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The UN General Assembly is the ultimate ‘manel’

September 23, 2020, 12:50 PM UTC
Key Speakers At 75th Session Of Virtual United Nations General Assembly
Emmanuel Macron, France's president, speaks during the United Nations General Assembly seen on a laptop computer in Hastings on the Hudson, New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 22. 2020. France reported 10,008 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, in line with the pace of infections picking up again, after a post-weekend lull on Monday. Photographer: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Tiffany Hagler-Geard—Bloomberg/Getty Images

This is the web version of The Broadsheet, a daily newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Hillary Clinton has a new podcast, Betsy DeVos faces an ethics investigation, and the UN General Assembly begins without addresses from any female leaders. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

– The ultimate manel. If a ‘manel’ is an all-male panel, what’s the term for a full day of the UN General Assembly that features no women speakers? Words escape me.

The first day of the virtual general assembly on Tuesday featured formal speeches by 32 male leaders and none by women. The first woman to address the meeting of world leaders will be Slovakia President Zuzana Čaputová this morning; she’s speaker No. 50 or so. President Jeanine Añez Chávez of Bolivia is also scheduled to deliver an address this afternoon.

The UN reportedly makes the schedule on a first-come, first-serve basis, but it’s not as if the gender make-up of the speakers evens out later on. PassBlue, a publication that covers the UN, reported earlier this month that of the 196 speakers at this year’s general assembly, just 11 are women. Several member states reportedly tried to swap the order of speakers to address the lack of women on Day 1, but to no avail.

The speaker line-up essentially tells us what we already know; that the number of women among world leaders remains extraordinarily low. This year, there are 22 female heads of government representing the 193 UN member states.

But the optics are especially bad this year, since UN Secretary General António Guterres has publicly touted his dedication to gender equality; since so many female leaders have earned plaudits for their handling of the pandemic that continues to devastate; since the UN’s own research shows the pandemic is exerting a disproportionately high toll on the world’s women.

“The UN…should be a leading example in terms of representation and inclusion,” said Isabel Saint Malo, former vice president of Panama. “However, what we see at the UN is parallel to representation in other spaces.”

Claire Zillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Party lines. Cindy McCain, the widow of the late GOP Sen. John McCain, formally endorsed Joe Biden for President. She had appeared in a Democratic National Convention clip about her husband's relationship with the Democratic nominee, and moved forward with a formal endorsement following President Trump's reported comments calling injured soldiers "losers" and "suckers." McCain says she hopes "suburban women [will] take another look" at Biden. CNN

- Consequential clip. After the Department of Education distributed a Fox News clip of Secretary Betsy DeVos criticizing Joe Biden, DeVos will be investigated for a potential violation of the Hatch Act, or ethics breach for engaging in political activities as an on-the-job federal employee. A DOE spokeswoman called the complaint "frivolous." New York Times

- Style shares. Shares for Stitch Fix dropped by 14% after the personal-styling company reported a fiscal fourth-quarter loss of $44.5 million in earnings yesterday. CEO Katrina Lake says she thinks changing consumer habits during the pandemic could benefit the company long-term as even more customers turn to online shopping. CNBC

- Clinton-cast. The Michelle Obama Podcast is finishing up its season, but listeners will soon have You and Me Both, a new podcast from Hillary Clinton, to fill the void. The former presidential candidate will speak with guests from Stacey Abrams to comedian and Trump satirist Sarah Cooper. USA Today

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Morgan Beller, cofounder of Facebook's Libra, left the company; she will join NFX as a general partner. Hogarth Worldwide named Elyse Epstein COO and Tania Sethi chief production officer. Citi promoted ICG head of diversity Kira Cordoba-Brown to head of ICG talent and diversity. Raines International hired former PepsiCo SVP Lisa Mann as CMO. Former Sony exec Andrea Wong joins Roblox's board of directors. 


- Parliamentary procedure. In Kenya, a judge advised that the President dissolve the country's Parliament after failing to meet a constitutional requirement that one-third of the body's seats be held by women. The justice noted that legislators have in the past demonstrated "lackadaisical attitude and conduct" toward the rule. Reuters

- All over again. Had a sense of déjà vu recently? Fortune's Rey Mashayekhi reports on how allegations of sexual assault by President Trump (which he denies) have played out similarly to how they did in 2016—meaning, failing to make much of a dent in Trump's political prospects. Fortune

- Riding the wave. This year, Maya Gabeira surfed the biggest wave ever ridden by a woman—and the biggest wave ridden by anyone during the 2019-2020 season. The 73.5-foot crest beat Gabeira's own personal record by five feet. New York Times


Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing feels like millions of women have lost their bubbie Fortune

Why we need more women leading the fight for the planet Elle

RBG and the empty triumph of liberal pop culture Washington Post


"I am unafraid to be ugly. ... In this one area, I can actually say I feel capable of being fearless."

-Actor Sarah Paulson on playing "unpleasant" characters, like Nurse Ratched in her new Netflix series Ratched