Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Ava DuVernay inks a $100 million TV deal, Margaret Thatcher could be on a British bank note for an unexpected reason, and we parse the latest Sheryl Sandberg takes. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
• The Sandberg syllabus. Am I the only one who had some, um, lively discussions about Sheryl Sandberg with friends and family over the Thanksgiving weekend?
Even for people who don’t typically follow Facebook or its COO, the (increasingly dire) reports about the social media giant in the past few weeks have proved hard to ignore.
It started, of course, with the New York Times’ blockbuster expose of the company’s attempts to downplay the Cambridge Analytica and Russian meddling scandals—and the disclosure that it hired shady comms firm Definers to discredit anti-Facebook demonstrators. Sandberg, who was strongly implicated in the bad behavior, initially denied knowing about the firm. Then, the day before Thanksgiving, she admitted that she had in fact “received a small number of emails where Definers was referenced.”
The one-two punch of the report, followed by Sandberg’s Definers flip-flop, unleashed a flood of coverage of the COO. She should resign! She’s taking the fall for Mark Zuckerberg! She’d be out of a job—but Facebook can’t fire her because she’s a woman! She’s “forever tainted!” She can’t be both a “towering feminist” and a “formidable chief operating officer!”
For me, making sense of all the reveals and hot takes has meant learning to hold two seemingly contradictory beliefs at the same time. One: Sandberg’s gender matters, and is inextricable from the way she’s being judged. Two: Sandberg’s gender doesn’t matter, and has nothing to do with the fact that she’s accountable for her actions as COO.
Some commenters have asked what the newly tarnished view of Sandberg, arguably the world’s best-known businesswoman, means for professional women. But I’m not convinced that’s the right question. When we talk about representation and the power of putting women in C-suite roles like chief operating officer, the saying often is: “If you can see it, you can be it.” In reality though, we can’t be Sheryl Sandberg. She’s a singular case—as much a celebrity and cultural icon as an executive.
Perhaps the better question for working women is what can we learn from Sandberg and her apparent fall from grace? Here’s one thing I’ll take away: True equality means leaning in to power—and bearing the full weight of the repercussions for using it unwisely.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Hyde-Smith heads to Washington. Mississippi Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith won reelection to the Senate Tuesday night—a win that comes after her racially charged comments and subsequent reporting about her history with a “segregation academy” in the state. Hyde-Smith was running against Democrat Mike Espy, who would’ve been the state’s first black senator since Reconstruction. With her win, Hyde-Smith becomes state’s first elected female U.S. senator. Washington Post
• Clicks and mortar. Beauty startups have found an interesting partner in the search for new customers: drugstores. Birchbox, led by Katia Beauchamp, is setting up in Walgreens just as Glamsquad, led by Amy Shecter, is entering CVS stores. Walgreens and CVS each invested in their respective beauty partner, too. Fortune
• Ava-land? Another nine-figure deal in the entertainment biz, this time for Ava DuVernay. The director known for A Wrinkle in Time and Selma signed a $100 million deal with Warner Bros Television Group. It’s near the rumored size of Shonda Rhimes’s deal with Netflix. Deadline
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Waymo hires Deborah Hersman as chief safety officer and Alibaba’s Amee Chande as chief commercial officer. Former Barclays exec Sheila Monroe joins TrueAccord as COO. Brand and retail consultancy Fitch promoted Alana Eversole to executive development director.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Iconic image. After the Trump administration closed a major U.S.-Mexico port of entry in Tijuana this weekend, BuzzFeed tracked down the woman featured in a widely-shared photograph that showed her fleeing tear gas with her children. “I thought my kids were going to die with me because of the gas we inhaled,” Maria Meza of Honduras says. BuzzFeed
• Women’s March woes. If you’ve been wondering what’s been going on with calls for leaders of the Women’s March to step down from the organization over their ties to Louis Farrakhan, this piece provides a good explanation. Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory both face criticism over not denouncing the anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader. Jezebel
• Madam soft-serve. The Bank of England is taking nominations for a scientist to put on its next bank note design. On the list? Margaret Thatcher. The former prime minister is named not for her years leading the country, but for working as a research chemist at the food company that invented soft-serve ice cream in the 1940s. New York Times
• Giving back. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford closed the GoFundMe account set up in her name and said she would donate any of the $647,610 not used for security costs to organizations that support survivors of sexual assault and trauma. “Because of your support, I feel hopeful that our lives will return to normal,” she wrote in a rare public statement since her Senate testimony about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Huffington Post
ON MY RADAR
How Flint journalist Jiquanda Johnson is reporting on the water crisis from the inside Bustle
I’m a great cook. Now that I’m divorced, I’m never making dinner for a man again Glamour
Commentary: Why Nancy Pelosi should be the next speaker Fortune