PG&E’s new CEO is the first woman to leap from top of one Fortune 500 company to another

November 19, 2020, 2:02 PM UTC
Patti Poppe, currently chairman and chief executive officer of CMS Energy, has been named CEO of PG&E.
Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Marissa Mayer is back, a governor flips on a mask mandate, and a female CEO puts up a Fortune 500 first. Go get your Thursday!

– A Fortune 500 first. Regular readers will know that we’re in a habit of announcing new female Fortune 500s with a bit of fanfare—after all there are only 37 of them! But today’s new addition is a particularly unusual case.

Patti Poppe has been named CEO of PG&E, which, when we published the Fortune 500 earlier this year, was No. 189 on the ranking. However, Poppe’s new job won’t increase the number of women running Fortune 500 companies, since she’s coming to the gig directly from CMS Energy, No. 443.

Given the rarity of female leaders among these massive companies, going directly from one to another was, until this moment, unheard of. The last woman to come close was Meg Whitman, though in her case there was a significant gap between leaving eBay in 2008 and joining HP in 2011. (As you may recall, she ran for governor of California in between.) Our resident Fortune 500 guru, Scott DeCarlo, couldn’t come up with any other examples—but if any of you can, please let us know!

Interestingly, Poppe also narrowly missing a female CEO-to-female CEO handoff; Geisha Williams stepped down as chief of the energy giant in early 2019. We first saw that kind of transition back in 2009, when Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy passed the baton to Ursula Burns.

Of course, this isn’t quite a feel-good tale of corporate triumph. Williams left PG&E in the wake of admissions that the company’s equipment started more than a dozen wildfires that collectively killed more than 100 people. Facing more than $30 billion in potential liabilities, the company sought bankruptcy protection last January and just emerged from Chapter 11—after pleading guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter—this summer. Poppe takes the helm at a time when the company has a lot of work to do to get back on track—and a massive challenge in terms of winning back public trust.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, at CMS, Poppe led efforts to move away from coal plants and double down on solar and wind farms and other clean tech. Here’s hoping she is able to bring that same kind of forward-thinking and innovation to PG&E’s 16 million customers.

Kristen Bellstrom

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Addressing it. Fortune's Lucinda Shen talks to former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer about her new company, Sunshine, which is developing "a better address book"—or an app for organizing your phone's contacts. Fortune

- Mask mandate. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was one of the Republican governors who strongly objected to implementing mask mandates. Now Reynolds has reversed course, requiring masks indoors. She still says, "I don't want to do this," but faced pressure from local lawmakers and doctors. New York Times

- Calling for a first. Indigenous leaders are calling for President-elect Biden to name a Native American secretary of the Interior—and specifically, to name Rep. Deb Haaland to the position. Haaland would be the first Native American person to serve in a presidential Cabinet; the Interior position oversees matters such as tribal land and Indigenous education. Vox

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Lululemon Athletica has added Kourtney Gibson, president of Loop Capital Markets, to its board. PRO Unlimited appointed Rebecca Perrault, formerly of Deloitte, senior director of Diversity and Inclusion. 


-Professor mom. In the wake of New York City's announcement that it will pause in-person schooling amid rising COVID-19 numbers in the city, a reflection on who steps in when schools shut their doors: moms.

- A second look. Victoria's Secret is trying again, launching a second investigation into parent company L Brands and founder Les Wexner's ties to Jeffrey Epstein. The first attempt produced few results. Shareholders asked the company's board for this investigation, worrying that the attorney running the first was himself too close to Wexner. New York Times

- In a bind. Friends and colleagues of Emily Murphy, the General Services Administration administrator who controls the mechanics of the presidential transition, say she feels like she is in "a hard place" and is "afraid on multiple levels." Murphy hasn't signed off on the transition process, preventing President-elect Biden from moving forward with the usual funding and backing. CNN


Why do we care so much about Diana's dresses? New York Times

The last children of Down syndrome The Atlantic

Pimco accused of ‘fraternity culture’ in suit by female workers Bloomberg


"Strong women intent on doing their own thing are like magnets for me."

- London gallerist Alison Jacques who's focused on repositioning female artists overlooked in the canon of art history.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet