The pandemic is hurting female scientists—that’s bad news for all of us

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Coinbase’s COO discusses the company’s trading debut, Kohl’s reaches a truce with activist investors, and the pandemic is hurting female scientists. Have a thoughtful Thursday.

– Trust the science. The fact that the pandemic is likely to cause long-lasting damage to women’s careers is no secret. The Broadsheet has been reporting on that dreary fact for more than a year now, so you might expect us to be getting numb to it. But despite all that, I found this New York Times story on the fallout among female scientists to be downright chilling.

The story describes an “epidemic of loss” among women in the field, as they pull back or even drop out after being squeezed by lack of child care, stymied by racial and gender bias, and left unsupported by employers that sometimes lack even the basic benefits offered to working women in the private sector. The results, fittingly enough, are quite quantifiable: The Times reports: “Several studies have found that women have published fewer papers, led fewer clinical trials and received less recognition for their expertise during the pandemic.”

As with other groups of working women, the pandemic didn’t so much create these problems as lay them bare. The NYT notes that last November, the journal Nature Communications published a study “suggesting that having female mentors would hinder the career of young scientists and recommending that the young women instead seek out men to help them.”

That study, no surprise, was both controversial and, according to experts, awash with flawed assumptions and analysis. It was retracted—but not before it revealed just how deep-seated the field’s bias and sexism can be.

The importance of having women represented in labs and universities around the world cannot be overstated. Let’s just take the pandemic as an example. Women have been instrumental in developing several of the vaccines that are our best hope of escaping this mess. Women have played an essential role in allowing us to better understand the virus. And we need women involved in the testing and development of treatments and vaccines to make sure the needs of women, including pregnant women, will be factored into that research.

And of course, losing female scientists—particularly those in the world of academia—sets us up to pass the problem to yet another generation. When your professors and advisors are male, who will show you that there’s a place for women in the field, a place for you?

Kristen Bellstrom

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- On base. The big stock debut yesterday belonged to the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, which began trading at $381 per share, well above the $250 reference point set beforehand. Fortune's Robert Hackett spoke to Coinbase president and COO Emilie Choi ahead of the company's market debut. In the interview, she acknowledged that crypto is "not for the faint of heart." Fortune

- McStandards. McDonald's put out new global standards yesterday that aim to prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in its restaurants. The rules, introduced following allegations of sexual harassment at McDonald's locations, include new reporting procedures, trainings, and surveys. Fortune

- Retail truce. Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass reached a truce with a group of activist investors who held 9.3% of shares and aimed to take over the retailer's board. As part of the deal, restaurant industry exec Margaret Jenkins and former Lululemon CEO Christine Day will join the Kohl's board. Fortune

- Inspired competition. Simone Biles is returning to the Olympics this summer, and she says part of the reason she worked to compete again is that she wanted gymnasts who were victims of their former doctor Larry Nassar to be represented in Tokyo. "I feel like, if there weren't a remaining survivor in the sport, they would have just brushed it to the side,” she said. "Coming back, gymnastics just wasn't the only purpose I was supposed to do." Glamour

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Dawn Jones will be the next chief diversity and inclusion officer at Intel, stepping into the role vacated by Barbara Whye, who moved to Apple. 


- Pregnancy privacy. Startups are starting to innovate a long stagnant product: pregnancy tests. The companies Stix and Lia are both trying to improve privacy for the process of buying the tests, Stix by selling them online and Lia by creating a product that can be disposed of by flushing it down the toilet. Wall Street Journal

- 'The woman who made van Gogh.' Art historians are starting to reevaluate the legacy of Jo van Gogh-Bonger, the sister-in-law of Vincent van Gogh who played a crucial role in convincing the world to recognize the artist's genius. "Without Jo there would have been no van Gogh," says one biographer. New York Times

- Naming conventions. The app Peanut, a social media platform for mothers and pregnant women founded by Michelle Kennedy, is starting a campaign to remove outdated terms from the medical lexicon. Phrases like "inhospitable womb" and "unfavorable cervix" were created by a male-dominated field, argues a panel convened by the startup. Mashable


Serena Williams sets docuseries, first-look TV deal at Amazon Variety

How to advocate for yourself as a pregnant Black woman Glamour

It's time for women to break up with politeness Elle


"I guess it's never been done before so it doesn't have a name." 

-University of North Texas softball pitcher Hope Trautwein, who pitched more than a perfect game—not just not allowing any player to reach a base, but striking out every batter. 

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