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Magic Leap’s Peggy Johnson long aspired to be a CEO. Too few women set that intention

July 8, 2020, 1:04 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! One in four men say women’s equality has come at their expense, Seema Varma talks telemedicine with Fortune, and Peggy Johnson set an intention. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

– Setting a CEO intention. We briefly mentioned in yesterday’s Broadsheet that headset startup Magic Leap hired top Microsoft executive Peggy Johnson as its CEO. As Kristen reported, Johnson was one of three female executives on Satya Nadella’s 16-person leadership team and is best known for spearheading Microsoft’s $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn, its biggest ever.

Johnson’s record at Microsoft made her move especially noteworthy in Silicon Valley circles, given Magic Leap’s struggles of late. The augmented-reality firm has raised nearly $3.5 billion in funding on the notion that it could fulfill the lofty promises of spatial technology. So far, its results have disappointed. The arrival of its first headset was delayed; when it finally launched in 2018, sales flopped. The company has since revised its strategy, pivoting from consumers to businesses and in April laid off roughy a third of its staff.

The circumstances of Johnson’s hiring make it a trademark case of what researchers call the “glass cliff,” the phenomenon in which women and people of color are given a shot at a top job when the company is crisis, and therefore face slimmer odds of success. Other recent appointments that fit the trend: Linda Kozlowski at Blue Apron, Jill Soltau at now-bankrupt J.C. Penney.

But it was another nugget of this news that caught my attention. In an interview with New York Times, Johnson explained that she has long aspired to be a chief executive. “I chose this,” she said. “It really says something that, at this point in time, I would leave Microsoft to go to this space, because Microsoft is doing quite well.”

It is exceedingly rare for a female executive to express—publicly or otherwise—that kind of intention. In fact, a 2017 Korn Ferry survey of 57 female CEOs—41 from Fortune 1000 companies and 16 from large privately-held firms—found that only five had always wanted to be a CEO and another three said they’d never wanted to be chief executive. Two-thirds said they didn’t realized they could be a CEO until someone else told them.

Women not envisioning themselves as chief executives is “a common blind spot,” the researchers said. The study urged organizations to provide “wake-up calls” so women would recognize their potential. Cliff or no cliff, Johnson saw hers.

Fortune hosted Day One of its first-ever virtual Brainstorm Health conference yesterday, featuring some of the top women in health care. More below on what they’re making of this seminal moment in public health and medicine.

Claire Zillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Onto November for N.J. Votes are still being counted in New Jersey and Delaware, which headed to the polls last night. Amy Kennedy, former teacher and wife of Rep. Patrick Kennedy, won her Democratic primary for a New Jersey House seat against professor Brigid Callahan Harrison; Kennedy in November will face Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who defected from the Democratic Party to the GOP last year. CNN

- Quarter-ly report. A new Pew Research Center survey on the state of gender equality, executed in honor of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, finds that one in four men say women's gains have come at their expense. Another interesting finding: Americans think white, Black, and Hispanic women have all benefitted from the feminist movement—but that white women, more than any others, have benefitted "a lot." Fortune

- Haters gonna hate? Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg responded to the growing "Stop Hate for Profit" boycott encouraging advertisers to abandon the platform. The company "has to get better at finding and removing hateful content," Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post addressing the issue for the first time. Bloomberg

- Dream team? Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a WNBA team owner, doesn't support the league's plan to honor Black women killed by police during its upcoming season. Loeffler wrote to commissioner Cathy Engelbert and asked her to abandon plans to put the names Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland on uniforms, and instead feature the American flag. Players for the Atlanta Dream, including Renee Montgomery, quickly criticized Loeffler's response. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Sanctuary Wealth added the six-person Hill Group from Morgan Stanley led by Emily Bowersock Hill and Kaylin Dillon; they will now be called Bowersock Capital Partners. PNC Financial Services Group named Carole Brown head of its asset management group. 


- Data & telemedicine. At Fortune's Brainstorm Health Virtual conference yesterday, we heard from Seema Varma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. She says the coronavirus pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of data accessibility and telemedicine. Fortune

- Another crisis. Jessica Mega, chief medical and scientific officer of Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences, says that the pandemic is worsening the opioid crisis. She spoke about the effects of loneliness and isolation on the crisis during Fortune's Brainstorm Health Virtual conference. Fortune

- Bank on it. Bank of America vice chairman Anne Finucane also joined Fortune for the event. She talked about the bank's commitment to allocate $1 billion over the next four years to a racial equality program aimed at small businesses, affordable housing, jobs, and emergency health. Fortune

- Members speak up. Last week, members of The Wing sent a letter to the women's co-working space's board asking for significant changes to how the troubled startup does business. The members—who credit The Wing with building the infrastructure that allowed the women across industries to connect and mobilize—shared their demands with Fortune. The Wing says it "appreciate[s] the passion our members have about the Wing community." Fortune


Memes are robbing Breonna Taylor of her story Jezebel

In conversation: Thandie Newton Vulture

The Fug Girls on the book publishing industry and maintaining a small business online Fortune


"I resent everyone who hasn’t been honest."

-Amy Schumer, on pregnancy. Her new HBO Max documentary series Expecting Amy chronicles her difficult pregnancy.