It’s okay to say ‘no, thanks’ to the next rung in the career ladder

March 5, 2020, 1:42 PM UTC
Woman leaving work
Woman leaving work.
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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Bloomberg drops out, Mary Barra unveils GM’s electric vehicle plan, and sometimes passing on a career opportunity is just fine. Have a terrific Thursday. 

– A different take on ambition. When it comes to advancing our careers, women have gotten used to reading the stories urging us to think bigger, to embrace risk, to pitch ourselves for the project even when we don’t meet 110% of the criteria, and to apply for—and take—the big, scary job or promotion.

And there are, of course, plenty of times when that’s excellent advice. But the ubiquity of that type of thinking is also part of what made me think “yes!” when I read The Cut’s recent interview with Denise Pickett, president of global services at American Express.

In the interview, Pickett is clear that she thinks of herself as ambitious and aims to inspire that same ambition in the people she works with. Yet she doesn’t shy away from talking about times when she’s chosen to say no to major career opportunities. Here’s what she had to say about one such experience:

“When I was a VP, I was offered a pretty big promotion to the next level. It was my first chance to run a business. But I said no, because I had three children under the age of 7, and to be successful at the job, I’d have to travel 75 percent of the time. It just wasn’t going to work. That’s a decision I’ll never regret. In that moment, the right thing for me was being ambitious about my personal life. Being ambitious isn’t always about climbing the corporate ladder. It’s about being your best self across the spectrum of things that are meaningful to you. You can’t make a wrong decision if you follow that compass. You just can’t. So while I would say that part of being ambitious is taking risks. I don’t mean just saying yes — I also mean risks with saying no.”

Refreshing, right? Obviously, if you want the big job, take it. Even if it scares you, even if it feels like a gamble. But if you don’t—if the timing feels wrong, or you get that nagging feeling that you’d only be doing it because of some nebulous sense that you “should”—saying no is okay too! Choosing not to pursue one opportunity doesn’t mean you’re not ambitious, that you’re settling, or that you won’t ultimately end up with the career you’ve always wanted. It might just mean you have different priorities right now. And, as Pickett explains, that can be its own sort of ambition.

A housekeeping note: As some of you may have noticed, Fortune launched a paywall this week. The Broadsheet will remain free, but if you’re looking for a way to support those of us who produce it, please become a subscriber! Readers even get a discount—you can check out the options here.

Kristen Bellstrom

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe


- Bye, Bloomberg. After Elizabeth Warren's takedown and Super Tuesday results, Michael Bloomberg is out of the race for president, he announced on Wednesday. Warren, despite the disappointing results for her campaign this week, is still in. 

- Their day in court. As the Supreme Court justices listened to oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo yesterday, abortion rights advocates came away from the day more hopeful than some would have expected going in. Potential swing vote Chief Justice John Roberts repeatedly asked Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill, arguing in favor of the state's restrictions on abortion, about precedent—the core issue in this case, as its argument doesn't much differ from the last abortion rights case the Supreme Court decided in 2016. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, known to be in favor of restrictions on abortion, also revealed his potential stance on this case. In this Glamour piece, you can also read about the lawyers fighting to preserve abortion rights. Vox

- It's electric. GM CEO Mary Barra yesterday unveiled a new electric vehicle platform and the automaker's broader electric vehicle strategy, vowing to "put everyone in an EV" as the company spends $20 billion over five years. "We believe climate change is real," Barra said. Plus, GM wants to convince Wall Street that it can catch up to Tesla. MarketWatch

- Coronavirus report. The International Monetary Fund will implement a $50 billion aid package for low-income and emerging market countries affected by the virus, managing director Kristalina Georgieva announced. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will pay for 15,000 medicinal molecules to be shipped from California to a lab in Belgium to help develop a cure for the disease. And Rent the Runway took the proactive step yesterday of informing customers about how the brand, led by CEO Jen Hyman, cleans its rental clothing: "There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted from soft surfaces like fabric or carpet," the company told its subscribers.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: President Trump named Nancy B. Beck, a former chemical industry executive and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of chemical safety, to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission


- Hotel human trafficking. Dozens of lawsuits filed across the country accuse the nation's biggest hotel chains—Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts—of ignoring sex trafficking at their locations. Federal sex-trafficking statutes are rarely used against large corporations, and the plaintiffs are asking not just for damages, but for the hotels to work to prevent trafficking in the future. Hilton says it is committed "to protecting people from exploitation;" Marriott says it has trained workers to spot signs of trafficking; and Wyndham says the company condemns human trafficking. Wall Street Journal

- Presidential statements. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said during a televised event to promote a women's healthcare plan that the country's women should "give birth." "Every woman is to have six children! Every one! For the good of the country!" he exclaimed. The comments drew extra offense considering Venezuela's economic crisis, which had forced many parents to flee as they try to support their children. In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed with last year's #KuToo movement that Japanese women should not be required to wear high heels to work. 

- Cricket, cricket. First surfing, now cricket. The cricket competition the Hundred will split £600,000 in prize money evenly between the men’s and women’s competitions, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced. Professional female players still earn less through their contracts—an average of £8,000 for women compared to £66,600 for men—but the equal prize money is "an important step in the right direction," Beth Barrett-Wild, head of the women’s competition, said. Guardian

- RIP, Rosie. Rosalind P. Walter was working the night shift in 1942 driving rivets into the metal bodies of Corsair fighter planes when she became "Rosie the Riveter." A newspaper column about Walter and the war effort inspired a song that has been part of the popular imagination for more than 70 years. Later in life, Walter went on to become a well-known philanthropist and a principal backer of PBS; she supported PBS because she felt public television filled gaps in her education, since she wasn't able to attend college during World War II. She died at 95 on Wednesday. New York Times


It will be hard to get over what happened to Elizabeth Warren Gen

The Dixie Chicks release first new music in 14 years—a scathing anthem called ‘Gaslighter’ Washington Post

Ronan Farrow condemns his publisher over Woody Allen memoir Guardian

How Hayley Williams saved herself (and, BTW, Paramore) New York Times


"Don’t be afraid of failure. I mean, not total failure. Total failure, yes, would be bad."

-Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management dean Francesca Cornelli 

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