Saturday. Because of Donna's respectful, persistent and quiet conversations with those of diametrically opposing viewpoints, some of those coming to Des Moines for her celebration are individuals who once had the "you people" stereotype. They've surprised themselves and gotten to know this intelligent, caring and vibrant individual whose marriage will not "hurt their families." 

Right now, I'm too full of gratitude for opportunities to be with amazing women to write any more. 


March 08, 2013

"You Can't Be What You Can't See"

MissrepplaceholderThose simple words by Miriam Wright Edelman tell much about the media's misrepresentation of women, a reality that has led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence. The documentary Miss Representation was shown Thursday night in Des Moines—thanks to the Junior League of Des Moines, Principal Financial and Farm Bureau Financial Services. I simply don't know where to begin; I fear I'll type the world's longest blog. There were so many powerful messages, and Ms Edelman's quote is just one of them.

The 90-minute film powerfully presents the media's limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls. It explains why it's difficut for the average woman to feel powerful and for women to achieve leadership positions. Quite simply, in a society where the media dominates in shaping what's acceptable, the message is that woman's value and power lie in youth, beauty and sexuality. It's about the body and not the brains; that message is everywhere.

American teenagers get 10 hours and 45 minutes a day of media consumption (watching TV, listening to music, reading magazines, online). What role models do they see in celebrities with perfect bodies playing TV and movie roles that diminish the power of women? Do they hear lyrics degrading to women? Are their magazines loaded with super thin models—typically digitally manipulated to create an impossible body—and messages domainated by revealing clothing and the need for beauty products.

While women have made strides in the past decades, we're still the minority on corporate boards; we're still making less than men for the same work; we aren't gaining parity in our state and national legislative bodies; heck, the U.S. is 90th in the world for women in national legislatures. Why aren't we leading? As Miss Representation points out, we've gotten the message: we aren't enough. And we've living with that belief.

With women holding only 3% of the clout positions in mainstream media, it's not going to change unless we do. The film's take action page tells what each of us can do. And here's something very simple that Terry Hernandez, The Chrysalis Foundation, mentioned in the discussion after the film: When you're in the presence of a young girl, talk to her to show her that she's valued as a person. Leave "you're so cute" out of it; engage her brain and applaud her for her knowledge. Remember: women can be women's biggest critics, and the same thing goes for girls. Give yourself and other females a break.

February 08, 2012

Leadership on February 23

It's been ages since I've written anything that didn't involve work for a client or a volunteer cause that I'm passionate about. Sorry to be so absent, but let me just tell you about one thing that's been keeping me hopping. Because it's about to take place.

I'm on the planning committee for the fourth Women Mean Business® Summit of the National Asscation of Women Business Owners - Central Iowa (NAWBO-CI) on February 23 in West Des Moines, IA. My role is overseeing communications for this event and I've been doing this all four years, plus chairing the Summit's awards component for three. This year we've had quite a promotional campaign, because there's such great Iowa speakers and content for our theme: HEART OF A LEADER.

The Summit appeals to anyone who wants to enhance their leadership abilities within their community or company; you don't have to be a woman business owners to find value in taking one day to focus on building your leadership savvy, skills and soul. Maybe you'd just like to get noticed by your business peers, supervisor or the team of folks who surround you.

GRABBING A SEAT AT THE TABLE is the keynote of Melynda DeCarlo, The Meyvn Group. Mary Andringa, Vermeer Corporation, shares LIFE'S LESSONS ON LEADERSHIP at the luncheon. And Liz Nead is the final keynoter with FINDING YOUR LEADERSHIP GAME. Three keynotes is a lot, but there's more! The Summit also includes eight workshops with 10 presenters to choose from and a panel of women business owners sharing their leadership stories. Panelists include Mary Stier of Mary Stier Connects, Jan Miller Straub of The Straub Corporation, and Gina Blean and Kelly Heysinger of Unified Therapy Services. That's 20 people talking about topics that will improve your success as a leader in just one day. Can you afford not to be there?

Please take a minute to visit the Summit website and look over this event for women in business. Hey, men, you're welcome to attend too!


June 07, 2009

Us, looking at them, looking at us, looking at them

I guess you could call it a primate networking event. On Friday we were with some special mammals who share 96.4 percent of their genetic material with humans. The communication took place with eyes, facial expressions, and actions (primarily by the stronger and hairier among us). Plus, one vocal rampage each by Kanzi, a bonobo wanting to get his hands on a large children's ball brought by a visitor, and 260-pound Azy, an orangutan who resembled the world's largest yarn ball as he rolled toward the front of the outdoor enclosure to get a look at us.
C14_but Azy (Great Ape Trust Photo)   Meet_kanzi_sm Kanzi (Great Ape Trust Photo)

Chuck and I were part of a 16-person tour of the Great Ape Trust, a world-class center located in Des Moines and committed to scientific research, conservation and education. At this time, the facility houses bonobos (native to the Democratic Republic of Congo) and orangutans (Asia's only great ape, found in Bornea, Sumatra and Malaysia). These thinking, self-aware and intelligent residents began arriving in 2004; all were born in captivity and came to Des Moines from other research programs, zoos and even Hollywood. No chimps or gorillas yet, and since the 2008 flooding of this facility, those apes will have to wait.

Because their behaviors are being studied, they don't see many visitors at the 230-acre campus. While they're very comfortable with the staff, they weren't so sure about the rest of us. But they were intrigued from the get-go, and studious eyes watched us approach. Once we were seated, first in front of the orangutan enclosure and then behind a clear wall in the bonobo's structure, it was difficult to determine who was having a better time watching whom.

I recalled sitting (a submissive posture) and being directed not to make eye contact when we trekked gorillas in Rwanda and chimps in Tanzania.  And here we were again, but this time we were all smiles and friendly as we asked questions of the research and caregiving experts and viewed the apes' behaviors. Our laughter over Rocky's antics with a recycling bin prompted him to keep the comedy going. (You might recall that last week's "ape tickle study" revealed humans are not the only ones with a funny bone and that there's a common ancestor -- from 10 to 16 million years ago -- from which humans and great apes evolved.)

But the afternoon's live demonstration of how apes use symbols to communicate what they want was a jaw dropper. Even Elikya, a "control subject," has picked up what the other bonobos are doing with language and learning fast. Plus, she had the prettiest smile of the day...and spiked hair that had a uncanny resemblance to that of my friend Joyce, whose membership entitled us to this special experience.