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Naomi Osaka makes her most powerful statement yet

June 1, 2021, 12:27 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! China tries to engineer a baby boom, the founder of ‘womenomics’ starts her own firm, and Naomi Osaka drops out of the French Open. Have a terrific Tuesday!

– Walking away. Naomi Osaka this weekend withdrew from the French Open and said she would take some time “away from the court,” citing her mental health. It was the unfortunate end to a controversy that unraveled quickly over the weekend.

Last week, Osaka said she would not participate in media interviews during the Grand Slam tournament, arguing that repetitive questions and those that sowed doubt in her mind were taking a toll.

When Osaka followed through on her vow and skipped a news conference after her opening-round win, the French Open fined her $15,000 for breaking her “contractual media obligations.”

Osaka then announced she was dropping out of the tournament altogether—”so everyone can get back to focusing on [tennis]”—and disclosed that she’d suffered bouts of depression since winning the U.S. Open in 2018.

Osaka’s decision received mixed reactions from other players on the tour. Most said that talking to the media is part of the job and that they benefited from press recognition. But many agreed that the media spotlight is a test of an athlete’s mental fitness.

“I wish I could give her a hug because I know what it’s like,” Serena Williams said. “I’m thick (skinned). Other people are thin. Everyone is different and everyone handles things differently.”

Osaka characterizes herself as a reluctant star. But once she earned her enormous platform via Grand Slam wins, she overcame that reluctance to use her platform to call for racial justice and social change, famously sporting masks with the names of seven Black Americans killed by police at the U.S. Open. In an era of heightened athlete activism, she stood out as one of the most outspoken, if not with words then certainly with symbolism.

The combination of advocacy and authenticity and athletic prowess and—yes—press coverage resonated with sponsors, from Nike to Levi’s to Sweetgreen. Osaka earned an estimated $37.4 million last year, the most of any female athlete ever.

Even as a self-proclaimed introvert, Osaka wielded her influence masterfully, but it certainly shocked the sports world that one of her most powerful statements thus far—about her well-being and mental health—was to walk away.

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.


- Baby steps. When China raised its two-child limit to three on Monday, some critics said the policy shift would make little difference if women continue to face pregnancy discrimination at work. Beijing seemed to acknowledge such complaints, promising to introduce more robust child-friendly policies like maternity leave. Even then, the legacy of China's one-child policy, which was relaxed in 2016, will be hard to reverse.

- Power move. Former Goldman Sachs vice chair Kathy Matsui published 20 years worth of reports on the economic benefits of empowering Japan's women. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe employed the term she coined—'womenomics'—to describe his (mostly unsuccessful) effort to get more women into the workforce. Now Matsui is launching her own women-led venture fund called MPower Partners Fund that will focus on ESG. Bloomberg

- Tulsa's legacy. NPR interviewed Black CEOs about the legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which happened 100 years ago. "You know, we talk a lot about structural and systemic racism, and I think that is what the Tulsa Massacre shows us," TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett says. "It gives a real face and a narrative to what that really means." NPR


- Betty's big bet. The Philippines' largest IPO belongs to Monde Nissan, a food snacks empire founded by Betty Ang, who now serves as company president. It raised $1 billion; shares started trading today. Ang launched the company with 'Coconut Biscuits' and its own brand of wafers; it now owns 68% and 73% of the Philippines' instant noodle and yogurt drinks market, respectively. Fortune

- Beauty secrets. The upcoming launch of Dolly Parton's fragrance in July is as good an occasion as any to read this interview about the icon's beauty routine, including her habit of wearing makeup to bed and her penchant for drugstore brands. "I guess my look is glamorous trash!" she says. WSJ

- COVID gender gap. Across various different metrics—job losses, labor force participation, wages, and vaccinations—women in India are enduring a harsher blow from COVID than their male counterparts. The imbalance threatens to slow the recovery of Asia's No. 3 economy. Bloomberg


Liz Phair is back, and she’s setting the record—and the record business—straight Washington Post

Who wants to have a baby? Not some Hong Kong couples SCMP

In sailing, women are taking more than a seat New York Times


"I loved her marks and her scars and her faults and her flaws and the fact that she has no off switch, no stop button. She just knows ‘Go.’"

-Kate Winslet on her character, Mare Sheehan, in the HBO series Mare of Easttown

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