Geisha Williams, Gretchen Carlson, Neomi Rao: Broadsheet January 15

January 15, 2019, 10:38 AM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Gretchen Carlson’s documentary on sexual harassment debuts, D.C. Circuit pick Neomi Rao wrote some inflammatory things about date rape in college, and the Fortune 500 loses its first and only Latina chief executive. Have a tremendous Tuesday.


First and only no more. If you can believe it, the way-too-small pool of Fortune 500 female CEOs just got even less diverse.

[f500link]PG&E Corp.[/f500link] on Sunday announced that CEO Geisha Williams was stepping down. Her departure comes as the utility company—California’s largest—confronts political and financial upheaval from its role in sparking California wildfires. The company said that John Simon, its general counsel, will serve as interim CEO as its board of directors searches for a permanent replacement.

Williams’s departure marks the first exit of a female CEO from the Fortune 500 this year—bringing the total down to a measly 27 or 5%. What’s more, her resignation means the U.S.’s top 500 companies by revenue has lost its first and only Latina chief executive, according to Fortune data.

Fortune’s 2017 profile of Williams digs into her unique background. As a 5-year-old in 1967, she immigrated with her family to St. Paul, Minnesota from Cuba, where her parents had been political dissidents. By age 7, she’d become her family’s main translator, conducting conversations with accountants, lawyers, and property managers. After earning an engineering degree from the University of Miami and completing a lengthy stint at Florida Power & Light, she joined PG&E in 2007. There, she worked on upgrading the utility's electricity grid, pushed it into clean energy, and decided to decommission California’s last nuclear plant. She was named PG&E CEO in 2017.

But since then, PG&E has been dogged by liability for wildfires that have devastated its home state, with investigators tying 17 major blazes to PG&E equipment in the year Williams became chief executive. Investigators are still trying to determine if the utility’s gear was the cause of November’s Camp Fire, the deadliest in California history, but PG&E has reported an equipment malfunction in the area before the fire erupted.

In announcing Williams’s departure on Sunday, PG&E chair Richard Kelly cited the “tremendous challenges PG&E continues to face.” Indeed, hours after Williams exited the company, it said it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid the financial strain of the wildfire fallout. Its shares plunged on Monday.

Williams was one of the 32 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 in 2017—the highest total ever. Since then, the number has fluctuated to 24 last year, then up to 28 before Sunday's news. The share of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 is often cited as a stark illustration of men’s lasting grip on corporate power, even as the #MeToo movement prompts a reexamination of women’s marginalization in the workplace.

But the group of female Fortune 500 CEOs is also a nod to corporate America’s utter failure to diversify its leadership ranks. As the club loses its only Latina member, it should be noted that it also has zero African-American women.


Documentary debut. Gretchen Carlson is behind a documentary, Breaking the Silence, that aired last night on Lifetime. The special looks at sexual harassment throughout the American workplace. "This issue is apolitical," the former Fox News anchor says. "People don’t ask you before they harass you what party you’re in."  Variety

 Skating to a halt. Another industry being upended by #MeToo: athletics—specifically, speedskating—in South Korea. Shim Suk-hee, 21, said she was raped by her coach for years, spurring concern about those allegations as well as reports of physical abuse throughout the program. New York Times

 'Redefining representation.' You might think you've read all there is to read about the new class of congresswomen, but we highly recommend clicking on this one anyway. The New York Times photographed every woman in Congress, and scrolling through the portraits is remarkable. New York Times

Op-eds unearthed. In college and shortly after, Neomi Rao—the Trump administration's pick for the D.C. Circuit and a rumored Supreme Court contender—wrote a series of op-eds full of what BuzzFeed describes as inflammatory commentary about race, date rape, and LGBT rights. If a woman "drinks to the point where she can no longer choose," Reo wrote of date rape in the mid-1990s, "well, getting to that point was part of her choice." BuzzFeed

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Bonnie Hammer was promoted to chairman, direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises for NBCUniversal, overseeing a new ad-supported streaming serviceDonna Langley was promoted to chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. Autonomous vehicle startup Zoox names Intel's Aicha Evans as its new chief executiveSusan Hendrick takes on a new role as federal communications lead at Uber. Lorrie Bartlett joins the board of ICM Partners. Allison Johnson joins PayPal as CMO, a newly created role.


A rocky dismount. Another quick hiring-and-firing in the gymnastics world: in this case, a University of Michigan contract granted to a former USA Gymnastics executive. Rhonda Faehn, who hasn't been charged with a crime related to the Larry Nassar scandal but testified that she knew of reports of abuse and passed them on to her boss, was brought on as a coaching consultant and promptly let go after public outrage—a decision some current gymnasts disagree with.  Deadspin

All eyes on Gabbard. Since announcing her 2020 bid, Tulsi Gabbard has faced scrutiny over past homophobic remarks and anti-LGBT policy stances. The Hawaii Democrat in the early 2000s worked for an anti-gay organization run by her father that promoted conversion therapy. Gabbard now says she regrets that work and some of her past comments.  CNN

 Press pause. A California judge blocked the rollout of the Trump administration's new rules allowing companies to opt out of contraception coverage in 13 states and D.C. Those mostly blue states had sued over the rules. Bloomberg

Diversity on tap. Changing tastes and cannabis legalization mean that craft beer brewers have to look beyond "young white dudes with beards." Women like Shyla Sheppard and Missy Begay of Bow & Arrow Brewing Company are leading the way. New York Times

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


Sloane Crosley contemplates giving up the chase for eternal youth  Elle

The new angry young men: Rockers who rail against toxic masculinity  New York Times

How close should an activist icon get to power? An interview with Malala Yousafzai  The New Yorker

The case for starting an emergency abortion fund  Time


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