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Female founders got more funding than ever in 2019. But still less than WeWork took in.

March 2, 2020, 1:24 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Actor Adèle Haenel leads a protest at the Césars, the U.S.’s lack of paid sick leave leaves us vulnerable during a pandemic, and female founders made progress in 2019—with some caveats. Have a productive Monday. 

– Funding female founders. Every year, Fortune studies the portion of venture capital funding that went to companies founded solely by women. Although the general pattern is an upward one, the news is never *great*.

In 2018, for example, all female founders put together took in less venture capital funding than went to e-cigarette company Juul duing the same 12 months. That trend continued in 2019—but this time, the obvious comparison is WeWork.

Female-founded companies in 2019 got 2.7% of venture capital funding, for a total of $3.54 billion, according to data from PitchBook. Meanwhile, WeWork got a lifeline of at least $5 billion during the same period. (Another 11.5% of the year’s total funding went to mixed-gender founding teams.)

That 2.7% is better than 2018’s 2.2%—but, of course, is still a tiny fraction of the mega-dollars all-male founding teams are getting.

Which brings us to two related questions: Why are venture capitalists so obsessed with pouring billions into companies founded by men, including those that flame out, WeWork-style? And when will female founders get their fair share of the pie?

Pam Kostka, CEO of All Raise, says that the WeWork comparison is “the most visible public argument that could be made for … gender diversity in founding teams, in cap tables, at the board level, and in management at a company.” When WeWork filed for its failed initial public offering, the company had an all-male board.

Read on for more 2019 data points, as well as the top deals of the year for female founders: SpringWorks Therapeutics, Rent the Runway, Glossier, and more. In a bright spot—one could say, a unicorn—among the year’s trends, more female-founded startups than ever became valued at $1 billion.

Emma Hinchliffe


- From South Carolina to Super Tuesday. Joe Biden swept up nearly 50% of the vote in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary on Saturday; Sen. Elizabeth Warren came in fourth with an estimated 7% and zero delegates, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the next spot with about 3% (and Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race). Warren pledged to fight on Super Tuesday, saying that her campaign is "built for the long haul." During coverage of the South Carolina primary, MSNBC's Chris Matthews was kept off the air following renewed allegations of sexual harassment; journalist Laura Bassett wrote about Matthews making inappropriate comments when she appeared on his show. While that behavior took place off air, she wrote the piece after an uncomfortable interview between Matthews and Warren on air last week. MSNBC didn't respond to request for comment.  

- The real honor. On Friday night, Roman Polanski won best director at the Césars, or the French Oscars. Adèle Haenel, star of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, started a walkout in protest; she was followed by the film's director, Céline Sciamma, and others. Haenel has said she was sexually abused by a director as a child and has advocated for the #MeToo movement in France. Polanski pled guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. CNN

- MPW refresh. In the lead-up to International Women's Day next weekend, Fortune podcast the Fortune 500 Daily will run episodes about some of our Most Powerful Women all week. Tune in today for Progressive CEO Tricia Griffith and keep an eye out for Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass, Flex CEO Revathi Advaithi, and more. Fortune

- A paid leave epidemicOne major concern as the U.S. prepares for the spread of the coronavirus? Our lack of paid sick leave. Domestic workers, waiters, and childcare providers are among the many who don't have access to paid time off—a problem during any illness, let alone a possible pandemic. In related news, VP Mike Pence faced criticism from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others after posting a photo of a coronavirus response meeting at which no women seemed to be present. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: The Texas Tribune hired Stacy-Marie Ishmael, formerly of BuzzFeed and the Financial Times, as editorial director and Millie Tran, deputy off-platform editor for the New York Times, as chief product officer. Kate Sampson, former VP of risk solutions at Lyft, joined Anthemis as a managing director.


- Beard for the British Museum. The British Museum nominated famed classicist Mary Beard as a trustee of the institution. Then, Downing Street rejected Beard because of her public pro-Europe, anti-Brexit views (the decision is thought to have been made while Theresa May was still in office, not by Boris Johnson). The British Museum is going around the rules that allow the prime minister to veto candidates by appointing Beard to one of the five trustee slots, out of 25 total, that it is allowed to choose without interference. Guardian

- In the running. At the U.S. Olympic marathon team trials this weekend, Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel, and Sally Kipyego made the cut to represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Games. Tuliamuk had been sidelined by injuries for the past two years; Seidel's race was her marathon debut; and Kipyego gave birth to a daughter in 2017. Des Linden, winner of the 2018 Boston Marathon, came in the dreaded fourth place—just barely missing the mark. Overall, American women raced faster than ever; hear from hundreds of them about why here

- Downsizing. Rockets of Awesome, the children's clothing brand founded by CEO Rachel Blumenthal, laid off about half of its staff. Blumenthal says the company is moving away from growth and targeting profitability, "responding to the pressures in the market." Wall Street Journal

- Private ≠ no pressure. Shareholder pressure on public companies has led many to seek greater gender and racial diversity on their boards of directors. Private companies, however, are behind the curve. A new initiative from the Women on Boards Project aims to work with those private companies not affected by efforts like California's director quota to diversify their boards. Biz Journals


UCLA gymnast Nia Dennis has crowd falling crazy in love with her Beyoncé-inspired routine CNN

How Megan Thee Stallion weathered the hottest summer Rolling Stone

The 'sister of the groom' dead zone of wedding etiquette Slate

Nancy Meyers: Life isn’t like the movies (even if you write the movies) New York Times


"It is not only unacceptable, it is stupid." 

-UN Secretary-General António Guterres on gender inequality