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Workers are leaving the retail industry in droves

June 23, 2021, 1:11 PM UTC
The 'Great Resignation' is reaching retail workforces.
Jeffrey Greenberg—Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Sen. Kyrsten Sinema stands by the filibuster, Bumble gives its workforce a week off, and the Great Resignation reaches retail. Have a great Wednesday.

– The Great Resignation. The retail chapter of the ‘Great Resignation’ has begun. In April, 649,000 retail workers gave notice, the “largest one-month exodus since the Labor Department began tracking such data more than 20 years ago,” according to the Washington Post.

Upheaval in the retail sector is particularly notable to the Broadsheet, since women account for the majority of retail workers (about 57%) and women of color are disproportionately represented in the industry.

So, what should we make of this record-breaking stat? On one hand, some of the female retail employees who are quitting right now are likely in the same boat as those forced to leave their jobs during the pandemic—overwhelmed by childcare and other family responsibilities that make keeping their paying gigs untenable.

But the Washington Post interviews with more than a dozen former retail employees suggest that, for at least some workers, the motivation is quite different: with the job market tightening and the economy on an upswing, they’re leaving their jobs because they believe they can find better opportunities elsewhere.

One of the women the Post talked to, Christina Noles, is leaving a job at a dollar store where she worked a sometimes grueling schedule for $10.25 an hour; five of her retail colleagues tested positive for COVID last winter. Now she’s starting a job with local law firm, working from home and earning $13 an hour, plus benefits.

This is good news. For women like Noles, a new job in a new sector could be transformative. And it’s not just those who leave retail who could benefit. Such an exodus is likely to put pressure on the industry, potentially benefiting those who opt to stay in their jobs or who are hired on by retailers in the coming months.

Raising retail wages is obviously a huge part of making the field more attractive—and companies have already moved in that direction as they scramble to fill open jobs (The Post notes that Target, Best Buy, Under Armour and Kay Jewelers all recently instituted a $15 an hour minimum). But for women especially, other changes—like more predictable schedules, better benefits, paid sick leave, and safer working conditions are also essential.

Retailers and the workers who keep them in business have been through a lot in the past year and half. If companies can seize this moment to make their sector a better place to work, this could be the turning point that breathes hope back into the industry.  

Plus: Today is the start of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit, where we’ll hear from leaders like Canva CEO Melanie Perkins; author and activist Dylan Farrow; entrepreneur Bobbi Brown; and White House spokeswoman and strategist Symone Sanders. We’ll bring you highlights through the rest of the week.

Kristen Bellstrom
kristen.bellstrom@fortune.com
@kayelbee

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

- Ranked choice results. Early results of yesterday's New York City Democratic mayoral primary saw progressive candidate Maya Wiley come in second to Eric Adams, with Kathryn Garcia in third. But ranked-choice voting means that it could be weeks before a final result is declared. New York Times 

- Filibuster debate. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema doubled down on her defense of the filibuster as Democrats' For the People Act was taken up by the Senate. The Arizona senator is arguing that "we will lose much more than we gain" by ending the 60-vote threshold. The voting rights act, meanwhile, stalled in the Senate. CBS News

- Lights, camera, action? Lina Khan will become chair of the Federal Trade Commission just as the agency reviews Amazon's proposed acquisition of movie studio MGM. Khan,  a harsh critic of Amazon and tech monopolies, is known by some as the "Simone Biles of antitrust."

- Tenure review. Nikole Hannah-Jones's legal team sent a letter to UNC-Chapel Hill saying that the journalist won't join the school's faculty without tenure. Hannah-Jones had accepted a five-year position but says that she did so before learning about how a wealthy donor influenced the board of trustees' decision not to review her tenure application. NC Policy Watch

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Neha Parikh is the new CEO of Waze. Former Google Cloud COO Diane Bryant joins the board of Platform9. Girls Who Code CMO Deborah Singer is joining Tia as SVP of marketing and communications. Jodie Gunzberg, former chief institutional investment strategist for wealth management at Morgan Stanley, joins CoinDesk as managing director of CoinDesk Indexes. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Swipe break. Bumble, led by CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, is the latest company to give its employees time off to help combat pandemic burnout. The dating app business closed its offices this week to give its 700 employees a "much needed break." Fortune

- Diversity at Deutsche. Deutsche Bank published new categories of diversity data for the first time, revealing that women hold 21% of top management roles while Black staffers hold just 5%. The bank declined to disclose the hard numbers behind those percentages. Bloomberg

- #FreeBritney. New reporting finds that Britney Spears has been pushing to end her conservatorship for several years. In 2016, the pop star told a court investigator that the system had "too much control" over her life and finances and asked to end the conservatorship as soon as possible. New York Times

- Photo story. Stock photography often illustrates stories about the world—and there's not much of it that's gender-inclusive. A new library from Vice Media aims to change that, offering photos of day-to-day trans and nonbinary lives. Adweek

ON MY RADAR

Has the pandemic fundamentally changed the way women think about drinking? Vogue

The suit makes the woman GQ

How Joni Mitchell shattered gender barriers when women couldn’t even have their own credit cards LA Times

PARTING WORDS

"As a woman, you probably have to think longer and harder about the way that you say things."

-Pink, the pop star, on female leadership

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