The Broadsheet: July 20th

July 20, 2015, 11:56 AM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Taiwan is poised to elect its first female president, women appear to be mythical creatures at “unicorn” companies, and Wall Street rewards new Google CFO Ruth Porat. Plus, I talk to the mother of one of those “distressed babies” called out by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. Have a productive Monday.


Ruth gets raves. The reviews of Ruth Porat's first earnings call as Google CFO are in, and they are glowing. One analyst gives her "a solid 9 or 9.5” out of 10. Google stock surged after the earnings call, and the company's market cap rose above $400 billion for the first time. WSJ


Myth of the female unicorn? In its latest look at venture-backed tech companies valued at a billion dollars or more—often called “unicorns”—TechCrunch uncovers some depressing stats: Just two of the 84 companies have female CEOs (Houzz and Gilt Groupe) and 10% have a female co-founder. The post, written by Aileen Lee, founder of VC firm Cowboy Ventures, also notes that about 30% of the unicorns have no women in leadership roles.  TechCrunch

 History in the making. Taiwan is poised to elect its first female leader after the two largest political parties nominated female candidates for next January’s presidential election The Guardian

 A taxing announcement. Yahoo, led by CEO Marissa Mayer, warned investors that its planned spin-off of Alibaba stock may end up incurring a larger tax bill than previously expected. WSJ

Her day in court. Lawyer Jacqueline Moudeina has faced nonstop threats and obstacles since she set out to bring justice to Chad's former president, Hissène Habré, who terrorized the country in the 1980s. Now her work has paid off: Habré goes on trial for murder and torture today. New York Times

 A gregarious governor. Kate Brown became governor of Oregon five months ago, when John Kitzhaber resigned in the midst of an ethics scandal. Since then, the country's first openly bisexual governor has distinguished herself as an engaged, open "people-person." New York Times

A courageous correspondent. This fascinating tribute to Marlene Sanders, the pioneering television reporter who passed away last week, includes reminiscences from Christiane Amanpour, Lesley Stahl and other TV news icons. New York Times

 Your work matters. The female co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter talk about nearly getting cut out of the social justice movement they created. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Former Lucky editor Eva Chen is now head of fashion partnerships at Instagram.


This mother, who was shamed by a CEO, says women and children are "easy targets"

Last February, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said that the cost of caring for two "distressed babies" required the company to cut back on its retirement benefits?

Writer Deanna Fei is the mother of one of those babies, Mila, who was born weighing just 1 pound, 9 ounces. Unsurprisingly, Armstrong's comments sparked a media frenzy. Fei, whose husband Peter Goodman worked at AOL-owned Huffington Post at the time, decided to speak out. She outed herself in a Slate story and ultimately received an apology from Armstrong. Now she has published a book, Girl in Glass, describing her ordeal and why she believes it has implications that go far beyond her own family (to read an excerpt, click here).

Fei talked to Fortune about fact-checking Armstrong's "million dollar" baby math, why pregnancy can become a source of shame, and how Arianna Huffington—then her husband's boss—responded to Fei's decision to go public.

Fortune: Considering that you'd already published a story about your ordeal, what was it that prompted you to write the book?

Deanna Fei: After I came forward and Tim Armstrong apologized, no one more than me would’ve liked to say that that resolved the issue, end of story. But I couldn’t tell myself that because I was receiving an outpouring of messages from strangers all over the country saying, "I've also been shamed and blamed in my workplace for suffering a medical crisis." Many of those people were other women and other parents. It seemed to me like there was a pattern—that women and children were easy targets for this kind of blame.

What’s remarkable about my family's situation wasn't the fact that our most sensitive health information was exposed, it was that it happened on stage at a town hall meeting. Our employers have access to the most sensitive medical information about us and our families and some of them do target individual employees for their medical expenditures. What [people] told me again and again is that, "I never was able to speak up and I'm so glad you did. I hope you'll continue to think about us and to speak for us." They opened my eyes to a frightening and complex set of issues.

In the book, you identify a long list of things—from invasion of privacy to false logic—that upset you about Armstrong's "distressed baby" comments. What bothered you the most?

I do want to say that as much blowback as Tim Armstrong got for his comments, I think he also got a pass in many quarters because he cited these numbers. We’re such a data obsessed society. By listing these statistics, he can take on this sheen of the truth-telling corporate leader, wielding these spreadsheets in the interest of fiscal responsibility. I dug into these numbers and they don't add up. So what's most disturbing to me is that when he labeled my daughter with this price tag, it wasn’t only that it was cruel, it was completely dishonest. And while a lot of people said, "It was a gaffe, he shouldn't have said it," there was also a tendency to accept the underlying notion behind his comments—that there are limited resources and that my daughter consumed an outsized share. There's a lot wrong with that.

AOL had just posted its best earnings in years. There was no reason to cut benefits. We’ve come to a place in society where we just accept that this is how it goes for workers, but that CEO bonuses are completely untouchable. It's not about me versus Tim Armstrong. What I find frightening about this is that he's representative of a lot of CEOs and the kind of accounting that they do.

To read the rest of my story, click here.


A religious objection. A pair of nuns are objecting to pop star Katy Perry's proposed purchase of their order’s Los Angeles convent.  New York Times

Wakeup call. A new survey finds that less than half of women of color say they're satisfied with their chances to advance at their current job. For employers, the lesson is clear: Act now or prepare to lose talented employees. Fortune

 Dealing with divorce. Elise Pettus hosts Untied, a sort of boot camp/workshop for divorced women, in her Brooklyn home. The group is just one of a growing number of grass-roots support services and groups that are springing up to help women sort through the aftermath of divorce. New York Times

 Bad play. A British tabloid has published 82 year-old footage of seven-year-old Queen Elizabeth II giving a Nazi salute as a child. Time

 Off-demand. Homejoy, the on-demand cleaning company led by CEO Adora Cheung, is shutting down in the face of a class-action suit claiming that the company classified its home-cleaners as independent workers rather than full employees. Time

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Amid devastation Tig Notaro searched for a sense of humor  NPR

Arab women: Highly educated, underemployed  OZY

Go Set a Watchman: What about Scout?  The Atlantic

Ava DuVernay's advice on Hollywood  Hollywood Reporter


Playing it safe is actually much more dangerous than taking a chance. As women, we owe it to ourselves, and to those who follow us, to push boundaries farther than we think they can go

Pam Wickham, VP of corporate affairs and communications at Raytheon