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Female CEOs Up Their Activism: The Broadsheet

September 13, 2019, 12:23 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Warren and Harris share a debate stage, women on boards temper male CEOs’ overconfidence, and female CEOs take a stand. Have a wonderful weekend. 


- Signed, women CEOs. It’s been a week for CEO letters. Yesterday, 145 chief executives wrote to Congress, urging lawmakers to pursue gun reform measures like stricter background checks and tougher ‘red flag’ laws. Among the signatories are leaders The Broadsheet regularly covers—Laurene Powell Jobs,  Arianna Huffington, and NextDoor's Sarah Friar.

“Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the letter says. “Gun violence in America is not inevitable; it’s preventable. We need our lawmakers to support common-sense gun laws that could prevent tragedies like these.”

Another letter that got less attention was one that 46 female CEOs sent in response to Forbes’ list of most innovative CEOs that featured one woman out of 100 honorees.

Forbes, to its credit, has issued a mea culpa, with editor-in-chief Randall Lane tweeting, “We blew it,” and vowing to establish a task force to ensure such an occurrence doesn’t happen again.

Nevertheless, the female CEOs—including Eventbrite’s Julia Hartz, 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki, and designer Stella McCartney—published their statement, demanding that the list’s methodology be overhauled. They argue that their outrage isn’t just about inclusion and equality; “this is about economic imperative.”

They say that ignoring female talent disadvantages U.S. business—“It’s like hopping long distances, up mountains even, on one leg.” Such lists have ripple effects, say the letter writers; they help determine who gets nominated for boards, who gets funding, who gets conference speaking opportunities.

Wojcicki, who’s currently on maternity leave, spoke to NPR about the letter and said that, during a recent blood draw, her nurse even brought up the list’s oversight. “People are just acutely aware now of the importance of diversity,” she said. Plus, the number of innovative female chief executives is obvious, she argued, pointing to her sister Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, as one example: “There’s just a tremendous number of women out there who are phenomenal leaders."

Claire Zillman


- Dem debate. Three of the Democratic women running for president—Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris—qualified for last night's debate. Warren, who also unveiled her plan to reform Social Security yesterday, generally got good reviews from the pundits, who gave Harris credit for some of the night's most memorable lines. But those who were expecting a big Warren vs. Joe Biden showdown were likely disappointed—it never happened.

- Not so confident now. Even more reason to be pleased that women now hold 20% of board seats: According to U.K. researchers, when women serve on boards, the male CEOs they oversee are less overconfident. They measured male CEOs' overconfidence by their willingness to hold onto their company's stock when they'd be better off exercising. Harvard Business Review  

- Dress smart. Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex yesterday debuted her new fashion capsule collection for the charity Smart Works, which gives professional clothing to women in need of it for job interviews. "As women, it is 100% our responsibility, I think, to support and uplift each other," she said at the collection's launch event. Plus: New York Times interview by Caity Weaver with Misha Nonoo, the designer and longtime friend of Meghan who worked on the collection. Fortune

- Sotomayor's strong stance. A Supreme Court decision this week allowed the Trump Administration to reject asylum requests from migrants at the southern border who haven't first sought protection, and been denied, elsewhere. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent, co-signed by RBG. "It is especially concerning," Sotomayor wrote, "that the rule the Government promulgated topples decades of settled asylum practices and affects some of the most vulnerable people in the Western Hemisphere." Washington Post 

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Starbucks added Isabel Ge Mahe, Apple VP and managing director of greater China, to its board of directors. Lauren Petterson, who oversaw Fox & Friends as Fox News Channel's SVP of morning programming and talent development, will take over as president of FOX Business Network. Bergdorf Goodman named Shopbop's Elle Strauss creative director. Yoox Net-A-Porter named Nicola Brandolese managing director. Chloé's Myriam Serrano takes over as CEO of Alaïa. 


- VP for what now? Incoming European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen unveiled her team this week, including the expansion of responsibility for Margrethe Vestager. But Von der Leyen also introduced a new role: "vice president for protecting our European way of life." That official would oversee migration policy—prompting outrage given the anti-immigrant implications of the title. New York Times

- Not enough payoff? The EEOC had started collecting data on pay—and thus, pay disparities—but the effort won't be annual. The commission determined that the burden of collecting the data was higher than expected and it wouldn't immediately seek White House approval for renewing the effort. Bloomberg Law

- Female founders say. Inc. and Fast Company surveyed more than 600 female founders and found some interesting results. On caregiving responsibilities, 25% said full- or part-time help was the primary caregiver for their children, compared to only 7% for all Inc. 5000 CEOs—41% of whom had a spouse as the primary caregiver. A whopping one in four female founders said they've considered a run for office. Inc. 

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

This newsletter has been updated to correctly state that three women qualified for Thursday's Democratic debate—Warren, Harris and Klobuchar.


Old Navy plans to open 800 more stores Wall Street Journal

Corner Office: Jane Goodall keeps going, with a lot of hope (and a bit of whiskey) New York Times

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax sues CBS over interviews with sexual assault accusers CNN

She Said is more important than All the President's Men. There, I said it LA Times


"Found my emails at the Venice Biennale. Someone alert the House GOP."

-Hillary Clinton in an Instagram post. She visited a Venice art exhibition that features her emails printed out at a mock Resolute Desk.