Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The New York Times’ editorial board backs two women, Best Buy’s CEO comes under fire, and we dig into Fertility, Inc. Have a terrific Tuesday.
Today’s essay comes to us from Fortune’s Beth Kowitt:
– Fertility, Inc. Last year, I began to receive a flood of emails from fertility companies announcing new rounds of funding and product launches. They came from standalone egg-freezing boutiques, companies that assist couples with IVF financing, startups that provide at-home hormone tests, wearables that help women determine when they’re ovulating—just to name a few. As a woman in my mid-30s and a journalist who covers health and wellness trends, I am definitely in the sweet spot for these kinds of pitches. But I was truly caught off-guard by the volume of activity, in large part because these companies fell within a category that had been all but ignored in the past.
I wanted to understand what was driving the creation of this new industry, one that not only has the potential to be a big business but also holds major implications for society more broadly. “Some people really care about having genetic children, which makes it a huge source of suffering—and a huge market,” Stanford Law School professor Hank Greely told me.
The culmination of my reporting is out this morning in a new feature, “Fertility Inc.” What I found is that the sector is in the midst of a rapid shift that’s redefining what fertility means and has the potential to change how families are formed. Fertility treatment historically sat outside traditional healthcare, essentially considered elective and a luxury. But today, even as access remains a huge issue, several big demographic trends are starting to move the industry into the mainstream. Millennials are aging into fertility treatment, women are having children later in life, the LGBTQ+ population is increasingly turning to assisted-reproductive technology to build their families, and infertility is losing its status as a taboo topic.
Women’s reproductive health has been severely under-researched and under-funded for all of the societal and political reasons you can imagine. As a result, most of the founders I talked to had started their companies after receiving ambiguous answers about their own reproductive health. A few doctors are skeptical about some of the startups popping up, but it is clear why women are looking for alternatives to a model that’s often failed them and ignored their pain in the past. “Navigating the medical system as a female is fraught,” says Ridhi Tariyal, CEO and cofounder of startup NextGen Jane. “There’s some mistrust there.” But Tariyal is also concerned that investors’ newfound focus on pregnancy and fertility will draw away what little attention the rest of women’s health has fought to garner. The maternal mortality rates of black women, for example, is a truly dire issue that’s been largely overlooked.
And yet despite all of the funding, progress, and legitimizing of the industry, fertility remains outside traditional healthcare in that it is so deeply personal and emotional in ways that other parts of medicine are not. As I write in my piece:
It’s a reminder that the fertility industry has yet to disentangle itself from the very paradigms that advancements in reproductive health were supposed to dismantle: the conflation of womanhood and motherhood, the belief that biological ties are the best way to create a family, the implication that the burden of reproduction lies with women. It remains unclear that any amount of investment could ever shift those archetypes. But for the industry overall, that would truly be a major breakthrough.
Read the full story here.
Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Claire Zillman. By the way, Claire is in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. She’ll have more from the confab in coming days.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
- 'May the best woman win.' The New York Times' editorial board took the extraordinary step on Sunday of endorsing two Democratic candidates for the party's nomination: Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. "Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration," the Times wrote. "If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now. If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it. That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach." New York Times
- Best Buy probe. Best Buy CEO Corie Barry is the subject of a probe into whether she had an inappropriate romantic relationship with another executive, Karl Sanft, who's since left the company. The Best Buy board got word of the allegations in an anonymous letter in early December. Barry, who became CEO last June, told the WSJ she's cooperating with the investigation. Wall Street Journal
HR A.I. Here's another Fortune deep dive: Maria Aspan's piece on how companies are using A.I. in hiring. One reason managers are turning to technology is because it cuts down on bias in their decision-making. “People are inherently biased,” says Pieter Schalkwijk of Kraft Heinz. “I wanted less biased hiring decisions and more data-driven hiring decisions.” Maria's piece is part of a larger special report by Fortune on artificial intelligence. Fortune
- Investigating Isabel. Some 700,000 documents obtained by the New York Times paint a fresh picture of Africa's richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, worth some $2 billion, and how she obtained her vast fortune. On Monday, the Portuguese bank EuroBic, an arm of a bank in which she is the largest shareholder, said it would end its "commercial relationship" with her. New York Times
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
- See you in court. The trial of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou finally started in Canada on Monday. It will determine if the crime Meng is accused of in the U.S.—fraud linked to the alleged violation of American sanctions against Iran—would also be considered a crime in Canada. A judge must determine such "double criminality" before Meng can be extradited to the U.S. She maintains her innocence. BBC
- Bumble fumble. Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd has talked at great lengths about wanting the women-focused dating app to make relationships more equitable. "Our mission, really, ultimately, is to stop misogyny," she says. But there's little evidence that—compared to competitors—the app is safer or its users less sexist. Bloomberg
- 'That's my husband, Joe Biden.' Joe Biden's clutch closer? His wife, Jill. She's been on the Iowa campaign trail for weeks now, trying to convince undecided voters to support her husband. She pitches him as the candidate who can restore stability in the White House. "A commander in chief that you can trust. A leader who brings people together. A president that you can feel proud of,” she says. “That's my husband, Joe Biden.” Washington Post
ON MY RADAR
49ers' Katie Sowers will be the first woman in NFL history to coach in a Super Bowl Bleacher Report
"Let's root for the boys:" The reimagining of the NFL cheerleader GQ
Would a 37-year-old woman be where Pete Buttigieg is? New York Times
In promoting Hulu documentary, Hillary Clinton says she ‘should have done more’ to repair her public image Fortune
"I hope she’s having a delicious glass of wine somewhere warm."
- Writer and actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge on where we might find her Fleabag hero in 20 years. Waller-Bridge and members of the Fleabag cast spoke to Fortune about the Amazon series.