Skip to Content

Lean In, Idris Elba #MeToo, Les Moonves Severance: Broadsheet December 18

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Les Moonves won’t get that $120 million severance after all, Channing Dungey joins Shonda Rhimes at Netflix, and Lean In weighs in on that Michelle Obama comment. Have a terrific Tuesday.


• Leaning into the criticismThis morning’s Broadsheet essay comes to you from Rachel Thomas, president and co-founder of Lean In. As you’ve likely noticed, one side effect of the recent criticism of Sheryl Sandberg’s actions at Facebook has been an increased scrutiny of the nonprofit, which remains closely associated with the COO (read on for the latest investigation of the organization, from BuzzFeed). Here’s Thomas’s take on what she believes people are getting wrong about Lean In:

Recently, Michelle Obama said the notion that women can “have it all” is a lie—and that it’s not always enough to “lean in.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the former first lady’s comments have been reported as a dig against the work of our organization. But while we may quibble with her wording, we wholeheartedly agree with the substance of her point. As she rightly notes, women trying to have both a successful career and a happy family often find that it doesn’t work, especially when women are expected to do it mostly on their own, without supportive partners, good jobs, or public policies that support working parents.

“Make your partner a real partner” was one of the three main points of our founder Sheryl Sandberg’s 2010 TED Talk, which ultimately led to her book, Lean In. To have equality at work, she said, we need equality at home. She went on to dedicate Chapter 8 of the book to that topic. She also wrote about the need for paid leave, affordable child care, and flexible work schedules—all of which make “having it all” less of a pipe dream.

One of the strengths of Lean In is the title, so catchy it instantly became part of the lexicon. But that strength is also a weakness. In the six years since the book came out, the phrase “lean in” has been used to mean many things—some of them very far from what Sheryl intended.

Here are a few examples of how “leaning in” is sometimes mischaracterized: “Women, solve your own problems by working hard and being more confident.” In fact, systemic bias and other barriers are real, and working hard is not enough to overcome them. “To get ahead, women need to act like men.” Yes, Sheryl gave advice on navigating a biased workplace, but her larger message was the workplace needs to change. “The pinnacle of success is the corner office.” In reality, we know that for many women, that would be the pinnacle of misery. Then there’s that false promise about “having it all,” which our wonderful former first lady was right to skewer. As Sheryl wrote in the book, “Perhaps the greatest trap ever set for women was the coining of this phrase.”

To read the rest of Thomas’s op-ed, click here: Fortune


What if? And for a very different take on Lean In: in a report with other details about the state of the nonprofit, BuzzFeed calls Lean In part of a “counterfactual history—the one in which Hillary Clinton became president, the neoliberal center held, and a movement could be both meaningfully feminist and safely corporate at the same time.”  BuzzFeed

Lightening Les’s bank account. It’s official: Les Moonves will not receive his $120 million severance package from CBS. The network’s investigative team determined—through interviews with 300 people—that there is merit to claims against the former chief executive and that he was terminated for cause. Moonves’s obstruction of the CBS investigation was also a factor in denying him the payout. Fortune

Manhattan muse. In 1976, Babi Christina Engelhardt was 16 years old, a model, and at the beginning of an eight-year relationship with Woody Allen. For the first time, Engelhardt reflects publicly on that relationship and explains that she was the inspiration for Allen’s film Manhattan; the director was 41 when they met.  The Hollywood Reporter

• TGIN(etflix). The ABC exodus to Netflix continues, with former ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey joining her former collaborator Shonda Rhimes at the streaming service. News broke that Dungey would leave ABC in November; now she’ll be VP of original content at Netflix. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Former Deutsche Bank exec Donna M. Milrod will be head of global clients division, a new role, at State Street Corporation. At car-sharing startup Getaround, founder and CMO Jessica Scorpio steps down from her executive role while remaining on the board of directors; Vanessa MacIlwaine joins as VP of people and culture; and Allison Van Houten joins as VP of marketing.


Smash the patriarchy. Close out 2018 with Refinery29‘s package of stories on “Matriarchy Rising.” There’s the power list of 29 women who took over the world this year, a search for the sometimes misunderstood culture in China “where women rule,” and what comes next at an ad agency that replaced its top men with women. Refinery29

Royal treatment. Here it is: a definitive feature on the business of Meghan Markle. “The Duchess of Sussex’s influencer past and a shift in stance from Kensington Palace has emboldened brands to better capitalize on the moment when the royal wears their wares,” according to Business of Fashion Business of Fashion

#ThemToo. A few new #MeToo and misconduct allegations have surfaced in the past few days. In economics, star Harvard professor Roland G. Fryer Jr. fostered an environment hostile to women in his research lab, university investigators found. In entertainment, Orange Is the New Black actress Yael Stone said that actor Geoffrey Rush engaged in several kinds of sexual misconduct. And Frankie Shaw, the (female) creator of the TV show SMILF, has been accused of mishandling sex scenes, mistreating and segregating writers of color, and creating other hostile working conditions.

Best (childcare) Buy. Best Buy now offers all its employees 10 days of subsidized backup childcare through—a benefit inspired by Arlington, Virginia store employee Lanette Johnson, who had to bring her 4-month-old son to work when called in on her day off to give a presentation to corporate. Washington Post

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma HinchliffeShare it with a friend. Looking for previous Broadsheets? Click here.


A C-suite job opened up. Do you have any women to recommend?  Fortune

Working Girl at 30: The workplace comedy that changed the game  The Guardian

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nephew—and On the Basis of Sex screenwriter—on winning the aunt lottery  The New Yorker

Cardi B, Offset, and the burden placed on women The Atlantic


It’s only difficult if you’re a man with something to hide.
Actor Idris Elba, responding to a question about 'how hard it is to be a man in Hollywood now, with #MeToo raging'