TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett urges women to let go of the ‘mental gymnastics’ that hold them back

May 20, 2022, 1:16 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! President Biden is using defense powers to combat the baby formula shortage, AOC is engaged, and CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett takes stock as she hits one year at TIAA.

– Year one. It’s been one year since CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett took the helm of TIAA, the retirement services and investment firm. It hasn’t been the easiest year to tackle her first Fortune 500 CEO job; amid soaring inflation and a tanking stock market, Duckett is fielding calls from TIAA participants worried about their retirement savings (she urges them to stay invested in the market).

But the CEO is optimistic that challenges like these—and increasing C-suite diversity—will result in stronger leadership across corporate America. “We’re going to see more innovation,” she says. “We’re going to see the ability for leaders to tackle the toughest problems.”

Duckett sat down with my Fortune colleague Susie Gharib for an exclusive video interview to mark her first year in the job. She’s one of just two Black female CEOs to currently lead Fortune 500 companies (the other is Walgreens chief Roz Brewer) and the third ever (the first was Xerox CEO Ursula Burns). Previously the CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, a division of JPMorgan, her corner office appointment was cause for celebration among many who were thrilled to see two Black women run Fortune 500 companies at the same time, for the first time.

Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of TIAA.
Stuart Isett for Fortune

That’s a lot of pressure, as Susie points out, but Duckett is unfazed. “No one could put more of an expectation on me than what I put on myself,” she says.

Her retort provides some insight into why she urges women to let go of the “mental gymnastics” in their heads that hold them back from taking on opportunities and risks. “Know that you are worthy and deserving, and your voice is required and necessary,” she says.

While business leaders and employees look to Duckett as a leader on diversity in corporate America, she emphasizes that her passion for the issue doesn’t make it her job alone. “It’s not just my responsibility,” she says. “It’s the responsibility of the boards, of all the companies that may not have the level of representation, as well as my allies and my counterparts leading companies.” One of Duckett’s allies? Her former boss Jamie Dimon. She says the JPMorgan CEO has checked in with her regularly over the past 12 months as TIAA’s top chief.

Watch Susie’s full interview with Duckett here.

Emma Hinchliffe

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- In-flight behavior. Legal records show that SpaceX paid $250,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim brought against the company's founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk by a flight attendant for the aerospace company's corporate jet fleet. The woman says that Musk exposed himself to her and offered "to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage." Musk called the story a "politically motivated hit piece." Insider

- Operation Fly Formula. President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act on Wednesday to increase the production of baby formula, and launched “Operation Fly Formula,” which allows government agencies to use Department of Defense planes to acquire formula from overseas. A few hours later, the House passed a bill granting $28 million in funds to the FDA to combat the infant formula shortage (192 Republicans voted against the legislation). Another bill expands the types of formula available for purchase with WIC, a form of federal food aid. New York Times

- Useless interviews. Seven current and former Wells Fargo employees allege that the bank interviews people of color and women for roles that often were already promised to someone else as a way to meet diverse candidate requirements when interviewing. Five other employees said they were aware of the practice or helped arrange such interviews. The firm claims that the diversity requirement is only for roles that pay higher than $100,000 and that last year 77% of interviewed candidates and 81% of new hires were not white men. New York Times

- Ukraine’s next ambassador. The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Bridget Brink as the next ambassador to Ukraine on Wednesday night, filling a seat that’s sat empty for three years, following Marie Yovanovitch’s removal from the position by former President Donald Trump. Brink is the current U.S. ambassador to Slovakia and has served in several diplomatic roles in the region. Politico

- A toast. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 32, confirmed on Thursday that she’s engaged to her partner Riley Roberts. The two met while undergraduate students at Boston University and got engaged last month in Ocasio-Cortez’s family’s hometown in Puerto Rico. Insider

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Clorox appointed Julia Denman and Stephanie Plaines to its board of directors. All Raise hired Paige Hendrix Buckner as chief of staff. EY appointed Amy Brachio as global deputy vice chair of sustainability. Precious McCloud has been named as senior vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Truliant Federal Credit Union. SoftBank Robotics America has appointed Katya Akudovich as vice president of new business and strategic growth, Bee Bee Nie as vice president of finance and accounting, Dianna Wilusz as vice president of people experience and operations, and Karen Wood-Maris as vice president of revenue operations and customer experience. Versapay has hired Orit Kendal as chief people officer. Former Procter and Gamble executive Morgan Mulvihill has joined TFL Brands as general manager.


- Know your worth. Demand for babysitters is booming as parents return to the office and resurrect their in-person social lives—and the teenagers taking these gigs know it. Parents are offering competitive rates, with some teens reportedly receiving $25 to $30 an hour, which is well over double what they charged before the pandemic in some cases. (And that's just for one-off jobs—not the cost of a true childcare professional.) The average charge for a babysitter from increased from $14.72 in 2020 to $18.05 in April. Wall Street Journal

- Data for sale. The data marketplace platform Narrative allows users to purchase data "related to the users of specific apps"—including family-planning and period-tracker apps. That's a rising concern for many ahead of the likely fall of Roe v. WadeThis week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Senate Democrats asked data brokers SafeGraph and to provide information about cell phone data tied to abortion clinics that can be purchased. Vice

- Representation matters. A Nielsen report on Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) representation in television found a small increase between 2020 and 2021. Streaming video led the highest in Asian representation with an 11% share of screen, compared to 3.2% in broadcast and 2.7% in cable. Half of the top 10 programs on broadcast and cable in 2021 featured Asian talent, compared to none in 2020. But two-thirds of Asian-American viewers feel that there is not enough representation on TV, and half believe portrayals are inaccurate. Nielsen

- Pension gap. U.K.-based trade union TUC dubbed Thursday “Pension Gap Day,” marking the first day of the year when female retirees would receive pension payments based on the nation’s gender gap in retirement savings. The average pension gap is 38%, and in two-thirds of industries, women have pensions worth only half of men’s. Women find it difficult to accumulate retirement savings for a number of reasons: they often have to leave their professions or take on part-time work to care for children, and are paid an average of 15.4% less than men. Guardian


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“Sometimes we forget how rare it is in human history to have a period of relative peace and stability among nations.”

-Vice President Kamala Harris’s commencement speech to Coast Guard graduates.

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