Good morning and welcome back, Broadsheet readers! We’re catching up on some headlines from over the holidays today: Elizabeth Warren makes her bid for 2020, The Wing technically isn’t only for women, and we start the new year with some not-so-great news. Have a marvelous Monday.
• New year, same sad stats. The Broadsheet is thrilled to be back, rested and refreshed, for 2019, but we wish we were starting off the year with better news.
A new study out this morning from MSCI (a provider of market indexes and portfolio and risk management tools and services) found that among the 2,700 companies in its All Country World Index, a slightly larger share of firms—78.7%—had at least one female director as of mid-October 2018 than in 2017 (77.4%). That incremental progress means that it will take until 2029 for companies in the index to reach 30% female representation in the boardroom—two years longer than MSCI projected in 2015.
MSCI did praise firms in emerging markets for their progress: 64% of such companies had at least one female director last year, up from 59.6% in 2017. It also cited the U.S.’s “modest progress” last year, which saw women occupy 23.4% of all directorships, an increase of 89 board seats in absolute terms. At the same time, 11 U.S. firms still had all-male boards as of mid-October, making the U.S. an outlier among developed nations outside of Asia. Australia and Canada for instance, each had just one firm with an all-male board; Germany had two. Companies in Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, meanwhile, accounted for the majority of boards with no female representation.
As we digest yet another disappointing report about women on boards, it’s worth considering how much we read into these studies in the first place. A separate assessment from the Wharton Social Impact Initiative late last year discouraged us from drawing a direct line between companies with stellar gender diversity among directors and those that are good employers for women.
Instead, the report—a review of hundreds of other academic studies—concluded that four factors are better predictors:
- Employing a large percentage of women at every level and in every unit of the company
- Paying employees at least enough to avoid poverty, paying equally for equal work, and having no gender pay gap
- Supporting and protecting the health of the women it employs (and its men, too)
- Providing satisfying working conditions for women (and for men, as well)
“Some studies suggest that when women hold positions of power in the [boardroom or C-suite], they foster positive working conditions—better pay, more promotions—for women lower in the company,” the Wharton authors write. “But, other studies of the topic find no evidence to support the claim that when women hold positions of power, women throughout the company have it better.”
The study concludes: “Can you be confident that just because a company has women on the board or in the C-suite it is a good employer for women throughout the company? Alas, no.”
Co-author Katherine Klein, a management professor at Wharton, told me there are plenty of reasons to champion women’s representation on corporate boards. “They’re important seats of power,” she said. “It’s valuable to have diversity in thinking.” But, she said, “you have to be realistic about how strong the correlation is between board makeup and the happenings of employees.”
Nothing like a grain of salt to kick off the new year.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Glenn’s gold. In a Golden Globes ceremony that Vanity Fair described as “inert,” surprise winner Glenn Close stood out as one of the few bright spots. Close, who beat out Lady Gaga for best actress in a drama for The Wife, received a standing ovation for her acceptance speech in which she urged women to pursue their personal passions. “[W]hat I’ve learned through this whole experience is that women, we’re nurturers,” she said. “That’s what’s expected of us. We have our children, we have our husbands, if we’re lucky enough, and our partners, whoever. But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, ‘I can do that and I should be allowed to do that.'” Another highlight was winner Regina King’s pledge to only produce projects that are “50% women” from now on. Vanity Fair
• And we’re off... The biggest news of the holiday break? Probably Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s official announcement that she will run for president in 2020, making her the first woman to enter the field. Since her declaration, a debate has erupted over Warren’s supposed “likability;” Moira Donegan (of the Shitty Media Men list) wrote for The Guardian about the problems with that view. The holiday break also saw the new class of Congresswomen get sworn into office and Nancy Pelosi take up the mantle as Speaker of the House.
• No men allowed? The Wing, the co-working and social space for women, isn’t officially just for women anymore. The company, which recently raised $75 million from investors from Time’s Up and All Raise, announced a formalized membership policy to accept those who align with its mission. That shift makes The Wing a more explicitly welcoming place for trans and nonbinary members—and comes in the midst of a lawsuit brought by a man in D.C. over gender discrimination. Insider
• Necessary viewing. Over the past week, Lifetime aired the docu-series Surviving R. Kelly. The series made clear the extent of R. Kelly’s alleged abuse of young black girls—and coincided with an increase in calls to sexual abuse hotlines. Los Angeles Times
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Susan Zirinsky takes over as CBS News president, the first woman to lead the division. Square hired Amrita Ahuja as its CFO, replacing Sarah Friar, who left to lead Nextdoor. Linda Lacewell was nominated by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to lead the New York Department of Financial Services. Alicia Glen resigned as deputy mayor for housing under New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Walgreens Boots Alliance global chief human resources officer Kathleen Wilson-Thompson joined the board of Tesla. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hired Christine Simmons of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks as COO. Domee Shi will direct a feature film for Pixar, only the second woman hired to do so at the animation company troubled by harassment and sexism allegations. Grand Rounds hired Ami Parekh as chief medical officer.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Direct to video. Among the directors of the top 250 feature films of 2018, only 8% were women—down from 11% in 2017. When expanded to the top 500 films, women still only directed 15% compared to 18% a year earlier. Hollywood did hire more black directors than it ever has last year, with 16 helming movies among the top 100 films. However, only one of those directors—Ava DuVernay—was a black woman. The Wrap
• Shutdown casualty. Just after the Broadsheet broke for the holidays, the Violence Against Women Act expired as the government failed to reach a budget deal and the shutdown started. With the shutdown ongoing, VAWA remains expired. NPR
• Bond’s billion. Some news on Mary Meeker’s new VC fund after her departure from Kleiner Perkins: it’ll be called Bond, and it’s aiming to raise $1.25 billion. Axios
• ‘A woman’s rights.’ The New York Times editorial board published a remarkable feature on the shift over the past few decades as legislators have granted more rights to fetuses over the women carrying them. The multi-faceted project is worth your time. New York Times
ON MY RADAR
The ghost statistic that haunts women’s empowerment The New Yorker
Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, the historian who recognized black suffragists New York Times
[Humor] I don’t hate women candidates—I just hated Hillary and coincidentally I’m starting to hate Elizabeth Warren McSweeney's
Padma Lakshmi, scars and all Vulture