Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The Sheryl Sandberg saga deepens, top companies in the fashion industry are controlled by men, and female CEOs have a higher risk of getting the boot. Have a wonderful weekend.
• You’re fired? One of our jobs here at Fortune is to act as the keepers of the Fortune 500—and for the Broadsheet team, that includes a special focus on the all-too-exclusive club of female Fortune 500 CEOs.
The list of women running Fortune 500 companies currently stands at 26, and it’s a bit of a nail-biting experience to watch as it climbs by a few digits each year—or even falls, as it did when we released the 2018 list in May (it was then 24, down from 32 a year earlier).
So, you can imagine that my interest was piqued by a new research study with the atypically-kicky-for-academia title, “You’re Fired! Gender Disparities in CEO Dismissal.” The question posed by the study’s authors is one I’ve asked myself over the years as we’ve scratched names off our roster of female chiefs: Are women more likely to be ousted from CEO jobs than their male counterparts?
Before they could answer that question, though, the researchers had to solve a problem that those of us who cover this stuff are all too familiar with—very few CEOs admit to being “fired” and very few companies admit to firing them. To determine which executives were dismissed, the researchers relied on press reports that he or she had been fired or forced out, or resigned due to policy differences or pressure. “Further,” write the authors, “exits for CEOs below the age of 60 are classified as dismissal if either the press does not report the reason as death, poor health, acceptance of another position, or the press notes that the CEO is retiring, but does not announce the retirement at least six months in advance.”
With all that established, the researchers finally reached a conclusion: Yes, female CEOs are more likely to get the boot. In fact, they’re 45% more likely to be dismissed than their male counterparts. Interestingly, though, there’s not much of a difference (“statistically insignificant”) when the company is doing poorly. The gap only kicks in when you look at companies that are performing well.
So, what’s going on? The researchers can’t say for certain, but their hypothesis resonates. They suggest that when a company is performing badly, the decision to fire the CEO is often clear cut. But when it’s doing well, there is “considerable ambiguity about the CEO’s leadership of the firm and no clear script for the board to follow.” In that situation, board members are more likely to fall back on the gender stereotypes and decide that the female CEO doesn’t have the “leadership qualities” needed to continue the company’s winning run.
Okay, I admit—this isn’t the cheeriest news to launch you into your weekend. But it is vitally important to understand these types of dynamics. After all, how many “ambiguous” decisions do our bosses make about us throughout the course of our careers? Research like this sets us up to anticipate and perhaps influence those moments and—most importantly, brings them to the attention of those whose bias has the power to wreck companies and careers.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Sandberg saga. More news on the Sheryl Sandberg front: The New York Times reports that the Facebook COO emailed her staff to check if George Soros was shorting the company’s stock following his very public criticism of the social media giant. The revelation undercuts Sandberg’s efforts to distance herself from Facebook’s response to the liberal billionaire philanthropist. Facebook told NYT it was already researching Soros’s investments when Sandberg made her request.
New York Times
• New new deal. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Congresswoman-elect, rode into office with a plan to fight climate change: the Green New Deal. Now it’s gaining steam, with 15 Democrats signing on. Many of those are Ocasio-Cortez’s fellow progressive members-elect, but New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree are also among those voicing support.
• Letters from Georgette. Georgette Mosbacher, the U.S. ambassador to Poland, wrote a letter that has led to a bit of a diplomatic dispute. The ambassador criticized government officials for their treatment of journalists at a U.S.-owned TV station, but also misspelled the prime minister’s name. It’s not going over well with Polish politicians.
• Fashion forward? Of the top 20 fashion companies by 2017 profit, only one is led by a woman. Barbara Rentler’s Ross Stores made the list compiled by The Business of Fashion and McKinsey and Co. in their annual report on the industry. Her business—which made her No. 27 on Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women ranking this year—is at No. 8 on the list. She’s surrounded by Zara parent company Inditex, Nike, LVMH, and more.
Business of Fashion
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Lyft hires McKesson exec Megan Callahan to run its healthcare business transporting patients to medical appointments. Pui-Wing Tam was promoted to deputy business editor at the New York Times. Stock-trading app and cryptocurrency exchange Robinhood hires CapitalG partner Gretchen Howard as VP of operations. Gas delivery startup Booster hired SurveyMonkey’s Bennett Porter as CMO. Katharyn M. White is now SVP and CMO at T-Systems International.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Deal of a lifetime. Alexander Acosta is now Secretary of Labor, but before he joined the Trump administration he was a federal prosecutor. The Miami Herald investigates how he helped multimillionaire serial abuser of girls Jeffrey Epstein—who drew girls into a cult-like network and coerced them into performing sex acts—score a plea deal that kept his crimes private and shut down an FBI investigation.
• Cover girls. Entertainment Weekly named its entertainers of the year, and along with Cardi B, the winners are the women of Crazy Rich Asians and the women of Black Panther. (That’s Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Constance Wu, and Michelle Yeoh; and Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, and Letitia Wright.) Take a look at the amazing magazine covers:
• Storytelling savior. Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective already owns a majority of The Atlantic; now the organization bought Pop-Up Magazine Productions, publisher of California Sunday Magazine and facilitator of live events. It’s part of Powell Jobs’ mission to, as Kara Swisher puts it, “save storytelling.”
New York Times
• Press pause. In an op-ed, former Hyatt, NBCUniversal, and Gannett CMO Maryam Banikarim wonders: “What am I if not employed?” Banikarim describes taking time off at 50 after decades of climbing up and powering through.
New York Times
ON MY RADAR
This season’s guilty pleasure: Binge-watching Hallmark Christmas movies
Wall Street Journal
Ida O’Keeffe escapes her sister Georgia’s shadow
This fledgling modeling agency is the world’s first for dark-skinned women
Onscreen, women are giving patriarchy the pink slip
New York Times