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The pandemic created a ‘leadership moment for women’

March 16, 2022, 1:39 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The EU agrees to a board diversity rule, the NCAA tournament’s gender equity is better than last year so far, and the pandemic created a “leadership moment” for women. Have a great Wednesday.

– Leadership moment. Hello from Austin, Texas where I just wrapped two days at SXSW. It was a treat to be back in person, but the real highlight was yesterday afternoon, when I got the chance to sit down with three incredible leaders—Color of Change VP Arisha Hatch, SEIU VP April Verrett, and JUST Capital chief strategy officer Alison Omens— to discuss how employers and society can support working women amid the pandemic.

The panel was refreshingly substantive, moving beyond corporate buzzwords like “flexibility” or “future of work”, and focusing on real, structural changes that will improve the lives of all women in the workforce—not just those fortunate enough to work at companies that provide support.

“If we create policy that centers women of color and women who are poor, we solve these problems for our communities,” explained Verrett, who represents 400,000 workers as president of California’s SEIU Local 2015, the largest home-care workers union in the U.S.

Verrett noted that the Great Resignation, a term largely used to reference white-collar workers reevaluating what they want out of work, and the labor shortage, a phrase more often geared toward hourly workers, are two sides of the same coin. “People are going into the office every day and saying, ‘This career doesn’t feel right for me,'” she said. “And workers are saying, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.'”

The onus is often on private companies to empower working women, but the public sector can, and should, play a key role in uplifting the entire workforce. For example, lawmakers can implement governmental policies like raising the minimum wage, benefitting women who are overrepresented in tipped and low-wage jobs, providing easily accessible and wide-ranging social safety nets, and forgiving student loan debt, which disproportionately affects Black women. And companies need to embrace transparency to be honest about where they’re succeeding and where they’re failing when it comes to creating equitable workplaces, added Omens from JUST Capital. But individuals can take action too.

“This is a leadership moment for women,” said Hatch, VP for the racial justice organization Color of Change. “Women are still grappling with what it means to be truly powerful in the workplace and how to truly leverage that power for the benefit of others.”

Some tips on how to do that from Hatch: Leaders—including women at the top—should ensure their companies have women’s groups that meet regularly, where members feel empowered and voices from all levels of an organization are represented. “Whether you’re inside of a labor situation or not, it’s an organizing moment,” she emphasizes. “Women have so much unrealized power. It’s about us coalescing together.”

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Subscribe here.

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- On board. EU member states have tentatively agreed on a rule that would push companies in the bloc to appoint women to at least 40% of non-executive director board roles by 2027. The proposal doesn't include major sanctions for failing to meet the target, but the agreement is notable after a decade of efforts to reach such a deal on the issue. Reuters

- SE Rankings remembrance. Fortune's Carmela Chirinos interviewed a former coworker of Tatiana Perebyinis, a Silicon Valley worker killed in Ukraine alongside her children. The colleague, SE Rankings PR manager Ksenia Khirvonina, remembers Perebyinis as a "big sister." She says Perebyinis hadn't yet evacuated because she was trying to figure out how to get her mother, who had Alzheimer's, to safety. Fortune

- On point. The 2021 NCAA championship caused outrage for the vastly inferior supplies and working conditions provided to female players. As this year's tournament kicks off, the women's competition is on much better footing with a host of new sponsors and the right to use the phrase "March Madness" for the first time. Wall Street Journal

- Early start. A new organization called Organizations for Pay Equity Now, or OPEN Imperative, is working to close the gender pay gap at pre-IPO companies. The group hopes that by putting pay equity in practice during companies' early stages, businesses will have pay parity baked into their DNA by the time they become large organizations. CNBC

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Sarah Bloom Raskin officially withdrew her nomination for Fed vice chair for supervision after encountering political roadblocks to confirmation. Allison Herren Lee will step down as a commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Reuters editor Gina Chua will be executive editor of the new media startup launched by Ben Smith and Justin Smith. All Raise named Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon, founder of Founder Gym, its next CEO.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Tragic gender gap. Japan closely tracks suicide in the country, and a 15-year campaign has brought down the numbers. But for the second straight year, the number of women who died by suicide rose, even as overall suicide numbers—and the number for men—declined. Leaders have said the pandemic's pressures and job losses in women-dominated sectors could be factors. Reuters

- Speak up. Women made up just a third of characters on the big screen in 2021, according to a new study by San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. In the year's 100 highest-grossing movies, women represented 35% of major characters, 34% of speaking roles, and 31% of "lone protagonists." Only 8% of films hit full gender parity, and about 57% of women onscreen last year were white. The Hollywood Reporter

- Family businessJennifer Carnahan, former chair of Minnesota's GOP, announced a run for Congress. She's running for the seat that was held by her late husband Jim Hagedorn, who died of cancer last month. Carnahan joins a long history of widows succeeding (or aiming to succeed) their late spouses in Congress. But her candidacy is complicated, arriving after she stepped down as the state's GOP chair after allegations emerged about workplace sexual harassment under her watch. Star-Tribune

ON MY RADAR

Why Jane Campion’s dismissal of Venus and Serena Williams is a teachable moment for allies Fortune

The case that killed #MeToo in Sweden New York Times

Fake heiress Anna Sorokin makes new bid to fight deportation Associated Press

PARTING WORDS

"I don’t want to play the girl who’s in trouble anymore. I want a woman in power, a wise woman, a mother, a teacher. Somebody who is on the other side of that pain."

-Actor Evan Rachel Wood on her career—and where she sees herself going after speaking up about her experience with abuse. 

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