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Celebrating Women in Iowa

March 05, 2021

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating the achievements of Iowa women. In this collection of stories, you’ll find inspiring tales of entrepreneurship, perseverance and innovation.

These inspirational stories feature restaurateurs to tech experts, communications and media professionals to agricultural workers, as well as employees in insurance, nonprofits, manufacturing, healthcare and more. While all these stories are unique, they all have one thing in common – they’re centered around women who make Iowa businesses thrive.

This Is Home

Lydia Hornung - Communications, Strategy, and Tour Services Manager for John Deere Des Moines Works

Lydia standing in front of a wall mural smiling with her two daughters

“John Deere really values an inclusive work environment where people from all over the world can come in and have a successful career — regardless of race or gender. I see a lot of women in leadership, for example, my boss, who is the factory manager, is a female who grew up outside of St. Louis. It’s a great environment, wonderful culture and one where I feel like I can accomplish my career objectives and not have to leave to do it,” said Lydia Hornung, communications, strategy, and tour services manager for John Deere Des Moines Works.

Problem Solving on the Prairie

Erin Rollenhagen - Founder of Entrepreneurial Technologies

“I used to picture computer programmers as being guys in basements typing code on green screens,” said Erin Rollenhagen, founder of Entrepreneurial Technologies in Urbandale, Iowa. “Once I experienced and saw what those in the technology industry, and my home state, really did, it changed my perspective, career path and life.”

Erin is standing in front of a wine bar smiling and holding her newly published book.

Top of Her Craft

Megan McKay - Owner of Peace Tree Brewery

Megan is sitting with a beer in her hand and smiling.

“I’ve been able to put down roots, reinvest in my community and make an impact in the town that has always been near and dear to my heart,” said Megan McKay, owner of Peace Tree Brewery.

Making the Grade

Angela Harrington - Owner of Hotel Grinnell

“I would say that I am tenacious with a capital T,” said Hotel Grinnell owner Angela Harrington. “Once I set my mind to something, there has got to be a way.”

Angela smiling directly into the camera.

Photo via Rural Revival

In Her Nature

Kate Zimmerman - Director of the Ringgold County Conservation Board in Mount Ayr

Kate smiling while holding an owl on her gloved hand.

“The [Dragoon Trace] nature center is going to be a huge part of helping people understand, educate and inspire them to love wildlife and our habitat as much as I do,” said Kate Zimmerman, director of the Ringgold County Conservation Board in Mount Ayr, who is one of the main people responsible for the award-winning nature center. “It’s going to be here for years and years, hopefully inspiring future generations to become champions of the outdoors and help protect our wildlife.”

Something to Look At

Erica Cole - Founder of No Limits

“Throughout this whole experience, it hasn’t been just about being an amputee,” Erica said. “It has been about seeing and overcoming challenges with accessibility and the stigma people with disabilities have. Long term, we want to help people with all sorts of disabilities take back control and feel normal again,” said Erica Cole, founder of No Limbits.

Erica smiling while holding an oversized check next to an older gentleman

Built from Scratch

Natalie Brown - Founder of Scratch Cupcakery

Natalie smiling while holding a box of cupcakes

“My family has always owned businesses or worked in different leadership capacities, so being an entrepreneur is a part of who I am,” said Natalie Brown, founder of Scratch Cupcakery in Cedar Falls, Coralville, West Des Moines and Waterloo.

A Family Affair

Shelly Brown - Owner of the Browns Century Theater and Gift Shoppe in Le Mars

“We do a variety of music, something to offer everybody, from kids to baby boomers. We strive to make everything a wonderful experience,” said Shelly Brown, owner of the Browns Century Theater and Gift Shoppe in Le Mars.

Shelly smiling while holding an award in front of her gift shoppe

Photo via KLEM Radio

Community-Based Soul-Care

Andrea Gorsh - Founder and Owner of Kae Apothecary in Mt. Vernon

Andrea smiling while looking outside a windw in her apothecary

“I truly believe my mission in life is to bring people together. I wanted to create a place that feels safer than others; an environment for all walks of life,” said Andrea Gorsh, founder and owner of Kae Apothecary in Mt. Vernon.

In Iowa, Hope Springs Eternal

Dwana Bradley - Editor-in-Chief of Urban Experience Magazine in Des Moines

“This magazine will make a huge impact on the state of Iowa,” said Dwana Bradley, editor-in-chief of Urban Experience Magazine. “There’s nothing else of the kind. It’s why we do what we do.”

Dwana smiling directly at the camera while standing in front of a brick wall

A Dream and a Camera

Marji Guyler-Alaniz - Founder of FarmHer

Marji Guyler-Alaniz smiling directly into the camera standing outside

“I had always thought I wanted to be a photographer, but never knew how to make that work,” said Marji Guyler-Alaniz, founder of FarmHer, which tells stories of women in agriculture. “I just wanted to capture and show women as part of agriculture because they’re not the people who are going to jump up and down and say, ‘Look what I do,’ they’re just going to do it.”

Always Welcome

Lori Schaefer-Weaton - President of Agri-Industrial Plastics in Fairfield

“We are always thinking of ways to do things better and more efficiently,” said Lori Schaefer-Weaton, president of Agri-Industrial Plastics. “For the sake of our community, our employees and our customers — that is what drives to us to innovate.”

Lori Schaefer-Weaton smiling directly into the camera standing inside a warehouse with boxes stacked behind her

Open for Business

Rona Berinobis - Vice President of Inclusion Organization Development at Wellmark in Des Moines

Rona Berinobis smiling on a grassy hill with a city scape behind her

“I jump at opportunities to roll up my sleeves and work with the community,” Berinobis said. “One of my favorite events to work on each year is the Iowa Asian Alliance’s annual Celebrasian. Our entire volunteer board works hard to make it a huge success.”

Farming for the Future

Dr. Keri Carstens - Global Crop Protection Regulatory Strategy Leader at Corteva Agriscience in Johnston

“As a person who grew up in Iowa and majored in something that was likely to take me away from the state, I thought it was amazing that there was a job opening in both my professional area and in my physical area. Finding a position that helps produce tools farmers need, but also protects the environment was a win-win in my book,” said Dr. Keri Carstens, a global crop protection regulatory strategy leader at Corteva Agriscience.

Dr Keri Carstens smiling while standing on a wooden bridge surrounded by prarie land

Momentum Shift

Alexis Fleener - Community Development Director of Southwest Iowa Planning Council (SWIPCO) and Co-founder of Shift ATL in Atlantic

Alexis smiling directly into the camera while sitting in an armchair with a side table next to her.

“Atlantic is the biggest city in our region, and it felt like we were just kind of maintaining,” said Alexis Fleener, the community development director for SWIPCO, who eventually co-founded Shift ATL. “It was obvious to Jessie, Mackenzie and me that our town wasn’t really going for it, pushing the limits or taking risks. We decided then and there to change that.”

For more stories of inspirational female leaders in Iowa:


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Catch Des Moines

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Made in Iowa

Iowa's best artisan crafts and products.


Uniting Iowa's Tech Community

The Technology Association of Iowa connects tech leaders and provides networking opportunities.

Advancing the Field of Manufacturing

We produce the crops AND the high-tech machines that do the work.

Iowa City: #4 Best Place to Live

Iowa City ranked as the #4 best place to live in the U.S. in 2019.

This is Iowa

Have an inspiring and unexpected Iowa story? Click here to share it!

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