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Office Thermostat, Air Force, Family Bill of Rights: Broadsheet May 23

May 23, 2019, 7:04 AM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Cold offices hurt women’s productivity, Kirsten Gillibrand introduces the Family Bill of Rights, and what’s next for the woman who’s become Enemy No. 1 of Big Tech. Have a terrific Thursday.

 What's next for tech's nemesis. The European Parliament elections kick off today and folks in Silicon Valley—and Washington, D.C., for that matter—may be paying especially close attention to the narrative highlighted in a new Fortune piece by Geoff Smith: the contest could launch Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition and nemesis of U.S. tech giants, into the EU's top job of Commission president.

U.S. President Donald Trump has characterized Vestager as "really hat[ing] the U.S." Vestager has denied being anti-American, but the reputation is based on a lengthy charge sheet: she forced [f500link]Apple[/f500link] to repay $17 billion in taxes, fined [f500link]Google[/f500link] over $9 billion for antitrust violations, required tax repayments from Starbucks, made [f500link]Visa[/f500link] and [f500link]Mastercard[/f500link] cut some of their fees by 40%, and is still weighing the possibility of probing whether Amazon.com gives its own merchandise an unfair advantage. To Vestager's credit, she has also gone after non-American entities too, like Russia's Gazprom, Europe's trucking industry, and a proposed rail business merger between Germany's Siemens and France's Alstom.

Vestager's experience as competition czar could catapult her to Commission president since the pursuits of her current role have "given her a perfect stage to showcase herself as a champion of normal people, a rarity in an EU often criticized for being aloof and removed from its citizens’ concerns," as Geoff puts it. It will take specific vote tallies, political maneuvering, and perhaps an intervention from Angela Merkel for Vestager to land the job of president. Still, she's seen as one favorite for a host of reasons—including one that's worth mentioning here: she would break the Commission's decades-year streak of only male presidents. In a blog post this morning, as the elections began, leaders of the EU called for "a European leadership that reflects Europe. All of Europe. Women too." Fortune

And a special note to check out the new Fortune 500 Daily audio briefing. It's a two-minute download of Fortune 500 company factoids. You can listen on Spotify, Amazon Alexa, Apple iTunes, and Google Play.

Claire Zillman


Cold-blooded. We already know office thermostats are sexist. But a new study confirms that those male-friendly cold temperatures are hurting women's productivity. In cold rooms, men scored higher than women on verbal and math tests—but women's scores improved as rooms got warmer. The Atlantic

 Take 2020 seriously. In a new interview, Anita Hill weighs in on the "will you pick a woman for vice president?" trend. "If we don’t take them seriously as presidential candidates, we are not going to hear those voices. And that would be a tragedy," she says. New York Times

Gillibrand's policy push. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a signature policy proposal in the 2020 race, called the Family Bill of Rights. It includes a national paid family leave program, a program addressing the shortage of OB/GYNs in rural areas, a federal program to help states create universal pre-K, a requirement that insurance companies cover IVF, and tax credits for adoption. New York Times

Air Force 2. After the resignation of Heather Wilson, President Trump has tapped a new Air Force secretary: Barbara Barrett, former chair of the Aerospace Corporation and a diplomat under President George W. Bush. Wilson will leave at the end of the month for a university presidency, rather than the job she was rumored to be up for: secretary of defense. CNBC

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Shahira Knight leaves her role as White House legislative affairs director. Michelle K. Lee, former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, joins the board of 10x Genomics. PresenceLearning hires Cecilia Retelle Zywicki as COO and Laura Sullivan as VP of marketing and communications. Vice Media hires former Mic publisher Cory Haik as chief digital officerSimran Sethi resigned as director of Netflix international originals.


Getting out of Georgia. Hollywood productions are starting to pull out of shooting in Georgia in protest of the state's anti-abortion legislation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the projects leading the charge are helmed by women: Reed Morano's Amazon show The Power and Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo's comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. Meanwhile, Nevada, with its majority-women legislature, just removed some restrictions on abortion. Time

Siri, should your voice be male? A Unesco report finds that, yes, the female voices of Siri and Alexa really do fuel sexism. A problem in particular: the "deflecting, lackluster or apologetic responses" that these virtual assistants give to insults or even gendered compliments. "I'd blush if I could," is one of Siri's standard responses. New York Times

 Bye, BBC. BBC producer Karen Martin turned down a promotion as one of two deputy editors in the radio newsroom after discovering the other editor—a man—would make £12,000 more than her for the same job. After she brought up the gap, she says that BBC increased her pay to address "historical underpayments" but left a gap of £7,000. Guardian

Ava's Hollywood. Before the release of her series about the Central Park Five, When They See Us, Ava DuVernay takes us inside her own mini-studio, where her 50 employees are overwhelmingly women of color. Before she became a filmmaker, DuVernay worked in marketing in Hollywood. "I see the machinery of it, and that has allowed me to never take any of this too personally," she says. The Hollywood Reporter

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


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There were times when I was doing the announcing when I wanted to shout aloud like Shylock, ‘Hath not woman eyes, ears, senses?’
Nancy Wigginton, the first woman to read national news on BBC television in 1960. She died at 93 this month