The empowering decision to work part-time

May 3, 2021, 12:52 PM UTC
High angle view of businesswoman with baby girl writing in diary at table in creative office
COVID-era caretaking demands are forcing some white collar workers to 'downshift.'
Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Poppy Gustafsson’s Darktrace surged in its trading debut, Warren Buffett contends with diversity and inclusion, and we meet the women who are downshifting—by choice. Have a meaningful Monday.

– Working 9 to noon. The Broadsheet has written at length about women leaving the workforce amid the pandemic, but there’s another phenomenon underway: women in white collar jobs who are voluntarily downshifting to fewer hours in order to better handle the caregiving demands of the COVID era.

The Atlantic has a great story about the trend that is, admittedly, available to privileged women whose family finances can withstand the corresponding cut in pay.

What struck me about the story is that part-time work among women is more common elsewhere in the world. In the Netherlands, for instance, the majority of women work part-time, as do 45% of Swiss women. There are tradeoffs to such arrangements; Dutch women are less likely than their American peers to be managers. But even if women—and men, for that matter—are willing to make that sacrifice, for part-time white collar work to go more mainstream, employers must be more willing to hire part-time workers and child care needs to be more affordable; after all, even full-time workers have a hard time paying the day care bill.

Choosing to work part-time is still stigmatized—quite wrongly—as a cop-out. (Some of the women in this story actually worried about the message it sent to their kids.) But it’s clear that many professionals who opt for this route see the decision as empowering; one that, yes, bucks societal expectations of the do-it-all working mom, but one that favors what’s best for a woman’s family and her own mental and physical health in the end.

Claire Zillman

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 Claire Zillman. 


- IPO pop. Darktrace, the buzzy U.K.-based cybersecurity tech firm led by CEO Poppy Gustafsson, lived up to its hype on Friday. Its shares shot up nearly 40% on their first day of trading on the London Stock Exchange. Fortune

- Rejected. Berkshire Hathaway shareholders rejected a proposal for the conglomerate to promote diversity and inclusion in its workforce, which CEO Warren Buffett was against. Buffett acknowledged that the issues are important, but opposed the proposal because of Berkshire’s decentralized model. Reuters

- It's personalCharges that Apple's App Store is abusing its dominant position in the music streaming market marks a return to center stage for Margrethe Vestager, after the EU antitrust czar suffered several defeats on some flagship cases. It also renews what seems to be a personal battle between Vestager and the iPhone maker. Politico

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Vanessa Pappas, who was TikTok's interim CEO, has been named chief operating officer as the short video app hired a permanent chief executive.


- Rising star. Kristi Noem's star is rising as the next Republican presidential nominee. The New York Times reports she's "trying to cement her place as the only female Trump ally echoing the former president’s trigger-the-left approach among the upper tiers of potential 2024 candidates." New York Times

- 'Totally sexist.' Kathryn Garcia, New York City's former commissioner of sanitation and a mayoral candidate, is considered enormously qualified for City Hall but is trailing in polls. Frontrunners like Andrew Yang are already saying she'd make a good governing "partner" or deputy mayor. (Where have we heard this before?) "I’m not running for No. 2.," Garcia says. The suggestion that she is is "totally sexist." New Yorker

- No assumptions. In a WSJ interview, longtime energy executive Anna Catalano identifies her most trusted career advisors. She recalls the one exec who didn't assume she'd turn down a transfer to China because she was pregnant. "It was an assumption that was made about me, but thank God for the other man in the room." Wall Street Journal


Elizabeth Warren grapples with presidential loss in new book New York Times

Biden’s court pick Ketanji Brown Jackson has navigated a path few Black women have Washington Post

Female retail investors quadruple on Robinhood app in February Bloomberg



The forced pause of the pandemic has made a lot of us look at what in our lives was not working, and commit to leaving those things behind.

-Arianna Huffington, on how the pandemic has focused her work.

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