Good morning, Broadsheet readers! We meet the scientist behind the first image of a black hole, Kim Kardashian West is planning to become a criminal justice lawyer, and the ranks of female Fortune 500 CEOs grow. Have a tremendous Thursday.
• The club of 29. Some good news this morning: the tally of female Fortune 500 CEOs is, once again, headed in the right direction.
The latest chief to join the ranks is Lori Ryerkerk, who has been named CEO of Celanese, a technology and specialty materials company. She was previously EVP of global manufacturing of Royal Dutch Shell. That she was hired from outside of Celanese to run the company is particularly interesting—that puts her in the minority when it comes to female Fortune 500 CEOs. Of the current group, only four landed the top job as an external hire.
But the big trend to watch here is the top line: As of May 1, when Ryerkerk’s appointment takes effect, there will be 29 women leading Fortune 500 companies (barring any breaking news between now and then, of course). That’s still three CEOs short of the record 32 we hit in 2017, but it exceeds every previous year we’ve published the Fortune 500, and certainly beats the 2018 count, when the list included just 24 female chiefs. So, while 5.8% is certainly nothing to stand up and cheer about, seeing the ranks of these elite CEOs growing again certainly is.
Now a short programming note: I’m looking forward to seeing some of you tonight at our Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner in NYC. If you’re there, please come say hi—and if not, we’ll bring you some highlights (including details from our own Pattie Sellers’ interview with new CBS News president Susan Zirinsky) first thing tomorrow morning.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Holy moly. The first-ever image of a black hole was the work, in part, of 29-year-old Katie Bouman, who led the development of the computer program that made the breakthrough possible. She started on the algorithm three years ago as a grad student at MIT. “Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed,” she wrote in a Facebook photo caption. After the image was released yesterday, Bouman’s name was trending on Twitter as she drew praise from the likes of AOC, who said the scientist should claim her “rightful seat in history.”
• Don’t bank on it… When the chief executives of seven major banks testified before the House Financial Services Committee yesterday, they faced some pressure about their uniform appearance—and that all of their successors are likely to be more of the same. “All white men and none appears to believe that your successor will be a female or a person of color,” Rep. Al Green noted.
• AM to AKK. Do you know the name Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer yet? Angela Merkel’s likely successor as chancellor and current successor as leader of the Christian Democratic Union party, AKK is more socially conservative than Merkel and has sought to distinguish herself from her predecessor.
• Women’s rights, wearing white. You may have seen a viral photo of a woman wearing white and standing on the hood of a car, surrounded by other women craning their necks to look at her. The photo, taken by Lana Haroun, is from a women’s rights protest in Sudan. The woman in the remarkable image has been identified as Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old engineering student—and her choice of clothing sends a message that dovetails with her leadership at the protest.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: A. Lynne Puckett joins Celanese as SVP and general counsel. Kelly Conniff was promoted to executive editor of Time magazine. Lisa Dallmer joins Delphix as SVP of business operations.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Employer intrusion. This investigation shows exactly how employers have been able to pay for access to data about their employees’ family planning and medical information through pregnancy-tracking apps like Ovia Health. The data is at an aggregate level—but that doesn’t mean some companies can’t figure out who it belongs to, or that employees realize what they’re sharing with their employers.
• KKW, Esq. In the story accompanying her Vogue cover, Kim Kardashian West revealed that she’s taking steps to become a criminal justice lawyer. Inspired by her experience advocating for the clemency of Alice Marie Johnson, Kardashian West has lined up a four-year apprenticeship at a law firm (not law school) and is aiming to pass the bar exam in 2022.
• Who needs HGTV? It finally happened: Joanna Gaines joined the likes of Oprah Winfrey and got her own TV network. Rumors had swirled for a while, but Gaines’ new network (with husband Chip of their Fixer Upper fame) will be through a partnership with Discovery and include a streaming platform, too.
• Option B for Facebook. Facebook introduced new features this week to allow people to better handle the accounts of loved ones who’ve died. COO Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote a book about grief after the death of her husband, announced the new features, which include the ability to choose a legacy contact for your account and a new tributes feature.