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Is it time to rethink the Olympics?

July 29, 2021, 12:54 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Women now outnumber men in Wharton’s MBA program, the U.K. takes action on board diversity, and it’s time to talk about the future of the Olympic Games. Have a lovely Thursday.

– Heavy metal. Did you catch The Weight of Gold, the HBO documentary about the mental health challenges faced by many Olympians and the utter lack of support they’ve received as they struggle to cope? I missed it when it came out last year, but sat down to catch up earlier this week. It’s a harrowing watch—and one that feels all more prescient after what we’ve seen in Tokyo thus far.

We should probably have known that these Games—played a year late, amid a continuing pandemic, and in a society that’s struggling to finally reckon with embedded inequality—would be the ones to break the Olympics. And it’s about time.

Don’t get me wrong. I do love watching them. And the moments of transcendence and community the Games sometimes deliver are unique. We have so few things that bring us together now; it hurts to think about losing one.

So, the question, I think, is how can the Olympics be reformed to be more empathetic and respectful of athletes’ humanity? I’m not sure of the answer, but I do know who to ask: the women, and particularly the women of color, who are out there sounding the alarm and insisting that the IOC’s business as usual cannot continue.

There’s Simone Biles, of course, who continued competing at the highest level in part because of her determination to hold Team USA accountable for the abuse perpetrated by disgraced team doctor Larry Nassar—and who found the courage to put her health ahead of the pressure to compete. (Biles officially confirmed yesterday that she won’t be competing in the individual all-around final). Naomi Osaka, who paved the way on athlete mental health, called the pressure put on Olympians “a bit much.” The German gymnastics team that competes in full-body unitards to counter “sexualization.” The Norwegian beach handball team who were fined for playing in shorts in a European championship. U.K. swimmer Alice Dearing, who spoke out against the ban on swim caps designed for natural Black hair. And the many, many Olympic moms who fought—and ultimately won—a battle against restrictions that would require them to leave their young children at home.

This piece from USA Today digs into the stands taken by many of these athletes—and examines the history of sexism and male control over female bodies that the Olympics has historically enabled. (The IOC is overwhelmingly male and has never had a female president.) With more than a week of competition to go, I doubt we’ve heard the last from the athletes who love their sports—but are reaching the end of their ropes on what they’re willing to sacrifice in the name of Olympic glory. Let’s hope those who have the power to make change are listening.

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

- Master this. Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is now the first of the elite MBA programs to enroll more women than men. In the new fall cohort, 52% of students will be women. Wall Street Journal

- Go for the gold. Sunisa Lee, who will compete Thursday in the women's gymnastics individual all-around, is the first Hmong-American on Team USA, and this story digs into what she means for that community. 

- British boards. The U.K.'s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) proposed new rules over board diversity, taking a cue from Nasdaq's stateside board diversity push. The rule would take a "comply or explain" approach to asking companies to have boards that are 40% women, with at least one person of color and one woman in a senior board role. Fortune

- Toll of the job. It's no secret being surgeon is a tough job. But a new study finds just how much the job can wear on the women who hold it: 42% of female surgeons have suffered the loss of a pregnancy, a rate more than twice that of the general population. One cause? The stigma against pregnancy during residency and other training—and few options for maternity leave—leading many in the field to delay pregnancy until later in life, making them higher-risk. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Former Unity Technologies CFO Kimberly Jabal joins the board of Lucid. Karen Daniel and Anita Newton join the board of trustees for the Kauffman Foundation. Katrina Benjamin will become chief product officer at ApartmentList. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Content is king. Alphabet's earnings this week revealed the extent to which YouTube, led by CEO Susan Wojcicki, is now a true competitor to the streamers. YouTube took in $7 billion in advertising revenue last quarter, compared to $7.34 billion at Netflix. CNBC

- Going green? The Guardian has been investigating "Queen's consent," or a U.K. parliamentary framework that gives the monarch the ability to view legislation in advance. The paper's latest discovery is that lawyers representing Queen Elizabeth II lobbied Scottish lawmakers to change a draft law to exempt her private land from an initiative to cut carbon emissions. Guardian

- Taking action. The National Council of Negro Women this week filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, alleging that the pharmaceutical company "marketed talcum-based baby powder to Black women amid concerns over the product and ovarian cancer risks." The plaintiffs' lawyers say the lawsuit is "about the lives of our grandmothers, our mothers, our wives, sisters, and daughters." J&J says: "The idea that our company would purposefully and systematically target a community with bad intentions is unreasonable and absurd." USA Today

ON MY RADAR

Inside Blizzard developers’ infamous Bill ‘Cosby Suite’ Kotaku

Why it’s so hard to find childcare right now: 80% of centers are understaffed Fortune

Roe v. Wade is now in the hands of the three Trump justices. Does that mean it might be safe? Slate

PARTING WORDS

"You cannot deny it, you cannot pretend it doesn’t happen."

-Chess champion Hou Yifan on the lack of women in competitive chess. A New Yorker feature details how she has come the closest of anyone to becoming chess's first female world champion. 

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