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A peek inside the pandemic-era boardroom

April 28, 2020, 12:25 PM UTC
Group of business people having a business meeting
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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Hope Hicks strategizes White House coronavirus communications, PPE is designed for men, and female directors give us a peek into the pandemic-era boardroom. Have a nice Tuesday. 

– The pandemic-era boardroom. Want a peek inside the pandemic-era boardroom? TheBoardlist, a marketplace that connects CEOs with qualified female director candidates, is giving us a glimpse this morning with a new, albeit small, survey of women board members.

A few takeaways from the 100 respondents who answered the survey in mid-April:

  • The fallout of the coronavirus caught many boards off-guard. Going into the pandemic, nearly half of all boards—45%—did not have emergency plans in place for how they would communicate in the event of a crisis. But now they’re in touch more than before, with 80% of directors saying the cadence of communication among board members is more frequent.
  • Virtual board meetings are not necessarily new—and they’re here to stay. More than half of respondents—52%—said they were not required to attend board meetings in person before COVID-19 hit, and 49% disagree that physical attendance of board meetings will be required in the future.
  • Board members have mixed pandemic-era priorities: Business continuity (27%), cash management (27%), long-term business impact (25%), and employee safety (19%). But there’s more consensus on boards’ primary role in this moment: Providing external perspective and information (50%), scenario planning (22%), emotional support for the CEO and management team (19%), and identifying cost cutting measures (3%).
  • Succession planning is still inadequate, even in a pandemic. Corporations are notoriously bad at planning for leadership shake-ups, and a global pandemic hasn’t hastened all to act; 38% of respondents say their boards and management teams have no succession plan should someone get sick.
  • The question of the moment is certainly: When does this all end? The survey gives us one timeline to consider: the vast majority of directors see their own company’s rebound taking at least six months. When asked for their “best guess” on the timeframe their company would need to “recover” from the crisis, 74% of respondents gave that answer (the longest timeframe to choose from), followed by three months (15%), and one month (10%).

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Driving forward. General Motors, led by CEO Mary Barra, is racing to stockpile cash to get through the coronavirus pandemic. The automaker suspended its shareholder dividend and drew on a credit line of at least $15 billion. Analysts estimate that GM is in a better position to face the crisis than Ford. Wall Street Journal

- Diversity dip. German companies aren't known for the diversity among the top ranks of their leaders. Now, the short tenure of Jennifer Morgan as SAP co-CEO—appointed and ousted within six months—is seen as a setback for the cause. Morgan was the first woman to run one of the country's top-listed companies; women in German business say the nation has a "special issue" with gender. Bloomberg

- Here's Hoping. Who is designing President Trump's communication strategy amid the coronavirus pandemic? That would be Hope Hicks. The former communications director returned to the White House just in time for the global crisis. Politico

- All is revealed. The coronavirus crisis has revealed three truths about work and parenting to American employers, writes Claire Cain Miller: Parenting happens at all hours; it's not just a personal choice, but a public good; and it requires societal support. (We're guessing many of you knew all of that already!) New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: The Drone Racing League named as president Rachel Jacobson, former NBA SVP of global partnerships.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Ill-fitting consequences. Forget the shortages of personal protective equipment—sometimes the PPE that is available at hospitals doesn't even fit! Female healthcare workers in the U.K. say masks and gowns are designed for men, putting them in danger when ill-fitting gear fails to protect them from the virus. Guardian

- No. 1, y'allSome good news from the world of country music: for the first time ever, two debuting female artists had back-to-back No. 1 hits on the country radio chart. Newcomers Ingrid Andress and Gabby Barrett achieved the milestone. Variety

- Quarantainment. Surprise, we're getting a Michelle Obama Netflix documentary! Streaming May 6, the documentary will follow the former first lady's book tour for Becoming. And in a few months, there will be a new biography of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, expected to describe the past few years from the couple's point of view, with Meghan depicted in a "more flattering light." 

ON MY RADAR

Nancy Pelosi endorses Joe Biden's presidential bid Time

Gates Foundation to concentrate on coronavirus Financial Times 

Women are buying 'Essential AF' shirts, candles, and wine glasses The Atlantic

You’ll want to learn the name Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. She’s Netflix’s next teen star LA Times

PARTING WORDS

"Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was."

-Philip C. Breen, father of Dr. Lorna M. Breen, medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital. She died by suicide after treating coronavirus patients.