2014 Women of Influence class leads, inspires

By Angela Holmes

CORRIDOR – In the past 10 years, the Corridor Business Journal’s Women of Influence has brought to the forefront an amazing group of women who inspire, lead, and most importantly, give freely of themselves.

This year’s class is no exception. Ranging in age from 33 to 84, these women have helped shape their own generation as well as pave the way for future leaders.

The CBJ received a record number of reader-submitted nominations this year. As in previous years, the nomination packets – which included resumes, supporting details and letters of recommendation – were forwarded to a selection committee made up of last year’s Women of Influence honorees. The group then had the unenviable task of narrowing the field down to 10 women. The honorees were notified of their award with a hand-delivered note and flowers.

While the honorees’ professions varied, ranging from conservationist, coach and collaborator to department director and vice president, most credited their upbringing in shaping their careers and penchant to volunteer and give back.

Iowa women’s associate basketball coach Jan Jensen credited her rural upbringing for her desire to help others.

“It’s a way of life,” she said. “If a fellow farmer needed help, my dad would drive over. Everyone was always giving. I had incredible role modeling and influence from my family.”

Kim Johnson Becicka, vice president, continuing education and training services at Kirkwood Community College, also gave a nod to her rural roots.

Although neither of her parents had a college diploma, “they just really instilled a value in us of the importance of education and helping us secure the educational foundation to succeed in life.”

TrueNorth Companies marketing manager Shannon Hanson learned the value of volunteering at a young age from her parents who headed up the Fourth of July Great Canoe Race along the Des Moines River in her hometown of Bonaparte.

“My parents were in charge and they were also role models of volunteering,” she said.

Anne Parmley, managing director, National Services, at Pearson, learned the value of hard work as a young child when she tagged along with her father to his job at a shoe store and earned some cash helping out around the store.

Many of the women started out in a different career path, later realizing their true passion.

Leslie Wright, Vice President of Community Building at United Way of East Central Iowa, had a solid career and retail until she realized her gifts could be better used in the non-profit world.

“So much about the journey is about finding the place that is particularly your own,” she said.

Originally from Mount Pleasant, Amanda Styron West moved to Washington D.C. and New York City after graduating from the University of Iowa. Drawn back to her family, she returned to Eastern Iowa where she co-founded Seed Here Studio and Vault Coworking and Collaboration Space for budding entrepreneurs.

“The majority of people I love most are in this community or nearby, so I have chosen to make this my community for the very long-term,” she said.

As leaders in the workplace and community, these women serve as role models.

Gail Barels, conservation education specialist, Linn County Conservation, has reached more the 200,000 people in the past two decades of leading workshops and preparing materials.

“She is a role model for interpreters and for women who have chosen the male-dominated field of natural resources, ”Jessica Rilling, Community Outreach Manager, Linn County Conservation, stated in her nomination of Ms. Barels.

Breast cancer survivor Marsha Schulte, who retired from Rockwell Collins late last year, serves as board chair both Collins Community Credit Union and IWLC (Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference).

“Each and every one of us feels we are the most important mentee in her life, because that’s how she makes us feel. Her drive and ambition to help women lead successful lives, to ‘pay it forward’ as she would say, is limitless,” Tatum Buse, vice president, finance and corporate controller at Rockwell Collins, stated in her nomination.

Between raising four children and working as a medical professional, Ginny Ryan Buresh has found the time to mentor young girls through the Girls on the Run program

“I think it is just instinctive that I help out where I can and try to make a difference,” she said.

Although Jean Lloyd-Jones has accomplished much in her many years as a women’s rights activist and legislator, at 84, she shows no signs of slowing down. As co-founder of the 50/50 by 2020 Campaign, it is her goal by 2020 to have women fill half of the elected positions in Iowa’s legislature and “break the barrier of never having elected a woman to Congress or governor.”

These incredible women are featured in profiles in the March 24-30 print edition of the Corridor Business Journal.