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Why This Trans Rights Activist Is Embracing ‘Tokenism:’ Broadsheet June 5

June 5, 2019, 11:16 AM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! We learn about this year’s richest self-made women, a Hollywood producer is raising money to fight anti-abortion legislation, and a trans rights activist sees ‘tokenism’ as an opportunity. Have a wonderful Wednesday.


 A new take on 'tokenism.' The idea of tokenism comes up a lot in conversations about diversity, and it's almost always considered a negative. The 'token' woman on a board of directors, for instance, can serve as a hollow corporate symbol of equality; her presence lets the firm dodge criticism without having to enact real change.

But we got a different take on tokenism yesterday on Day 2 of the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit in London. It came from Paris Lees, a British trans rights campaigner and writer, who was announced on stage as the new face of P&G's Pantene hair care.

Her partnership with the brand was an obvious choice, she said, since hair was a key signifier that she was female as she transitioned as a teenager.

“It’s not the only thing, but it's such a powerful expression of femininity,” said Lees, who's a columnist at British Vogue and the first openly trans woman to be featured in the magazine.

And she's not concerned that her followers might criticize P&G for trying to boost its brand by buying into hers.

“There’s always kind of this thing—is it tokenism? And I always think, well, so what? Traditionally, people haven’t been handing dinner on a plate to people like me, [and] that could be true if you’re a person of color and any sort of background where you’ve been marginalized,” she said. "If you can use the thing that makes you different to benefit in some way, take it—take that opportunity and redress the balance a little bit.” Fortune

Lees's interview capped our Summit yesterday. A special thank you to all who attended and took part in our thought-provoking conversations. We're looking forward to our next MPW International Summit in Toronto in September. You can find out more about it here.

Claire Zillman


Banking on digital. Israeli bank Leumi is prepared for its digital future. Group President and CEO Rakefet Russak-Aminoach shares how the 120-year-old institution built a digital bank from scratch. Fortune

No making up for Brexit. Baroness Rona Fairhead CBE, the U.K.’s former minister of state for trade and export promotion, does not agree with President Trump that a U.S.-Britain trade deal would take the sting out of Brexit. It's a 2% to 8% loss from leaving the EU and a 1% gain from a deal with the U.S., she says. Fortune

All in on Africa. Companies see a lot of opportunity in Africa—but they don't always take the time to understand the regional differences of the continent, says Facebook's head of Africa Nunu Ntshingila. Facebook's biggest aim in Africa is still to bring people online. Fortune

Next-gen Swarovski. Nadja Swarovski's great-great grandfather made diamond alternatives more affordable. Now she wants to make diamonds sustainable. The Swarovski executive is pursuing lab-grown diamonds. Fortune

Indifference in Yemen. The biggest challenge to responding to war in Yemen is indifference, says Save the Children CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the former prime minister of Denmark. "The Saudis don’t care, the Iranians don’t really care, the Americans don’t care. As long as that is the case, it is the responsibility for the rest of the international community to do something,” she says. Fortune

Looking at luxury. The meaning of luxury is changing. Now it goes hand-in-hand with sustainability, says British handbag designer Anya Hindmarch. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: EY named Ruchi Bhowmik global vice chair for public policy. Denim brand DL1961 named Zahra Ahmed as CEO. Bustle Digital Group hired Elle's Emma Rosenblum as editor-in-chief for its lifestyle group.


Rihanna's riches. Forbes is out with its list of the most successful self-made women—different from the list of the world's richest women, which includes a lot of inherited wealth. At the top by net worth is Diane Hendricks, chair of ABC Supply, with an estimated $7 billion. Serena Williams is the first athlete to ever make the list, and Rihanna is now the wealthiest female musician in the world thanks to her Fenty brands. Forbes

Fight or flight? Hollywood producer Peter Chernin is raising money to fight anti-abortion legislation in Georgia. But Stacey Abrams is set to meet with film executives to encourage them to "stay and fight" rather than boycott the state.

So much for the subpoena. The White House directed Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson not to comply with the congressional subpoena for documents related to their time working for the Trump administration. Hicks did turn over documents from the Trump campaign. Washington Post

Another kind of patriotism. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's new term for her philosophy is "economic patriotism." As part of a green manufacturing plan, she coined the term meant to reclaim "patriotism" from the domain of the right. Vox

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


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