Please add your bio info through your member profile page, or through your dashboard.
Her two full time jobs — one as Chief Community Officer at Four Oaks and the other as Iowa State Senator for District 34 — require that she make the most of each jam packed day.
Mathis says her two working worlds can be very different. “When I get in the car to go to the capitol on Monday, I go through a transition. It’s different working with a majority of men in Des Moines versus all women at Four Oaks. And in Des Moines, everyone is leading. I go through the transition again as I drive back to Cedar Rapids to be at Four Oaks on Friday morning. I have to be aware of the different cultures. But I love the challenge in it.”
Mathis, who has had an accomplished career thus far, credits Iowa Women Lead Change for playing a role in getting her to where she is today, inspiring her to run for office and find the balance between politics in the Iowa capitol and her life in the Corridor.
Involved with IWLC from the very beginning, Mathis remembers meeting with a core group of women. “I was a reporter at the time and was invited to be part of a women’s discussion group,” she recalls. Mathis remembers the group, which soon included more and more women, starting to discuss former University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics CEO, Donna Katen Bahensky’s big idea of creating a women’s leadership conference.
“All of us took a part of it,” she recalls. “We were a group of women in different stages of our lives and careers and we pulled all our connections together. Many of us had heard a lot of speeches about life balance and we were always looking for more.”
“The first couple of years it offered a lot of exposure to a lot of people who I only knew from afar,” she adds. “It was incredible because we were able to work side-by-side. It was great networking. It opened up a lot of connections and offered such good guidance.”
Mathis recalls one particular conference when she was asked to help moderate discussion in the “political room” — one of the many sessions women could choose to attend during the conference — which would feature Monica Vernon, Maggie Tinsman and Jean Lloyd-Jones, notable Iowa women on the political scene.
“I remember reading their bios and thinking this sounds pretty cool,” Mathis says. “I had been approached to run for office before and I thought about what had encouraged them to get involved with politics. After I introduced them, I sat and listened to what they had to say. It started to solidify my interests. They satisfied the questions and concerns that were holding me back. It was another stepping stone to then deciding to run for office. That session really bridged the gap between being asked and actually running.”
Mathis said the grassroots approach and culture of Iowa makes an organization such as IWLC even more impactful. “We aren’t afraid to go next door and ask for a cup of sugar. We help each other out. And we are all curious, smart and engaged.”
She also delights in seeing the reactions of national speakers that take part in the now state-wide conferences and events. “We host these speakers from out of state and when they get in the room and see 1,000 plus women who are all energetic they are blown away by that image. They are surprised by how engaged we are and how excited we are to be involved and learn. Our idea so many years ago has definitely become so much more than that idea.”
In recent years, Mathis says her work/life commitments have taken her farther from the inner circle of IWLC. But she still believes strongly in the mission and is happy to pass the torch, so to speak. “I had to let other people who are ready to step up and take charge of it. I feel like I am at the mentor level now.”
“And the relevancy is timeless,” she adds. “Women will always be searching for their place, will always be looking to break through the glass ceiling. All women can agree that it is important for other women’s voices to be heard. It changes the conversation.”
Mathis notes that she is only the 34th woman to serve in the Iowa Senate over the past 100 years. That’s a number she’d like to see increase in the future. “We are making progress. And that is why I think Iowa Women Lead Change will always be important.”