Female entrepreneurs pivot to meet challenges of the coronavirus pandemic

March 25, 2020, 12:27 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Greta Thunberg thinks she had coronavirus, Justin Trudeau is solo parenting, and female founders race to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Have a productive Wednesday. 

– Female entrepreneurs v. pandemic. In a new Fortune story this morning, Emma asks a fascinating question: Why are women-led health care startups leading the pack in designing Silicon Valley’s response to the coronavirus pandemic?

Two startups Nurx, led by CEO Varsha Rao, and Everlywell, led by CEO Julia Cheek, have both developed at-home coronavirus tests in recent weeks. They saw their efforts scuttled by a new FDA guidance that essentially bans at-home tests, at least for the time being. (Everlywell has pivoted to selling its tests to health care providers.)

Nevertheless, the startups’ pursuit of a solution to the U.S.’s test shortage speaks to women’s role in health care in general, Cheek says.

“Women are often the centers of health care planning in their homes—they make 75% of health care decisions for their families,” she says. “For women running health care companies, we have to step in and we want to lead for the community.” Adds Rao: “A deep commitment to public health is something that speaks very much to female leaders.”

Female-led startup are meeting this moment in other ways too. Ava, a wearables startup led by CEO Lea von Bidder, offered its hardware to researchers who want to undertake a study of coronavirus and possible early detection. Women’s telehealth company Maven, led by CEO Kate Ryder, is seeing an uptick in users as patients avoid in-person doctor’s appointments. It’s also started offering six-month contracts to employers that want to provide telehealth benefits to employees during the crisis.

Cheek says women leaders are “staying calm” amid the mayhem. “We’ll soon be seeing their collective response,” she said.

Claire Zillman

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe


- Get well soon, Greta! Greta Thunberg says it is "extremely likely" that she had COVID-19, although she is now mostly feeling better and was not tested, in line with Sweden's testing standards. She and her father began experiencing symptoms after a trip to central Europe and are self-isolating. Another high-profile diagnosis: Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II's heir to the throne. Guardian

- Devastating delivery news. The coronavirus-induced ban on any visitors—including partners—in the delivery room at some New York hospitals is confusing and devastating pregnant women. "A lot of desperate moms-to-be ... are totally on the verge of a nervous breakdown," one woman whose due date is this week told The Cut. "I have not stopped crying after hearing that my husband can’t be with me," Samantha Moshen, due in June, told the New York Times. 

- Solo parenting. With Sophie Grégoire Trudeau in isolation as she recovers from COVID-19 and the Canadian first family's usual staff not coming to work, Justin Trudeau has been on his own looking after three children, keeping the house in order, and running Canada. "Daddy’s on an important phone call right now," the prime minister has told his kids while talking to his advisers. New York Times

- Pause on pay. Because of the coronavirus crisis, the U.K. government has suspended its requirement that companies report their gender pay gaps for the 2019-2020 year. Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss and Equality and Human Rights Commission chair David Isaac said it was "only right" to suspend the mandate as employers face "unprecedented uncertainty and pressure." Reuters


- Draft decision. The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service will soon recommend to Congress that all Americans—men and women—between the ages of 18 and 25 should be required to register with the government in case of a military draft. While there hasn't been a draft in 40 years, the bipartisan commission argues that women should be included if there ever is one again. "If the threat is to our very existence,” said Debra Wada, a former assistant secretary for the Army who served on the commission, “wouldn’t you want women as part of that group? New York Times

- Missing medication. After President Trump tweeted the unverified claim that the drug hydroxychloroquine could treat the coronavirus, patients with lupus—who are mostly women and who rely on the medication—found they were unable to refill their prescriptions. ProPublica

- Sew for it. Amid a shortage of N95 masks, professional and amateur seamstresses across the country banded together to sew masks for U.S. healthcare workers. Handmade masks aren't as effective as medical-grade masks, but the women, who organized through the Facebook group "Sew You Care," want to contribute as long as there's a need. Fortune


Here’s to the USA Olympic women skateboarders—who would’ve ripped it up in Tokyo Vogue

Just give in to Alison Roman The Cut

A New York City restaurant owner on responding to racism and making difficult decisions during coronavirus Vogue

The 'Niqab Squad' wants women to be seen differently New York Times


"Whatever you’re going through right now, I want you to know you aren’t alone."

-Michelle Obama, on Instagram

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet