Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Theresa May plays her final card, Salesforce is sued over allegedly providing the tools to build Backpage.com, and we hear from Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar. Make the most of your Thursday!
• Seeking ‘badass, rockstar CEOs.’ When Square CEO Jack Dorsey announced in October that his longtime CFO Sarah Friar was leaving the company, he said he was “saddened by the news.”
“I was unrealistically expecting to be working with Sarah well into our late 90s (swapping standup tables for rocking chairs). Unrealistic,” he said, “because I knew of Sarah’s lifelong ambition to run her own company.”
Friar, now CEO of neighborhood-focused social networking company Nextdoor, told me this week that she doesn’t recall ever stating her CEO aspiration outright. Looking back on it, she says she must’ve communicated her intent with her actions; by expanding the breadth of her CFO role at Square and always “wanting to do more and more.”
Even though she’d telegraphed her goal to her boss, when Nextdoor came knocking, Friar still needed to convince herself.
Friar encourages female entrepreneurs to “stand up and be counted;” she even co-founded a non-profit called Ladies Who Launch. So she felt “fraudy” when talks with Nextdoor got serious and she still didn’t feel “tipped over” by the opportunity. The startup was everything she was looking for: it was mission-driven, it piqued her passions, and it was in a growth stage. The hesitancy, she later realized, was due to fears of failure.
How’d she get over that hump? With a little inspo from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, naturally.
Watching RBG with her daughter, Friar was struck by the Supreme Court justice’s “never-back-down” attitude. So Friar told herself: “I’m going to do this.”
“For all the girls out there; they can’t be what they can’t see,” Friar says. She wants the next generation to not only see women as CEOs, but women as “badass, rockstar CEOs who build big global companies.”
That is, of course, what Friar’s trying to do at Nextdoor. The social network is in 220,000 neighborhoods across eight countries; it’s expanded into three European nations in the past year. In the U.K., where Friar was based this week, Nextdoor is currently growing three times as fast as it did last year. Friar wouldn’t disclose Nextdoor’s revenue, and when it comes to profitability, she says it’s still “in investment mode.” Amid the current IPO buzz, the topic of going public is unavoidable. “An IPO should never be a destination,” says Friar, though “at some point, [Nextdoor] will be a public company.”
Friar led Square through its IPO as chief financial officer. As a matter of fact, Square’s shares dropped 9% immediately after news of her departure. In transitioning from CFO to CEO, Friar actually made an unlikely jump. According to data from executive recruiter Crist Kolder Associates, only 6.8% of CEOs were former CFOs last year.
As to why that move is so rare, Friar says the mindsets of the jobs are vastly different; a CFO must provide discipline, while a CEO is often required to take risks.
The leap for her wasn’t hard to make. She says she often felt “like a fish out of water” among CFOs, which is, after all, what Dorsey had sensed.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Theresa’s last stand. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday that she would resign from the position after—and if—her Brexit deal passes. “I know there is a desire for a new approach and new leadership in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations and I won’t stand in the way of that,” she said. But even that offer didn’t convert enough MPs to her cause on Wednesday. Financial Times
• Legal woes. Lots of lawsuits today. First, Salesforce was sued by 50 women who said the company facilitated “sex trafficking, negligence, and conspiracy” by providing the tools used to build Backpage.com. Vice agreed to pay $1.8 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged the media company consistently paid women less than men. In New York, MoMA PS1 settled a claim that it had rescinded a job offer made to curator Nikki Columbus after learning she had recently given birth. And Rent the Runway faces a lawsuit from apparel rental competitor FashionPass, which claims that RTR has engaged in “monopolistic and anti-competitive conduct.”
• Teens take action. Today in inspirational news: a group of teen girls at a Maryland high school found out that their male classmates had ranked them by their looks. Instead of letting the behavior slide, the girls demanded disciplinary action and a school-wide reckoning over toxic masculinity. It led to a two-and-a-half hour meeting where the male students who made the list listened to the girls talk about why it was so hurtful. Washington Post
• They’re running. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand became the first 2020 presidential competitor to release her tax returns on Wednesday. She disclosed $218,000 in income on her most recent returns and urged her competitors to follow suit. In more 2020 news, Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a plan to break up recent mergers in agriculture, like the Bayer-Monsanto deal, in a bid to support smaller farms. (And Warren was filmed running through New York’s Penn Station to catch a train and then patiently answering questions from TMZ.)
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: The board of Swedbank has dismissed CEO Birgitte Bonnesen, No. 33 on Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women International list, amid allegations that the bank was involved in money laundering in the Baltics. Sephora promoted Deborah Yeh to CMO and Karalyn Smith to chief people officer. Renata Quintini stepped down as a partner at Lux Capital and is reported to be launching a new VC firm with Institutional Venture Partners’ Roseanne Wincek and an as-yet-unrevealed third female partner; both Quintini and Wincek are staying involved with their respective firms.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• What’s wise? Elon Musk uses Twitter “wisely,” says Tesla’s newish board chair, Robyn Denholm. The comments were some of Denholm’s first in public since replacing Musk as chairman in November following a crackdown by the SEC on Musk’s leadership of Tesla, partly over his tweets. “Twitter is part of everyday business for many executives today. From my perspective, he uses it wisely,” Denholm said. Bloomberg
• FDA rules. A new rule proposed by the FDA would require doctors to inform patients of the risks associated with dense breasts, or breasts without a lot of fatty tissue. More than half of women over 40 fall into the category, and it can skew mammogram results and obscure risk factors about breast cancer. CNBC
• Getting on board. Workers at Walmart are behind a legislative push to get the corporation and others like it to include workers’ voices on their boards of directors. Cynthia Murray is a longtime Walmart associate behind the effort, and she’s joined by the many women working hourly jobs at Walmart. The New Yorker
• Tuning in. Karey Burke, who inherited the role of ABC’s entertainment president from Channing Dungey in November, talks about how she plans to compete with streaming services, why she thinks it’s so important for her network to get back to being No. 1 with female viewers, and who she’d like to bring in as showrunners on future projects. Hollywood Reporter
ON MY RADAR
Heathers blew up the high-school comedy The New Yorker
Us broke record for largest U.S. movie opening with a black woman lead Newsweek
100 ways to better support Muslim women Broadly
How Brandless’s creative chief built an anti-brand from scratch Fast Company