Spotted Pig, Y Combinator Sexual Harassment, Donna Strickland: Broadsheet October 17
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! One in five female founders who’ve gone through Y Combinator has faced sexual harassment, the latest CEO of USA Gymnastics lasted five days, and Fortune sits down with a Nobel laureate. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
• Eye on the Prize. This week Fortune hosted its Global Forum in Toronto. (Another event in Canada—Fortune’s MPW International Montreal—is slated for next month.) One of the big, on-stage interviews at the Forum was especially timely: Fortune editor-in-chief Clifton Leaf’s sit-down with Donna Strickland, a winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in physics.
Earlier this month, the Nobel committee honored Strickland, as well as American physicist Arthur Ashkin and France’s Gérard Mourou, for their work on high-intensity laser pulses that “smack the electrons right off the atoms.” The win made Strickland, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, only the third woman in 117 years to claim a Nobel Prize for physics and the first in more than a half century.
Strickland’s win put a spotlight on the dearth of women among science’s most-lauded, to be sure. But her case also highlights how women’s professional achievements get overlooked in decidedly more mundane ways. Exhibit A: until she won the Nobel, Strickland didn’t have a Wikipedia page.
Dawn Bazely, a Wikipedia editor and biology professor at York University in Toronto, pointed out the oversight in a piece for The Washington Post.
“The long delay was not for lack of trying. Last May, an editor had rejected a submitted entry on Strickland, saying the subject did not meet Wikipedia’s notability requirement,” Bazely writes. The online encyclopedia’s internal politics and editing standards are an animal unto themselves—and Bazely digs into them, concluding that on Wikipedia “[w]hen a subject is not notable, notoriety can suffice—at least for men.”
Bazely argues that a Wikipedia page does more than stroke the ego of its subject; it is a hugely influential educational tool. The site's recognition of more female scientists could help prove to younger women that this field is for them too.
That message needs relaying. Just look at Strickland's own university, where there are seven female professors in a physics and astronomy department of 42. She was its first full-time female physics professor. Since joining, she’s made an effort to recruit more women. “It’s now almost every year, we’re bringing on another female [professor].” But that’s not enough, in her view: “We still only have less than 30% women, even as undergraduates.”
For Strickland, the issue goes beyond stats. Her daughter Hannah is a graduate student in astrophysics at the University of Toronto, and their dynamic recalls another mother-daughter duo: Marie and Irène Curie, who each won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
“People have said to Hannah, ‘Well now you have a role model,'” Strickland told the Forum audience, with a laugh. “And I’m like, ‘Well let’s put some pressure on the girl.'”
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Canadian nice. Also at the Fortune Global Forum, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland reiterated Canada's commitment to speaking out on human rights in the wake of the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Canada criticized Saudi Arabia earlier this year for jailing women's rights activists, sparking a bilateral tussle.) Freeland said Canada will take such stands in a very Canadian way: politely, from a position of humility, and recognizing that the nation is far from perfect itself. “We will continue to do that, and we make no apology for doing that,” she said. Fortune
• Unacceptable odds. For every five female founders who pass through Y Combinator, one has been sexually harassed by an investor, according to a survey by the Silicon Valley-based accelerator. Nineteen of 88 female founders surveyed said angel investors or venture capitalists had behaved inappropriately. Fortune
• Bye, Bono. Over the weekend, the new interim CEO of USA Gymnastics Mary Bono faced criticism—including from Nike athlete Simone Biles—for her anti-Nike tweets regarding the company's Colin Kaepernick campaign. Then earlier this week, Biles's teammate Aly Raisman blasted Bono, a former Republican congresswoman, for her ties to a law firm that Raisman says helped "cover up" abuse by gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. The snowballing controversy came to a head yesterday, when Bono resigned—on just her fifth day on the job. Fortune
• Sticks and stones? While celebrating the court ruling that tossed Stormy Daniels's defamation suit against him, President Donald Trump yesterday mocked the actress by calling her "Horseface." Whatever you may believe about Daniels and her claims, I hope we can all agree that the president of the United States should not be using that term to describe a woman (or really anyone, of any gender). NPR
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Sacha Romanovitch will soon step down as chief executive of Grant Thornton, leaving the U.K.'s top accounting firms without any women at the helm. NPR has named Nancy Barnes SVP of news and editorial director. Barnes is currently executive editor for Hearst Texas Newspapers and executive editor of the Houston Chronicle.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Spotted Pig's other half. Chef April Bloomfield—of the Spotted Pig, the Breslin, and other celebrated eateries—has finally spoken out about the horrific sexual harassment accusations against her former business partner, restaurateur Ken Friedman, as well as the claims that she was complicit in his abuse. "I felt like I was in a position where he held all the cards. He had so much control, and he was so dominant and powerful, that I didn’t feel like if I stepped away that I would survive," she said. New York Times
• Groomed for success. Inexpensive subscription grooming startups like Dollar Shave Club started with men but are slowly getting into the women's market. The five-year-old startup Harry's is now launching Flamingo, a brand led by Allie Melnick and Brittania Boey, which will offer shaving and grooming products specifically designed for women. Fortune
• Tired out. Millennial women need their own way to buy ... tires? Goodyear has a new showroom called Roll that looks like a "trendy hair salon." Apparently 79% of millennial women surveyed by the company said they would visit the next time they need tires. Business Insider
ON MY RADAR
Here's what the stark gender disparity among top orchestra musicians looks like Quartz
What it took to write about baseball as a woman The New Yorker
How a change in U.S. abortion policy reverberated around the globe Washington Post