Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Uber’s getting sued for the umpteenth time, Saudi Arabia deserves another slow clap, and we examine the “black ceiling.” Enjoy your Wednesday.
The story starts with a sad statistic: After Ursula Burns stepped down as Xerox CEO last year, the number of African American women running Fortune 500 companies went down to zero. The pipeline looks similarly grim. This year’s ranking of Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women—businesswomen with the kind of influence that operational roles provide—has only one, Ann-Marie Campbell, Home Depot’s EVP for U.S. Stores.
A unique, complex mix of socio-economic factors is in play here. But here’s something to think about: In the Venn diagram of white male-dominant corporate power, black women are excluded from any natural affinity that might help them bridge a familiarity gap. At least black men are men; at least white women are white. This “double outsider” status, according to research from Catalyst, holds black women back in some painful ways, shuts them out from informal networks that can help them get ahead, and leaves them exhausted by the microaggressions that weigh them down.
A Twitter conversation earlier this year amplified the difficulties black women often face in the workplace. Educator and activist Brittany Packnett, 32, revived the hashtag, #BlackWomenAtWork, and it was quickly filled with stories from women around the country. There were numerous anecdotes about being mistaken for the cleaning crew, dismissed credentials, commentary about natural hair. “I wasn’t surprised by the response, but I was reminded why black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs,” Packnett tells Fortune. “We’re just tired of playing other people’s games.”
Be that as it may, corporate America still has an important role to play in removing the barriers that black women face. “One of the things that I think is remarkable about black women is that even with all of the headwinds that we face in terms of advancing ourselves, there is this incredible appetite for learning and preparing ourselves for leadership,” says Susan Reid, Morgan Stanley’s global head of diversity and inclusion. “So many of us grew up in families where we saw women who exhibited real leadership at an early age—like in mine, where my mother was the head of the household.” The gap between that appetite and the opportunities presented cause real frustration and pain,” says Reid. “That gap is what we’re trying to solve for.”
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Super slow clap for Saudi. Today in how-is-this-a-2017-headline news, Saudi Arabia has announced that will now allow women to drive—eventually. The new rule will go into effect next June. Why the delay? The Muslim country currently has no infrastructure for teaching women to drive or to obtain licenses. Moreover, (male) police officers will need to be trained on how to interact with female drivers in a conservative society where people of opposite genders rarely interact in public.
New York Times
• Another day, another Uber suit. Uber’s troubles in the U.K. are far from over. While appealing London’s decision to revoke its operations license, the ride-sharing company is facing a suit from a female driver who claims the company puts women at a disadvantage due to insufficient security. Uber disputes that allegation. “One of the main reasons why women choose to drive with Uber is because of the safety features in the app. All trips are GPS tracked and a driver is able to share a live map of their trip with a friend or loved one,” a spokesperson told Bloomberg in an email.
• Women take the lead. Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell is stepping down next year, to be replaced by chief merchant and chief customer officer Michelle Gass. The retailer also announced that its operations chief Sona Chawla, a former Walgreens executive, would become president—meaning that the two top executives at one of the country’s largest retailers will soon be women.
• Can Ivanka keep a secret? In the months since Ivanka Trump took on her role as adviser to the president, public information about the Chinese companies making clothing for her eponymous brand has become harder to find. “Information that once routinely appeared in private trade tracking data has vanished, leaving the identities of companies involved in 90 percent of shipments unknown,” the AP reports.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Global investment and merchant banking firm LionTree has announced that former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns is joining its Executive-In-Residence program. Vanessa Kingori has been confirmed as the new publishing director of British Vogue. Lauren Williams will be Vox’s new editor-in-chief and Allison Rockey will be the media site’s new executive editor and director of editorial strategy.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Stats don’t tell the whole story. We’ve previously reported that the gap in labor force participation between men and women is narrowing. One contributor, according to a new white paper by economist Scott Winship, is the rising number of men in their prime working years—between the ages of 25 to 54—who are getting federal disability benefits. While some men are inactive in the labor force because they are students, homemakers, caregivers and retirees, Winship hypothesizes that disability programs and other safety nets may have made it possible for men who are used to a lower standard of living to maintain that standard without working.
Wall Street Journal
• Who works for working moms? Working Mother has released its annual list of the 100 best companies for moms. As in previous years, the top ten is dominated by the major professional services firms: Deloitte, McKinsey, EY, IBM, and PwC all made the cut.
• Giving Givenchy new life. Clare Waight Keller’s first women’s and men’s collections for Givenchy will be unveiled Sunday. As the fashion house’s first female artistic director, she has faced her fair share of gender bias. (When she left Chloé in January, the fashion world assumed she would return to England to spend time with her family; she is now doing more collections than any other designer.) NYT‘s Vanessa Friedman writes: “Her low-key manner has always masked an ambition that is only now really becoming clear.”
New York Times