Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Rep. Ilhan Omar has been removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Saudi Arabia tourism is sponsoring the Women’s World Cup, and Southwest’s new CIO has a major challenge ahead. Have a groovy Friday.
– Flying high. Lauren Woods joined Southwest Airlines in 2010, running the technology behind the carrier’s mobile app, rewards program, website, and more. But when Southwest’s service cratered during the December holidays, it wasn’t that consumer-facing technology that was the problem; it was the airline’s system for internal communications and crew scheduling.
The meltdown that started with a winter storm led to the cancelation of more than 16,000 flights between Dec. 21-31. While other airlines recovered from the storm, the volume of cancelations overwhelmed Southwest’s systems and the chaos snowballed. The breakdown could cost the airline as much as $825 million. The collapse led the largest carrier of domestic passengers in the U.S. to realize it needed to overhaul its operations, including its scheduling systems.
That mission is now Woods’s top priority. The longtime technology exec was promoted to become the airline’s chief information officer, Southwest announced this week. “I have always been a big champion of technology transformation,” Woods told me ahead of the announcement. “But now I get to have a different seat at the table.”
Although Woods usually sleeps with her phone by her bed at home in Dallas—such is the nature of the airline industry—she says her phone was barely ringing over the holidays because she was already “on calls 24/7.” The disruption revealed “feature gaps” in Southwest’s operations; namely that its automated systems (including a GE Digital crew scheduling system) were built to solve problems with future flights and failed to resolve issues for itineraries that were supposed to be in the past, Woods explains.
The new CIO’s priority is to “modernize our infrastructure to maintain the scalability and reliability that we need going forward,” including by building new systems supported by Amazon Web Services. She hopes that will win back the trust of employees and consumers who were left stranded last year. There won’t be any flashy changes for customers to notice; instead, these updates are meant to simply keep flights moving as scheduled.
“I do think that we’ll earn back that trust through those actions, rather than our words,” Woods says, “because I think we’re doing what’s right for our customers and our employees.”
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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
- Omar is out. The House voted yesterday to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the Foreign Affairs Committee. While Republicans cited her controversial 2019 remarks about pro-Israel groups as the reason for her removal, members of her party fiercely supported her and accused Republicans of hypocrisy. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called the vote an act of "targeting women of color." New York Times
- Project Black. Mellody Hobson has stepped up to a call to narrow the racial wealth gap. Project Black by Ariel Investments connects minority-owned middle-market companies to corporations looking to diversify their supply chains and also acquires growing companies to diversify their leadership. Forbes
- Innovation predictions. Cathie Wood's investment firm ARK has released its Big Ideas report, with predictions showing companies that innovate in sectors that feed off one another will grow the most. Wood made a similar prediction about Tesla, accurately forecasting its rapid growth. Fortune
- A steep decline. Venture capital funding for Black entrepreneurs fell 45% in 2022, compared to a 36% decline in all VC funding. Some investors say that minorities are hit harder because firms return to the status quo in times of uncertainty. CNBC
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Warner Bros. Discovery has promoted Rebecca Rørmark to senior VP, head of streaming marketing (EMEA). Katie Fitzgerald is now the president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities. Blacklane has named Cindy Rubbens as chief people experience officer and Gudrun Herrmann as the global head of communications. TheBoardlist has hired Megan Wang as CEO. Céline Dufétel is now president and COO at Checkout.com. PayTrace has added Lindsay Mowery as senior VP of sales, and Federica Melis as VP of independent software vendor sales to its team.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
- Sponsored by Saudi Arabia. Soccer fans and players were surprised by FIFA's announcement that Visit Saudi will be the lead sponsor for the Women's World Cup in Australia. Critics say that the sponsorship comes across as misaligned. New York Times
- Bereavement for pregnancy loss. A new study shows that one in four U.S. companies offer bereavement leave for pregnancy loss. This seems to be a growing trend that mirrors the increase in companies offering paid bereavement leave, which is up to 90% from 79% in 2017. Bloomberg
- Money talks. Australia will remove the British monarchy symbolized by the late Queen Elizabeth from its banknotes, rather than replace her image with one of King Charles III. A new design will honor the country's indigenous communities. Wall Street Journal
ON MY RADAR
Nikole Hannah-Jones isn’t done challenging the story of America Washington Post
As people return to offices, it’s back to miserable for America’s working moms Time
Introducing Nico Parker The Cut
Doja Cat’s ‘balls to the wall’ new era Variety
"I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting that you’re ambitious. It’s not like I’m Lady Macbeth and I’m stabbing the competition."
—Kerry Condon, who received her first Oscar nomination for The Banshees of Inisherin
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