Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Meta’s Sheryl Sandberg investigation looks back years, Disney corporate drama elevates a female executive, and Silenced No More protections are slowly giving workers their voices back. Have a productive Monday.
– Silenced No More. Last week, Microsoft announced that it will no longer include non-disclosure clauses in employee separation agreements. The announcement was yet another victory for advocates behind the Silenced No More campaign, an effort to prohibit NDAs in cases of discrimination and harassment at work.
Silenced No More first gained attention as a legislative effort in 2021 when California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a state bill by that name into law. Similar legislation is set to go into effect in Washington state. But legislation is only one piece of the puzzle, says Ifeoma Ozoma. “While we were in the process of passing the bill through the California legislature last year, I had this thought: What is the best way to expand protections for these workers?” she says.
Ozoma was a whistleblower at Pinterest, where she defied her own non-disclosure agreement to speak up about racial discrimination at the company. Her experience dealing with discrimination in tech, coupled with her professional background working in public policy roles at Pinterest, Facebook, and Google, positioned her to challenge corporate America’s abuse of gag orders. Today she works as a consultant focused on tech accountability with her firm Earthseed, and partners with fellow advocates through the Transparency in Employment Agreements Coalition, which is fighting to limit the tech industry’s use of NDAs.
Ozoma and the coalition’s partners, including Whistle Stop Capital founder Meredith Benton, reached out to about seven major tech companies. They have seen mixed responses to their outreach and calls for change. Google refused to engage with the group but later filed a proxy statement committing to narrowing the scope of NDAs in cases of assault, harassment, and discrimination. Others, like Salesforce, were more willing to engage before making that same commitment.
The power of shareholder advocacy is clear to Ozoma, who as a longtime public policy staffer has witnessed the limitations of effecting change through legislation. But shareholder engagement has its own challenges. “My hypothesis from the very beginning was that those proposals usually aren’t successful because the case to shareholders isn’t clear,” she says. Her team has focused on making the case for these protections to institutional shareholders that hold outsized sway like Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street.
In recent months, the power of that private-public approach has borne out in a cyclical nature as a growing number of companies expand worker protections. The legislation in California helped convince shareholders, and then companies, that these protections are fundamental. Companies have then reworked their NDA clauses, which in turn has caught the eye of lawmakers in other states. At the national level, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law in March barring forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment or assault. A federal bill on the specific issue Ozoma is tackling is an eventual goal, too. “It’s clear that there’s both a public and private mandate for these protections to exist at the federal level for all workers,” Ozoma says. But for now, companies are taking on the mantle.
“You’re going to have to abide by law in California and for all of your California-based workers,” Ozoma says to companies. “Then what is the reason for not expanding those protections for your entire workforce?”
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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
- EGOT update. At last night's Tony Awards, Jennifer Hudson earned her EGOT. The actor and vocalist who has already won an Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar earned a Tony as a producer of the Broadway show A Strange Loop. That musical's star, L Morgan Lee, was the first openly trans actress to be nominated; but the award for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical went to Patti LuPone for Company. Toby Marlow became the first nonbinary person to win best original score for Six: The Musical. West Side Story star Ariana DeBose hosted the ceremony.
- Looking back. A Meta investigation of Sheryl Sandberg's use of company resources at Facebook is spanning several years, according to new reporting. The investigation is examining work that Facebook staff did for Sandberg's personal projects including her foundations, Lean In, Option B, and her upcoming wedding. A spokesperson for Sandberg denied that the outgoing COO used company resources for her wedding. Wall Street Journal
- Another decision. A Supreme Court decision determining the future of abortion rights is expected within the next two weeks. In the meantime, the court issued a decision in Egbert v. Boule last week eliminating "individuals’ ability to sue Customs and Border Protection agents who violate their constitutional rights." In a dissent, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned that "a restless and newly constituted court" is eroding civil rights. Slate
- Not-so-magic kingdom. Last week, Disney CEO Bob Chapek ousted TV content chief Peter Rice as chairman of Disney General Entertainment. With Rice's firing, Dana Walden, who had been running a portfolio that includes broadcast and studios, was promoted to the job. Her new title could very well put her on the CEO track and places a woman in an ever-higher role at the culturally influential company. Deadline
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Ellen V. Futter will step down after 30 years as president of the American Museum of Natural History. She was the first woman to lead a major New York City museum.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
- Raising responsibly. B2B software businesses Vanta is the latest female-founded unicorn. Created by 35-year-old CEO Christina Cacioppo, the company raised $100 million in a funding round that values the business at $1.6 billion. For most of the startup's six years of existence, Cacioppo bootstrapped the business, only raising her first round of institutional capital last year. Bloomberg
- Research equality. Friday was Equal Research Day, a new date meant to mark the gender gap in who is studied in scientific and medical research. Priyanka Jain and Laine Bruzek, the founders of the vaginal health startup Evvy, wrote an op-ed for Fortune about why it's so important for women to be included in clinical research. Fortune
- Slam dunk. Late last month, PepsiCo brand Gatorade ditched its longtime sponsorship of the National Hockey League. The reason? Gatorade's new marketing strategy is focused on women's sports and college athletes. That pivot kicked off with Gatorade's 2021 sponsorship of University of Connecticut basketball star Paige Bueckers. Bloomberg
- Personal decision. Stacey Abrams, who is currently running for governor of Georgia, shared her own journey on the issue of abortion rights in a recent interview. She says that as a teen growing up in a religious community, she opposed abortion. An experience with a friend who was deciding whether to end a pregnancy helped Abrams realize that by making a blanket statement against abortion rights she was "opining about something I did not understand and ... had not given ... careful consideration." Today, she believes abortion is a medical and personal decision that should not involve "any intervention by a politician." Washington Post
ON MY RADAR
The unwritten laws of physics for Black women Wired
When the shirt hit the fans Bookforum
Lady Gaga relaunches beauty brand Haus Labs Fast Company
The age of Ivanka is over MEL Magazine
"Whoa, I don't even have a uterus."
- Amy Schumer reacting to being blamed for a national tampon shortage. The comedian, who had a hysterectomy because of her endometriosis, starred in an ad campaign for Tampax. A Procter & Gamble spokesperson says demand for the brand is up 7.7% over the past two years.
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