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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Women in finance are held back by ‘mediocre men’ in middle management, building a diverse board proves easier than one company thought, and Victoria’s Secret ditches the Angels. The Broadsheet will be off on Friday for Juneteenth—have a great weekend.
– Fallen Angels. What do you think of when you think Victoria’s Secret?
For anyone who’s followed the brand (or even just visited a mall or been spammed by its catalogues) the first images that come to mind are likely to be giant, “sexy” padded bras, boudoir photo shoots, and of course, the Victoria’s Secret Angels—the Barbie-eque models hired by the company to embody the ideal VS woman.
Now, the New York Times reports that the Angels are no more—and that Victoria’s Secret is undergoing a massive rebranding that includes replacing them with the “VS Collective,” a group of women that includes “Megan Rapinoe, the 35-year-old pink-haired soccer star and gender equity campaigner; Eileen Gu, a 17-year-old Chinese American freestyle skier and soon-to-be Olympian; the 29-year-old biracial model and inclusivity advocate Paloma Elsesser, who was the rare size 14 woman on the cover of Vogue; and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, a 38-year-old Indian actor and tech investor.”
Wow. This is a huge pivot for Victoria’s Secret and one that’s been a very, very long time coming. Not only has the oozing, hyper (hetero-) sexual energy of the Angels—custom-made for the male gaze—felt wildly out-of-date for at least a decade now, but leadership of the brand has been a mess. In 2019, the Times revealed the close ties between longtime CEO Les Wexner and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and reported that under Wexner and his deputies, the company was awash in accusations of misogyny and harassment.
So, led by a new team, which includes CMO Martha Pease, Victoria’s Secret is hoping to leave that legacy behind. The big question: will it work?
I must say, I’m skeptical. To begin with, the company clung to its old ways for so long that it allowed a huge crop of more modern, inclusive underwear brands to spring up and gain traction. VS remains the titan in the space, but the competition is getting fiercer by the day. But the real challenge isn’t external. Victoria’s Secret spent so many years building its empire of padded, cinched, and airbrushed femininity—and pushing that ideal and the values it represents into our mailboxes and malls—that it’s going to take more than a change of branding to tear it down. The women of the VS Collective are an impressive bunch, but will their presence be enough to convince shoppers that VS has changed its DNA? As Erin Schmidt of Coresight Research told the NYT: “To rebrand is going to take a lot of steps to ensure that they have the consumer trust, that this isn’t just inclusivity-washing.”
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.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
- Easy-peasy. Max Simkoff, CEO of real estate tech startup Doma, recruited three female directors in less than 60 days. (See Movers and Shakers below). Finding qualified candidates wasn't hard once he looked beyond his own network; in fact, he turned to Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar for help. “This is the way startups do everything," he says. "If you want to accomplish something, you break it down into fundamental pieces and you bring in people who have the best expertise.” Fortune
- Mediocrity reigns. New research from Women In Banking and Finance and the London School of Economics found that women in finance say they are held back from advancing by "mediocre male managers." These "average men" are often skilled at internal politics and can be roadblocks for younger women coming up in the industry. Financial Times
- On the earnings stage. Honest Company released its first earnings following the retailer's April initial public offering. Founder, chief creative officer, and actor Jessica Alba addressed investors, saying that the business is using "consumer insights to drive our focus on current and future trends in self-care." Sales rose 12% this quarter thanks in part to a new line of sanitizers. MarketWatch
- Environmental award. This year's Green Nobel, or Goldman Environmental Prize, went to Sharon Lavigne, the founder of the racial and environmental justice group RISE St. James. Lavigne fights against petrochemical plants along Louisiana's "Cancer Alley," so called for the high cancer risk associated with the plants and oil refineries near majority-Black communities. Bloomberg
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Former Lululemon VP of global brand management Kierstin De West joins Alpha Foods as CMO. Arboretum Ventures managing partner Nicole Walker joins the board of Venture Forward. Expedia's Zuhairah Scott Washington joins fashion startup Otrium as president. Facebook chief diversity officer Maxine Williams, retired EY partner Sharda Cherwoo, and Annaly Capital Management CFO Serena Wolfe join the board of proptech startup Doma. Socialfly hired Maria Sparling as VP of strategy and client services.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
- Fed up. One institution that needs to work on its diversity? The Federal Reserve system, argues this Fortune op-ed. Only 14% of the Fed's directors—nine for each of the 12 banks—are women of color. Fortune
- Called back, pushed out. The return to the office is pushing more women out of the workforce. Childcare can still be hard to come by—with demand outpacing availability—and mandated in-person return dates are causing some women to reevaluate their jobs. Bloomberg
- Rule of three. In the U.K. health system, women are entitled to certain measures of support only after miscarrying a pregnancy three times. MP Olivia Blake is trying to change that to ensure women are able to access support if they miscarry at any time. She's spoken in Parliament about her own miscarriage and led a debate on the issue this week. Guardian
ON MY RADAR
Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a bipartisan dinner of female senators Elle
For women in their 40s, high blood pressure may carry special risks New York Times
CDC study finds fewer pregnant women receiving COVID-19 vaccine Star Tribune
"I need to let the audience know that this is also a face of Latinidad."
-Actor Gina Torres on embracing her identity as an Afro-Latina onscreen
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