Skip to Content

The Broadsheet: July 24th

Good morning, Broadsheet readers. I see two themes coming out of the news today: Big names in tech are starting to address the shortage of women working in their industry, and women-owned businesses are having a hard time attracting funding. Read on to see what I learned about a potential legal case about work-life balance.

EVERYONE’S TALKING

Mylan CEO’s father: What my daughter did should be illegal. Heather Bresch, CEO of drugmaker Mylan, is learning that it’s tricky having a father in the Senate while being a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Her company recently announced that it would acquire non-U.S. assets of Abbott, a move that would move its tax base to the Netherlands. When Bresch’s father, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was asked about his daughter’s deal, he responded “[Tax] inversions are wrong for our country. They’re illegal and we’re going to go back and repeal every one.”  National Journal

 • Mary Barra has another difficult day aheadGeneral Motors reported this morning that net profits dropped 80% in the second quarter. The Detroit automaker is getting hammered by costs related to vehicle recalls and for the first time, the company announced it will be putting aside at least $400 million for those injured or killed by a defective ignition switch. Just yesterday, the company announced  yet another round of recalls covering 717,950 vehicles. We’ll be anxious to see what Barra has to say about the latest setback on what will likely be a dismal earnings call.  Fortune 

IN THE HEADLINES

Did Carol Meyrowitz make TJX the best retailer in the land? In Fortune’s latest issue, which hits our website today, writer Beth Kowitt spent four months talking to 50 former TJX employees and other retail insiders to figure out how TJX’s sales have risen 50% in six years and how its profits have almost tripled to $2.1 billion. Kowitt had to look elsewhere for information because CEO Carol Meyrowitz, who rarely gives interviews, didn’t make an exception for Fortune. Our hunch is that the retailer is eager to keep quiet about its strategy due to stiff competition trying to replicate its growth.  Fortune 

Can Jack Dorsey close tech’s gender gap? The Twitter and Square founder sat down with Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram to talk about his latest efforts to bring more women into his company. At Square, he has hired several women to fill key roles, including CFO and head of engineering. “It’s our responsibility not only to encourage a change and to balance it more, but also to bring a diverse perspective throughout everything we do because we always get better from it,” he says.  Fortune 

Speaking of tech’s gender problem… Dorsey’s other company, Twitter, is still mostly white and mostly male. The social media giant followed the lead of Google and Facebook in releasing its employee diversity data. Men account for 70% of Twitter’s employees and 90% of its tech staff. Nearly 60% of the company’s employees are white, and only 12% identify as something other than white or Asian.   Fortune

BROADVIEW

Is there a legal case for work-life balance? 

A slew of gender discrimination lawsuits coming out of big banks point to something we all already know: women in finance don’t have it easy.

A male-dominated industry notorious for its long hours and inflexible work schedules, finance rarely leaves room for  “work-life balance.” Almost every major U.S. bank has been sued on grounds of gender discrimination. Despite the common understanding of the problem, the cases typically settle out of court, and company cultures rarely becomes more hospitable to women.

Yet, as more working mothers enter the workforce demanding career structures that allow them to raise their family while advancing up the corporate ladder, the tides may be forced to change. Legally.

Under U.S. employment law, any workplace rule that isn’t a “business necessity” cannot disproportionately affect one group more than another.  It is reasonable to assume that women, as the primary childcare givers in most U.S. households, take on a majority of the tasks associated with running the home. As a result, any industry that prevents employees from adopting popular work-life-balance solutions — like working part-time or working from home — could be interpreted as illegal under U.S. employment law, says Marcia McCormick, the co-director of the Wefel Center for Employment Law at Saint Louis University School of Law .

“The structure of an industry, in terms of its family friendliness, might be evidenced as an intent to treat women differently,” says McCormick, referring to the “disparate impact” claim cited in most gender discrimination lawsuits. “If an employer knows that it is going to be harder for women in general to comply with a particular work rule and it adopts that work rule anyway, that’s discrimination on the basis of sex.”

Click over to Fortune.com to continue reading my story. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

• Female small business owners can’t get loans from the government… For every $23 in loans and government contracts that male-owned small businesses earn, women-owned companies earn $1, according to a Congressional report released Wednesday. The report called on Congress to step up efforts to help women-owned businesses and make changes to the Small Business Association’s microloan program. CBS News

• …and they can’t get money from private sources either. The same report disclosed that women receive just 7% of venture capital funding. In an attempt to address the problem, venture capitalist Boris Wertz recently made the case for investing in women-owned startups. “Gender diversity, as with diversity of any kind, results in a fuller range of ideas, perspectives, and approaches to problems,” he says.   Business Insider 

WHAT I’M READING

The new trend? Reducing stress in the workplace—by order of management  Fortune 

What will change after MH17?  Fortune 

What the Hobby Lobby ruling means for America  NYTimes 

Biotech has a gender diversity problem too  San Fran Business Times

Women in tech need to interrupt men to get ahead  Slate 

Quote

What I have learned from my mother, and the women I have met around the world is that women mean business. When empowered, women recognize opportunities for success and have the drive to see those ideas through.

Lifeway Foods CEO Julie Smolyansky, who became the youngest female CEO of a publicly-held firm when she took over her late father’s business in 2002 at the age of 27, says women are the greatest untapped resource in business.