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Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is investing—in women

March 30, 2021, 9:30 AM UTC

Good morning,

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is no stranger to firsts.

She made history as the first woman to serve as governor of Rhode Island before she began her appointment March 3 to lead the U.S. Department of Commerce. But prior to the Commerce Secretary’s time in public service, she had a career in venture capital, founding her own firm. And she knows a worthwhile investment when she sees one, she told me recently.

Biden Cabinet-Gina Raimondo
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

“No company today can afford to not have women in their boardroom or in their leadership ranks because they’ll be missing out on too much talent,” says Raimondo, who also served Rhode Island’s general treasurer tackling the state’s $7 billion unfunded pension liability. 

Speaking of venture capital, just 5.6% of U.S. venture capital firms are women-led according to a research report by Women in VC released in October 2020. Yet “VC firms that increased the number of female partners by 10% experienced a 1.5% increase in fund returns each year, plus 9.7% more profitable exits,” Harvard Business Review found. At the same time, representation of women in corporate leadership continues to lag. There have only been “modest signs of progress,” for women in C-suite roles, according to a September 2020 McKinsey & Company report. Between 2015 and 2020, representation in the C-suite grew from 17 to 21 percent, the report found

If companies aren’t prioritizing inclusivity, “they do so at their own peril because women represent half of America’s talent and some of the hardest working, most innovative, most brilliant people in America,” Raimondo told me.

However, she’s very aware of how many American women have borne the brunt of the pandemic. “Millions of American women have lost their jobs,” she said. “They’ve fallen out of the workforce in greater numbers than men; and we also know they’ve kind of shouldered much of the burden of childcare with childcare centers and schools being closed.”

An “historic childcare tax credit,” support for women-owned small businesses and retraining for in-demand job skills are a few of the measures Raimondo points to in the American Rescue Plan Act that she thinks will help. 

The reskilling or training is really for those “who’ve either lost a job due to COVID, or who are in an industry that is in transformation,” Raimondo said. But “hopefully over time,” increased training in digital or data skills can lead to higher paying jobs in a leadership position, she said. 

Meanwhile finance teams will need to stay on top of provisions of the plan that impact employers such as bringing back COBRA subsidies, which were “previously available in modified form under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to The National Law Review. Under the new rules, those deemed “Assistance Eligible Individuals” can qualify for temporary premium subsidies from April 1 to September 30 2021.


The pandemic has certainly required flexibility in keeping up with compliance. How are you staying on top of the new law’s requirements?

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

The outlook of CFOs appears to have improved overall in Q1 2021, a report by Deloitte found. Four key operating metrics were trending upwards, except for earnings growth. “CFOs have a greater appetite for risk-taking,” according to the report.

PRNewsfoto/Deloitte

Going deeper

A report by the CFA Institute, Future of Sustainability in Investment Management: From Ideas to Reality, finds that 85% of CFA Institute members* now take E, S, and/or G factors into consideration in their investing, up from 73% in 2017.

Leaderboard

Tara Comonte, president and CFO at Shake Shack, is stepping down to become a CEO at a private company. Comonte, who joined Shake Shack in 2017, will remain in her role through May 7, 2021.

Armin Zerza was appointed CFO at Activision Blizzard. Zerza currently serves as chief commercial officer of Activision Blizzard and chief operating officer of Blizzard Entertainment. He will assume his new role in the company’s second fiscal quarter following the retirement of current CFO Dennis Durkin.   

Andrew E. Page was named executive vice president and CFO at Foot Locker, effective April 12, 2021. Page will succeed Lauren B. Peters who is retiring.

Overheard

"Where I'm most focused is: How do you break through those [headwinds] and accelerate the opportunities for women at all levels? And it clearly starts with the tone from the top.”

— Ruth Porat, CFO of Google parent Alphabet, on headwinds that face women in finance, as told to Yahoo! Finance.