David Letterman, Uber, Twitter: Broadsheet May 16
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Uber and Lyft eliminate mandatory arbitration for sexual misconduct complaints, Twitter tries (again) to take on trolls, and women might be the reason why Scandinavians are so happy. Have a great Wednesday.
• Driving to better policies. Uber is ending its use of mandatory arbitration for claims of sexual harassment and assault, meaning riders, drivers, and employees will now be free to sue the company in public court, rather having to go through an impartial private arbitrator. A reminder: mandatory arbitration is a common practice in corporate America in which companies require employees (and sometimes customers) to agree to engage in arbitration if they bring a complaint against the company. Such out-of-court settlements are typically smaller—but that's not their only benefit for businesses. "In many cases, it’s a one-sided maneuver by companies to limit their chances of facing public backlash," notes Fortune's Don Reisinger. "It also limits the survivor’s ability to speak publicly and openly about the harassment or assault he or she has endured."
In a Tuesday blog post called “Turning the lights on,” Uber chief legal officer Tony West discussed the company’s decision, explaining that move is the result of a new corporate mantra: “We do the right thing, period.” Writes West: “We have learned it’s important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims." For now, the changes in Uber's policy apply only to the U.S. and only to claims regarding sexual misbehavior; complaints about pay inequity and racial discrimination are still bound by mandatory arbitration clauses.
West invited Lyft to help create a reporting framework: "Data transparency is only meaningful if we describe and categorize sexual assault incidents in the same way. We’re ready to work with Lyft, advocates and others to make that a reality," he wrote on Twitter. Lyft's COO Jon McNeill also accepted the challenge (also via Twitter): "Count us in. Together we can enact massive positive change and do what's best for passengers & drivers." The Uber competitor has since announced the same changes in policy (which also only apply to sexual misconduct). Fortune
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Twitter takes on trolls. Twitter is experimenting with a new way to curb abusive comments: featuring suspected trolls less prominently on the site. The goal, says Fortune's Jonathan Vanian, is to "proactively remove potentially abusive or unbecoming tweets before people react to them and report them to the company." In early testing, the new approach reduced abusive content by 4-8%. Fortune
• Equality=economic growth. The Nordic countries—which consistently rank as the happiest in the world—have grown considerably richer thanks to decades of policies designed to improve gender equality, according to a new OECD report. The region has added as much as 20% to economic growth per capita over the last 50 years, and additional women-friendly work policies could add up to 30% to economic growth rates by 2040. Bloomberg
• Follow-ons for female founders. We all know by now how hard it is for women to raise venture capital, but Fortune alum Kia Kokalitcheva goes a step further, looking at how many all-female teams raise follow-on funding (spoiler: not many). "Only 39% of all-female founder teams raise follow-on funding for their startups, compared to 52% for all-male teams. Moreover, follow-on rounds for all-female teams comprise just 1.57% of all VC rounds since 2008." Axios
• Rage against retail. Why is it that 13.4% of the EEOC’s sexual harassment claims—the second highest percentage after the accommodation and food services industry—are made by retail workers? "Experts link the high rate of sexual harassment in retail to the particular vulnerability of its workforce, its low wages, and a hazy, complicated, and sometimes ineffective complaint process following an incident." Racked
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Isabelle Ealet, co-head of Goldman Sachs' securities unit, is leaving the bank next month. Prominent biotech investors Dr. Beth Seidenberg is stepping down from her day-to-day role at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. She is raising money to start her own firm to focus on biotech and health investing. Sarah Guo has been promoted to general partner at Greylock, making her both the youngest and only female investor with the title. Sarah McConville has been named SVP and Group Publisher of Harvard Business Review.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Dying to watch Dietland. According to The Atlantic, Dietland is a show about how "a guerrilla group of women kidnaps and murders men who’ve been accused of crimes against women"—as well as "toxic beauty standards, the weight-loss industry, a magazine called Daisy Chain, rape culture, feminist infighting, and the coming of age of a lonely, 300-pound writer named Plum." Sounds fun! Atlantic
• Invented issue? Half a century ago, no one had heard the word cellulite. "Today, we spend untold millions—if not billions—on anti-cellulite treatments, despite the glaring lack of evidence that any of them work." Refinery29 digs into how the new word "and a fashionable new way for American women to hate their bodies" came into existence. Refinery29
• Rhetorically sexist. Lean In co-author Nell Scovell analyzes David Letterman's interview with Tina Fey, pointing out 10 instances of manipulative rhetoric. An example: When acknowledging that Fey has championed many funny women, he describes her actions as “correcting an oversight”—an example of trivialization. The Cut
ON MY RADAR
Kristen Stewart protested Cannes' 'no flats' policy by walking the red carpet barefoot Time
The rage of the incels New Yorker
Air Force employee by day, YouTube star by night New York Times
What Amazon’s board was getting wrong about diversity and hiring Harvard Business Review