Good morning, Broadsheet readers! We learn why Barnes & Noble’s former CEO was actually fired, women in their mid-20s are freezing their eggs, and California considers a controversial approach to upping gender diversity. Make the most of your Thursday!
• California gets on board. There’s a growing trend of financial institutions—State Street, BlackRock, Vanguard—putting pressure on corporations to diversify their boards. Earlier this year, for instance, BlackRock stated publicly for the first time that the companies it invests in should have at least two female directors.
California, meanwhile, is exploring another tactic.
If passed, the legislation would mandate that every public board in the state have at least one woman by 2019. By 2021, the quota would tick up to two women for five-member boards and three women for boards of six or more.
The state assembly okayed the measure on Wednesday; it’s now headed back to the state senate, which approved an earlier version of the bill.
California’s blunt force approach to board diversity would be a first for a U.S. state, but it has, of course, been employed elsewhere, with nations like France, Germany, and Italy passing gender quotas for corporate boards years ago. The laws have catapulted those nations well past the U.S. in terms of women’s representation in the boardroom. But having more women on boards hasn’t translated to more women among top management, as some advocates had hoped.
Norway, for instance, was the first country in Europe to set a 40% target for women on boards, but more than a decade on, just 15 of the country’s 200 biggest companies have a female CEO, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year.
California state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Democrat who authored the bill, cited the share of California-based companies—25%—that still have no female directors as she advocated for the legislation on Twitter.
“With #SB826, CA could become the first state in the nation to require women on the corporate boards of publicly held corporations,” she said. “It’s time to lead the way in gender diversity!”
There’s evidence that, amid investor pressure in the U.S., the needle is inching in the right direction: Ten years ago, 69 companies in the Fortune 500 had no female directors. Five years ago, it was 42, and, as I previously reported, it was a dozen in May. But for some California lawmakers, it seems, that phenomenon is just not moving fast enough.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• The whole story. Barnes & Noble CEO Demos Parneros was fired last month without much explanation. But when Parneros sued his former company Tuesday for defamation and breach of contract, the proceedings revealed that he had been fired in part because of an allegation of sexual harassment from his executive assistant. Parneros allegedly referred to a hotel he had a visited as a place where “you would put out” and had his assistant stand with her back touching his to see who was taller. Parneros was a new—and short-lived—chief executive for the company, only taking on the role in 2017, and he also clashed with the bookseller’s chairman. New York Times
• Freezing ’em young. The New York Times has a new feature on egg-freezing and its growing popularity with younger millennials. Once the domain of women in their mid-to-late 30s, egg-freezing is getting more common among women in their mid-20s. (Anyone remember Later Baby, the fertility startup for college students on The Mindy Project? Ahead of its time.) “Fertility declines at 22,” one 26-year-old freezing her eggs told the Times. New York Times
• False advertising. Meanwhile, a contraception app is facing a crackdown. The U.K. banned an ad from Natural Cycles, a fertility tracking app that claims to help users “get to know your body and prevent pregnancies naturally” because the ad exaggerated the app’s ability to prevent pregnancy. BBC
• Tennis shaming season. French tennis player Alizé Cornet reversed her backwards shirt on a U.S. Open court on Tuesday, temporarily revealing her black sports bra, and was hit with a code violation that’s being criticized as promulgating a double-standard. Male players, of course, are shirtless all the time—including Novak Djokovic in a match the same day. This incident came after outrage over the French Open’s catsuit ban targeting Serena Williams. The tournament said it “regretted the code violation” on Wednesday. Bloomberg
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Abby Huntsman is the newest co-host on The View. ESPN’s Marie Donoghue is joining Amazon as vice president of sports video. Jennifer Dorning is the new president of the department for professional employees for the AFL-CIO.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• The Internet of Garbage. Before she was harassed by mobs of online trolls over old, satirical “anti-white” tweets following her hiring to the New York Times editorial board, Sarah Jeong wrote the book—literally—on online harassment. The Verge, her former employer, is now reissuing an interim edition of that book with the title, The Internet of Garbage 1.5. It will be available as a PDF and on Kindle, and an excerpt is already online. The Verge
• Gaming for authenticity. Motherboard has a fascinating story about the virtual world game Second Life. Players started requesting more realistic features for their avatars like wrinkles, cellulite, stretch marks, and visible blue veins, paying money within the game to add those traits. In virtual reality, it seems, perfect isn’t always the ideal. Motherboard
• Celebrity appeal. Cate Blanchett appeared before the UN Security Council on Tuesday to tell the council what she saw when she visited camps in Bangladesh for Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled genocide in Myanmar. “Their experiences will never leave me,” Blanchett told the group. Blanchett is a goodwill ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency. Associated Press
ON MY RADAR
Meghan Markle’s Givenchy wedding dress to go on display Business of Fashion
Life in the stork club: A cultural history of men in the delivery room MEL Magazine
The many roles of women in war: sniper, pilot, death camp guard New York Times