Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Google takes action after a global employee walkout, Lucy McBath wins in Georgia, and Tesla’s new board chair is already exceptional. Have a wonderful weekend.
• Pull up a chair. When Elon Musk settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission over his freewheeling tweet about taking Tesla private in late September, one requirement was that he step down as chair of Tesla’s board of directors. There was much speculation between then and now that James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox and Tesla board member, would take over the role.
But Tesla went in a different direction, naming Robyn Denholm, CFO of Australian telecom Telstra, as chair.
Denholm is a relative unknown in the U.S. but has substantial experience as a financial executive in Silicon Valley and her home country of Australia. She’s a “nuts and bolts operations expert with a keen eye for finance,” as my Fortune colleague Aaron Pressman points out, giving her the potential to be “the perfect complement to Elon Musk.” She joined the Tesla board in 2014, becoming the first female board director since the firm started selling public shares in 2010.
But beyond what Denholm’s appointment means for the automaker, the move stands out since it makes the 55-year-old a rare female chair in the corporate world.
Much has rightfully been made about the lack of women on corporate boards. That figure has inched up from 16% in 2008 to 24% this year to date among S&P 500 firms, according to ISS Analytics, the data intelligence arm of Institutional Shareholder Services. Despite that uptick, the share of women who’ve ascended to board leadership positions has barely budged. Women made up 10.9% of lead directors in the S&P 500 in 2008 and 11.4% in 2018. They were 2.5.% of chairs in 2008; they’re 4.6% now.
More women have entered the boardroom, but that hasn’t translated to significantly more women entering boards’ positions of power. Denholm will be an exception to that rule as she assumes a role that gives her oversight of Tesla’s unpredictable billionaire CEO and his impulsive tendencies.
This story has been updated to reflect that Denholm was not Tesla’s first-ever female director.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Walkout shakeout. In response to its massive, global employee walkout, Google will no longer require arbitration of sexual harassment and assault claims, one of the demands made by the strike’s organizers. The tech giant will also provide employees with detailed reports about the number of harassment claims at the company, publish an internal guide on how harassment investigations work, and deduct from an employee’s performance review if they skip sexual harassment trainings. Google did not agree to add an employee representative to its board, another demand of protesters.
• RBG watch. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized after falling in her office at the court and fracturing three ribs. The justice went home after the fall but felt pain overnight and went to the hospital. She fell at the court six years ago and fractured two ribs that time.
• What mandate? The Trump administration issued two rules on Wednesday that will allow employers to opt out of covering birth control for their employees for reasons attributed to both religion and “non-religious moral convictions.” The rules undercut the mandatory coverage of birth control through the Affordable Care Act.
• From ‘mother of the movement’ to Congress. In a belatedly finalized election result, Democrat Lucy McBath won her bid for Congress in Georgia, ousting Republican Rep. Karen Handel. McBath is a gun control advocate and a “mother of the movement;” her son, Jordan Davis, was murdered in an act of racist gun violence in 2012. McBath won in Georgia’s 6th District—the district Jon Ossoff lost in a 2017 special election.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Global brand president of Clinique Jane Lauder joins the board of Eventbrite, bringing representation of women up to 50% on the now 10-person board.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Veterans’ day. Another group of women that did especially well in the midterms: veterans. Before 2012, Congress had had just three female veterans in its history. That number has now doubled for the upcoming session with New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill, Pennsylvania’s Chrissy Houlahan, and Virginia’s Elaine Luria joining Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Sen. Joni Ernst, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
• Doctor’s orders. The medical school in Tokyo that admitted to manipulating test scores to restrict the number of women admitted in favor of more men will now issue acceptances to 67 women unfairly penalized by that policy. Many of those women have already started their medical studies elsewhere, so it’s a bit of an empty gesture, but the school also promised not to manipulate results against women in the future.
• Not just pearls and pantsuits. More women heading to Capitol Hill means the floor of Congress will look a lot different—literally. The new class of congresswomen are wearing clothes that reflect their identities, not the pantsuits and pearls that make up past clichés of political dress for women.
New York Times