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Does Being Funny Help—or Hurt—Powerful Women?

November 7, 2019, 1:38 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Sen. Kamala Harris introduces legislation to align the school day with the workday, the Equal Rights Amendment could move forward thanks to the Democratic wave in Virginia, and Amy Klobuchar’s not afraid to crack a joke on the campaign trail. Have a terrific Thursday. 

EVERYONE'S TALKING

- Laughing all the way to the polls? While politics feels anything but funny these days, I enjoyed this New York Times story about Amy Klobuchar and her identity as the rare presidential candidate who's actually (or at least intentionally!) funny.

As the Times puts it, the Minnesota senator is: "Wry, wholesome, self-deprecating, sometimes hokey funny, but funny. She has comedic timing, occasional deadpan delivery, and a more than occasional wink to reveal just how hilarious she thinks she is." It's a description I can vouch for: she spoke at our Most Powerful Women Summit in 2017 and, though I can no longer recall the details of her speech, I do remember laughing—a lot.

It's interesting to mull Klobuchar's embrace of humor in the context of the reports of her being a tough, or perhaps even abusive, boss. (Who can forget the comb story?) Then there's the fact that she's, well, a woman. As you may recall, there was an academic study earlier this year that looked at how businesspeople who use humor at work are perceived. It found—surprise!—that courting laughs helps men (who are more likely to be seen as witty and fun), but hurts women (who are more likely to be judged as inappropriate or unprepared). 

Of course, it's often wise to take these kinds of studies with salt. And time will tell if Klobuchar's humor ends up helping or hurting her on the campaign trail (so far, she's at least polling high enough to qualify for the November and December Democratic debates.) 

I'd love to know how Broadsheet readers are thinking about using humor at work. Do you embrace it—or steer clear? And for those of you who do like to crack a joke or two, what kind of reactions does it get? If you have a story to share, email me at kristen.bellstrom@fortune.com—we may use your response in a future Broadsheet.

Kristen Bellstrom
@kayelbee
kristen.bellstrom@fortune.com

Today's Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- School's (not) out. Sen. Kamala Harris introduced legislation in Congress that seeks to solve a frustrating problem: the mismatch between school day hours and the hours kept by working parents. Her pilot program would give up to $5 million dollars over five years to 500 schools serving low-income families to stay open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with no closures except for weekends, federal holidays, and emergencies. The Education Department would study the pilot. Mother Jones

- Better late than never? The board of Alphabet—Google's parent company—has opened an investigation into how executives handled claims of sexual harassment and other misconduct. The inquiry will reportedly include scrutiny of the behavior of chief legal officer David Drummond, who former Google legal employee Jennifer Blakely accused of "nothing short of abuse" after the two had a son together (he has also been accused of having relationships with other employees). The investigation comes in the wake a suit against the board by Alphabet shareholders, who allege the company covered up sexual misconduct from executives, including former Android co-founder Andy Rubin. CNBC

- VA and the ERA. The Democratic wave in Virginia means that the state could soon ratify the Equal Rights Amendment—which would give the ERA its 38th state in favor. Thirty-eight is the number of states originally needed to add the ERA to the Constitution. If Virginia passes the long-sought ratification, a debate over getting the amendment into the Constitution will loom. Vox

- ClassPass corporate. Six years in—and after a bumpy road with its consumer pricing—ClassPass is going after corporate wellness deals as a source of growth. Signing on as an employee benefit with companies including Google, Gatorade, and Morgan Stanley, growth has "quintupled" in six months, says CEO Fritz Lanman. He joined founder and executive chairman Payal Kadakia for an interview: Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Vanessa Pegueros, a former CISO of DocuSign and Expedia, joins OneLogin as chief trust and security officer. Genesco Inc. promoted COO Mimi E. Vaughn to president and CEO. Permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government Melanie Dawes—the most senior woman in U.K. civil service—will become chief executive of communications regulator Ofcom. Former Facebook communications VP Caryn Marooney will be a general partner at Coatue Ventures. Humana Health Ventures founder Busy Burr joins digital health company Carrot Inc. as president and chief commercial officer. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- You're fired. CEO firings are at a 15-year high. Among 18 nonvoluntary CEO departures at S&P 500 companies in 2018, five were related to personal conduct and #MeToo allegations. Only one CEO was fired for those reasons between 2013 and 2017.  Fortune

- Safety first? Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing is relaunching its carpooling option Hitch. But last year, drivers murdered two female passengers. The company's solution for the relaunch is an 8 p.m. curfew for women using the service (men can ride until 11 p.m.). Financial Times

- Maternity market. Just how bad are maternity clothes, really? Columnist Sarah Halzack examines the state of the market, from "mommycore" styles to the lack of maternity suiting, athletic apparel, and more. "Great maternity departments should be an easy way to attract millennial moms—ostensibly one of the industry’s most coveted demographic groups," she writes. Bloomberg

- Girls save the world. Three teen girls are taking their government in Pakistan to court over dangerous levels of air pollution. Mishael Hyat, Leila Alam, and Laiba Siddiqi say the government of Punjab violated their right to life and health by underreporting the severity of air pollution in Lahore. BuzzFeed

ON MY RADAR

Cyclist who flipped off Trump motorcade wins local office in Virginia CNN

[Humor] Office housework: A history The New Yorker

Rep. Ayanna Pressley endorses Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president New York Times

The world according to Phoebe Waller-Bridge Vogue

QUOTE

"I literally made myself. I invented Lady Gaga."

-Lady Gaga, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey, on makeup and starting Haus Laboratories

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