LeadershipBroadsheetDiversity and InclusionCareersVenture Capital

#FounderForChange, Female COOs, #MeToo Generation Gap: The Broadsheet March 21

March 21, 2018, 12:03 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Startup founders tell VCs to diversify or keep their money, a poll punches a hole in the idea of a #MeToo generation gap, and our colleague Leigh Gallagher examines the rise of the female COO. Have a spectacular Wednesday,


 Are women COOs "a thing?" This morning's essay comes to you courtesy of our Fortune colleague Leigh Gallagher:

A few years ago, I started noticing what appeared—to me, anyway—to be a trend. The role of chief operating officer, it seemed, was increasingly being held by a woman. This was most noticeably true in the tech world, but I also noticed it at Fortune 500 companies, at media companies, and in other industries as well. I started keeping a list. Over time, I kept adding more and more names to it. Then I decided to write about it, in a feature in our latest issue which comes out online today.

One of the reasons I was most interested in this topic was because of what it could signal. The COO role often occupies a place of extreme seniority, above other C-suite roles. It is the person often closest to the CEO, and in many cases—especially in Fortune 500 companies—it’s used as a clear pathway to the top job. Therefore, a rise in the number of women COOs could easily mean the creation of a robust pipeline of female CEO candidates, one thing we know the world could use a whole lot more of. But, since the COO role is also typically an extreme behind-the-scenes position—the CEO sets the vision and strategy, the COO often handles “boring” internal processes and makes everything happen—could it also potentially become a glass ceiling in itself? A “pink ghetto,” as one person suggested to me?

Exploring this topic was hard. A few female COOs declined to talk because they didn’t want to be quoted on the gender issue. Others expressed doubt on the premise. “I don’t know that to be true;” “I haven’t seen the data.” (The data is hard to piece together but shows a trend, especially in the tech sector, where the role has made a high-profile comeback.)

But those who did talk with me had all kinds of thoughts and experiences, almost as varied as the role itself. And, beyond the gender issue, it was fascinating to explore this C-suite function that is complicated, mysterious, never takes the same shape twice. So, is the woman COO a “thing?” And if so, will it lead to more female CEOs? Read the story and decide for yourself. Fortune


 Founders lead the way. More than 400 venture-backed founders and CEOs have banded together to launch Founders for Change, pushing for more diversity in the VC world and in tech in general. All the participants—who include 23andMe's Anne Wojcicki, Away's Steph Korey and Jen Rubio, and Brit + Co's Brit Morin—have signed a pledge saying, "I am dedicated to having a diverse team and board, and when I have a choice of investment partners in the future, the diversity of their firms will be an important consideration." FoundersForChange.org

 Voting their conscience. New York State Common Retirement Fund appears to be done talking about gender diversity in the boardroom and ready to start acting on it. The major state pension fund intends to oppose the re-election of all directors at hundreds of U.S. corporate boards without a single woman. Last year, the fund owned shares in more than 400 U.S. businesses without any female directors last year. WSJ

 Not a lawbreaker, but not a leader. William Voge, chairman of Latham & Watkins, the country’s highest-grossing law firm, is retiring from the firm after engaging in "sexual communications with a woman unaffiliated with Latham."  The executive committee said that Voge “engaged in subsequent conduct relating to this matter that, while not unlawful, was not befitting the leader of the firm.” WSJ

 Punching cancer in the face. Appearing at Fortune's Brainstorm Health conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Theresa Beech told the story of her son Daniel, who died of a common and fatal pediatric bone cancer called osteosarcoma. After his diagnosis—and continuing after his death—Beech, a satellite communications network design engineer for NASA, turned her focus to learning more about her son's disease. Now she’s trying to get a clinical trial for kids going with her organization Because of Daniel. Its slogan: “Punching osteosarcoma in the face.” Fortune


 The millennial myth? Is there a generational divide to the #MeToo movement? Many have argued that there is, typically positing that millennials are more likely to support the movement, while older women find it something of an overreaction. But this Vox/Morning Consult poll of 2,511 women around the U.S. found that a majority of women support #MeToo—and that that finding held true even when they looked at older women specifically. Vox

 A Mississippi first. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi's agriculture commissioner, is expected to be appointed to fill the Senate vacancy that will soon be created when Sen. Thad Cochran (R) retires. Hyde-Smith will be Mississippi’s first female U.S. senator. Time

 A cold commodity. The Broadsheet has often taken note of which professions are particularly equitable—as well as those where women are scarce. Here's a new one to add to the latter camp: commodity trading, where the top leadership at the world’s biggest firms is less than 5% female. Fortune

Share today's Broadsheet with a friend.
Looking for previous Broadsheets? Click here.


The Weinstein Company's bankruptcy could mean the end of ratings-giant Project Runway  Fortune

The Smithsonian moves Michelle Obama portrait due to high volume of visitors   KPRC

Kamala Harris is dreaming big  Vogue

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty tries to keep the modest momentum going  Fortune


I have been wearing scrunchies for years. My best scrunchies come from Zurich. Next best, London, and third best, Rome.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her devotion to scrunchies