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The Broadsheet: August 26th

Good morning, Broadsheet readers. Today is Women’s Equality Day, as it’s been 94 years since voting rights for women became part of the U.S. Constitution. Read on to learn about two American companies that are getting serious about gender equality on staff. Also, we hear from Dear Kate founder Julie Sygiel about the underwear maker’s controversial ad campaign. Here’s to hoping you all have a productive Tuesday!

EVERYONE’S TALKING

Ann Taylor fights activist investor. Engine Capital, which holds around a 1% stake in Ann Taylor’s parent company, is asking the retailer to put itself on the auction block. CEO Kay Krill says she instead wants to focus on cutting costs to combat Ann’s “choppy” results. Krill joins a growing number of women CEOs who are under pressure from activist investors, including PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, DuPont’s Ellen Kullman and Mondelez’s Irene Rosenfeld. WSJ

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

• Gap Inc. is serious about equal pay. CEO Glenn Murphy and co-founder Doris Fisher announced on Thursday that the company has an equal pay ratio for male and female employees at every level of the company, based on an independent report. Nearly 50% of Gap Inc.’s EVP positions and higher are held by women, and earlier this year the retailer increased the minimum wage for all of its retail employees. “Women are vital to our success. We have a proud tradition of women leaders, starting with our co-founder, Doris Fisher,” Dan Henkle, SVP of HR for Gap Inc., told The Broadsheet. 

• L’Oreal USA earns gender equality certification. The largest subsidiary of the L’Oreal Group is the first organization in the United States to earn the EDGE Certification. Created in Switzerland, the certification stands for Economic Dividends for Gender Equality and is held by 60 companies in 29 countries. The stamp of approval was created to be similar to the LEED Certification for energy efficiency. Fast Company

• Obama: We’ve got “more work to do.” The President, noting that today is Women’s Equality Day, said his “administration is committed to tearing down the barriers — wherever they exist — that deny women equal opportunity.” Politico

• EC President-elect: Bring on the women. Jean-Claude Juncker, the soon-to-be European Commission president, already is campaigning to get more women on his team. “A Commission without a significant number of women is, in my view, less legitimate and hardly representative,” says Juncker. So far, there are four women nominated for 28 positions. WSJ

• Julia, Julianna win big at Emmys. Veep actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus took home the prize for Best Actress in a Comedy Series and Julianna Margulies won Best Actress in a Drama Series for her work in The Good Wife. Click over to Time for a full list of last night’s winners.  Time

• Geena Davis takes on gender imbalance in media. There are three male characters for every female character in family-rated films, a ratio that hasn’t budged since 1946. The Thelma and Louise star tells Makers how she is working to shift the balance.  Makers 

• Taxing problem for housewives in Japan. Japan’s tax system incentivizes women to stay at home by favoring families where the husband is the main breadwinner. Making the tax rules more gender neutral has the potential to hurt women who choose to focus on raising a family.  WSJ

BROADVIEW

Dear Kate founder: You can be a serious businesswoman and pose in your underwear 

Dear Kate, an underwear company that specializes in “leak-free lingerie,” made headlines last week for a controversial ad campaign that some say perpetuates sexism in Silicon Valley. Rather than use professional models to showcase the company’s newest product line, Dear Kate featured female tech executives wearing nothing but their underwear. The move was intended to empower women in tech and bring awareness to the many women who are working in the field, company founder Julie Sygiel told me yesterday.

Here’s more of our conversation:

CF: How did you come up with the idea for the campaign?

JS: We started last November featuring women in our campaigns who we admire because of who they are and what they do, not because of what they look like. I like to look at our [campaigns] as a platform to showcase women we admire. We like to show women in our [campaigns] actually doing things, not just standing there and looking sexy. 

CF: Why use female tech founders in this campaign specifically?

JS: When I was young and starting the business, I didn’t know a lot of women who were starting businesses and that was a challenge for me. It’s hard to see yourself succeeding if you don’t see people like you doing that. The thought behind the campaign was to bring attention to the fact that there are women in tech and they are killing it. We wanted to highlight the fact that they are there because, to some degree, the media doesn’t often feature women in tech. 

CF: Why do you think it’s getting so much attention?

JS: We are surprised that it is being perceived as being somewhat controversial. It says something about our society and it’s sad in some ways because posing in your underwear doesn’t say anything about your capability or intelligence. You should be able to wear whatever you want without people making assumptions about what’s going on inside.

CF: What has been your response to critics to say that the campaign perpetuates sexism?

JS: I don’t think our campaign is making anyone more sexist. If they are already sexist, sure, but I don’t think that is a valid critique of what we are doing.

CF: Did you encounter any sexism when you were starting Dear Kate?

JS: When we were pitching and raising funds, I remember pitching to a 10-member all-male, all-white angel investment group. They did not invest (laughs). Definitely I think there have been some challenging and differing comments that people have made. I appreciate that there has been a dialogue around sexism in tech recently. That is what it takes. People need to talk about it because men sometimes can think they are not doing anything wrong.

CF: Since the campaign went live, how have the models reacted to all the attention?

JS: All of our models believed in the concept behind the ad campaign and the concept behind Dear Kate. They weren’t just posing simply to look pretty. There was so much more to it. When the Time story came out, I emailed all of them and we’ve had an ongoing dialogue about it. They are laughing at the ridiculousness of the media picking on something to hate on in terms of women’s bodies. Women are either wearing too much or too litle. We should be able to do whatever we want and it doesn’t mean anything in terms of how capable we are at our jobs.

What was your reaction to Dear Kate’s ad campaign? Email me at caroline.fairchild@fortune.com with your thoughts. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Lena Dunham talks anxiety. In an excerpt from her upcoming memoir Not That Kind of Girl, the Girls creator and star outlines her struggles with mental illness and other health problems.  The New Yorker

• Why women don’t apply. Most women apply for a job only if they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men apply when they meet 60% of them. Books like Lean In and The Confidence Code suggest this discrepancy is rooted in women’s lack of confidence. A new survey cites another excuse: The top reason for both sexes not applying for a job is because they “didn’t want to waste the time and energy.”  HBR

• A nail polish to prevent rape? Students at North Carolina State University created a nail polish that changes colors when exposed to date-rape drugs. All a woman has to do is stick her finger in her drink and stir.  Buzzfeed

ON MY RADAR

Janet Yellen’s revolutionary Fed  Quartz

Career tips from Fidelity president Kathleen Murphy  LinkedIn

Marvel’s sexualized Spider-Woman cover explained  Vox

The poignance of Blue Ivy Carter  The Atlantic

Solange Knowles, entrepreneur  NYTimes

QUOTE

I don't know how in the 21st century we can possibly justify not showing girls things they can aspire to and, at the same time, how can we possibly be showing boys this narrow vision on what women are and what they can be?

Geena Davis on gender imbalance in media.