IMPACT For Women Summit: An Investment in Council Bluffs

This year’s IMPACT for Women Summit, slated for September 26 at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, will be headlined by acclaimed multi-gold medalist track and field legend, Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Not unlike its notable speakers, the IMPACT Summit presented by The Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa, an initiative of the Community Foundation for Western Iowa, has made significant strides since sprinting out of the blocks in 2021.

“We sold out in 2021,” said Donna Dostal, president and chief executive officer with the Community Foundation for Western Iowa (formerly, the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation). “Our biggest change this year is to increase our capacity so more folks can join us, learn from our subject matter experts and start activating for positive solutions.”

In addition to a lineup of speakers, Dostal referenced the addition of a new vendor space.

“Our key sponsors can introduce themselves to attendees during the networking time,” she added. “And, we have other surprises in store.”

This year, those key sponsors include BAT Logistics, Brunow Contracting, Google, Mutual of Omaha, MetroMagazine and Midlands Business Journal, NRG Media, Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital and RWE Energy. 

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The springboard for what is now becoming a tradition and signature event was the initiative behind the IMPACT Summit in the first place: The Women’s Fund of Southwest Iowa. As noted by Dostal, the fund was designed to “create impact” in the region regarding issues faced by women and their families.

“We felt it was important to start the conversation around needs [and] also to build a space for solutions,” she explained. “The IMPACT Summit is that special space for subject matter experts in the four focus areas of the fund to bring knowledge, awareness and dialogue for solutions and change.”

A nod to these priority areas, Dostal noted how the summit is for anyone in the area who wants to learn more about issues and solutions related to the following: access to child care, education to help women reach their full potential, aging in place and women’s safety and well-being.

“We know from several research studies nationally and globally, when we invest in women, our communities thrive,” she stated. “As we lead these conversations, raise awareness about the issues facing women in our region and brainstorm on solutions, we set ourselves up for success and start momentum toward positive change.”

Noteworthy Speakers

The morning keynote will reportedly be presented by Rebecca Bender, a nationally recognized expert on human trafficking.

Frequently honored as one of the top athletes of all time, Joyner-Kersee will round out the early afternoon keynote.

Dostal highlighted how Joyner-Kersee’s other roles have been as a motivational speaker and “change-maker” in her hometown of East St. Louis, Missouri.

“Jackie is using the platform of her philanthropic foundation to support inner-city moms and their kids through before- and after-school programs and leadership development,” she added.

In between these book-end keynotes, locals Tamara Brunow, president of Brunow Contracting and Lakelyn Hogan Eichenberger, gerontologist at Home Instead, represent the remaining morning presenters.

When asked about these speakers, Dostal referenced Brunow’s work as a successful business owner in heavy construction contracting who is working to “rebuild workforce housing in Hamburg, Iowa following the 2019 floods.”

“She is speaking about tech and trades education and how her experiences in a male-dominated field have brought her to be a leader in the construction industry,” she said.

Dostal isolated Eichenberger’s work as head gerontologist with Omaha-based Home Instead Senior Care.

“Lakelyn helped to advise us early on as we started to build the Women’s Fund,” she explained. “She will share her expertise on aging in community and how we all, as an aging society, can prepare for taking care of our aging moms.”

Brunow noted how she participated in the 2021 Summit by introducing Elizabeth Smart, and as a two-time platinum sponsor of the event.

“Donna Dostal asked me to present for this year’s Summit and speak to education and STEM and how it supports the mission of the Women’s Fund,” Brunow said. “In my experience, women have traditionally been steered away from anything technical or STEM-related if they are not a college graduate of one of the STEM fields.” 

Within science technology, engineering and math industries, Brunow noted there are many opportunities for on-the-job learning and training that pay good wages that women may not be aware of.

“Had I not been provided an opportunity to learn the construction industry in a non-traditional way, I would not be where I am today,” Brunow said.

She added that her presentation will delve further into that non-traditional path into the STEM fields, as well as those skills that Brunow believes are necessary to get more engagement in STEM.

“The most valuable asset any person can possess is a willingness and ability to be able to step out of their comfort zone, open their mind to new learning opportunities and always be teachable,” Brunow noted. “The opportunities that have made my companies what they are today have come from my team’s ability to be open to new methodologies and technologies.

“We have not followed a traditional path with the rest of the pack in construction and development, we seek innovative opportunities and solutions and that’s what sets us apart.”

To the latter local speaker, Eichenberger noted that, while this is her first time being involved with the Summit, she connected with Dostal several years ago.

“We hit off,” she said. “We had a great conversation about aging in place and caregiving.”

As a gerontologist, Eichenberger added, such topics are a passion – alongside educating and empowering women.

“We know that women experience many competing demands and, often, caregiving is among them,” she said. “It is common for women to take on the care of an aging loved one that is living at home.”

She noted that we know people can age in place successfully – but some important factors must be considered.

“I am looking forward to providing the audience with information, tools and resources to support them in their caregiving role and help them make home a safe environment for their loved ones to age in place,” Eichenberg summed up. “I also want to get the audience reflecting on their own aging journey.

“We live in a society that is so youth-focused. But the reality is we are all aging. There is a lot we can do to plan ahead to ensure we live our later years on our terms and live it to the fullest.”

Source of Inspiration and Action

Dostal indicated her team hopes that attendees will feel empowered to create change and build awareness within their spheres of influence.

“As we roll out more granting and stories of impact, attendees will be in the best possible position to help raise awareness and ensure that nonprofits are empowered to be successful,” she said. “And women in our communities trust they will be supported as they strive to achieve their economic, well-being and family goals.”

For speaker Brunow, she hopes attendees will take away valuable insights into what it looks like to be a woman working in the STEM field – and without following the “traditional educational pathway.”

She also indicated that she hopes those who hear her presentation will walk away with an inspiring sense as to the opportunities that these unique pathways have created for Brunow and her children.

For fellow speaker Eichenberger, her aspiration is that the audience will get to thinking about the tools and resources that are available to them as caregivers.

“I also hope they will think ahead about their own aging journeys and things they can start doing today in service of their future selves,” she noted.