Can't shake the bug
But poetry is chicken soup for the soul
Welcome to The Chief Brief. A weekly spotlight on global, diverse and innovative female leaders, and the news influencing them to change the world.
The Chief Brief (still in a format testing mode) is my first step in a passion project to build a globally connected community of women leaders. Email me if you have an amazing story to share, or you/someone you know is doing fabulous things. The community should be in the know! And if you enjoy reading the brief, please spread the word!
Can’t shake the bug this week
I’ve spent the past week hiding under a duvet, drinking soups, self-isolating and finally taking a Covid test. Had I been struck down by this new more contagious U.K. variant? It’s topic du jour in Lockdown London, since (till this morning) the only other thing we had to moan about, was the rain. It is finally snowing as I write this! Last evening, I got my answer - I still felt awful, but my Covid test was negative.
It should’ve made me breathe a sigh of relief. But, the new variant has exposed the U.K. government’s recovery plan (or lack of) and side-lined the multitude other issues facing the economy. It threatens to keep London and all of the UK in lockdown till the summer. Combined with the fallout of Brexit, that means troubled times ahead for people and the real economy. But London’s not alone. Across Europe, cities are grappling with the crisis, and some are preparing for emerging from it. Ghent wants to be ready to welcome conferences, Athens has a survival plan for the arts, while Bamburg is organising rickshaw rides for the elderly.
Around the globe cities, towns and villages are banking on the vaccine allowing us to return to normal. Well, the new normal anyway. The global shortage though makes it clear; the future is tenuous at the most. No one has manufactured mRNA vaccines at these volumes before. Raw materials they need like polymerases (a type of enzyme, that convert DNA to mRNA), or a rare substance called vaccinia capping enzyme and others like it are all in short supply. As are skilled manufacturing personnel. To make the numbers we need worldwide, we’re going to need some corporate magic, to add to the scientific magic we’ve already seen. It’s a good thing we have some alternatives to mRNA vaccines from AstraZenca and now hopefully from J&J. These can’t come online soon enough. The shamans and priests in the developed and developing worlds are running out of fake potions to offer. And the leaders who insist on being their brand ambassadors keep testing positive . (Stories from The Telegraph, Eurocities, Scientific American, CNN & BBC)
Welcoming the ladies
I won’t wax eloquent about an inauguration that’s taken up every headline since Wednesday. Like many of you I cheered on Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama in their varying shades of purple. For me, like many, the highlight wasn’t Lady Gaga’s unforgettable brooch and tenor or JLo’s heart felt rendition of ‘This land is your land.’ The highlight was the most powerful speech I’ve heard in the past decade (not Joe Biden’s - though it was very Presidential). There is a reason Dr. Jill Biden picked 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman and her choice of ‘The hill we climb.’ If you haven’t read or heard it - you must. (video: The Guardian)
Janet Yellen’s cleared the Senate financial committee hurdle and her confirmation is set to sail through the final hurdle on Monday. This fan-girl is not surprised! The U.S. may have its first female Treasury Secretary, but she comes bearing many other ‘firsts.’ As the first female Fed Chair, she knew all too well how best to wield the country’s monetary policies. Now she’s preparing to use that knowledge to regenerate America’s fiscal policy. First up - limiting the use of cryptocurrency. (Stories by Reuters & The Hill)
On that she is singing from the same hymn sheet as Christine Lagarde. The European Central Bank President is not a fan of bitcoin, having pointed to its role in money laundering last week. But this week, Bitcoin was far from her mind, as she held ECB rates steady. (Story by Bloomberg)
Lagarde said that while the start of vaccinations against the coronavirus was “an important milestone,” the outbreak continued to pose “serious risk to the eurozone and global economies.” She said that the bank’s outlook for growth of 3.9% in 2021 was “still holding as we speak.” (Story by AP)
India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman is also facing a tough uphill challenge of economic recovery. Preparations have kicked off for the highly anticipated annual budget announcement on February 1st . This year the Indian budget is going paperless, with the added pressure of expectations around infrastructure investments, tax relief and a boost to the labour market. The best way not to leak the documents in a volatile political environment? Incentivise/bribe everyone working on it to lockdown in the ministry, with a traditional ‘Halwa (pudding) ceremony.’ I say, sugar is always the best bribe!
A start-up’s rebranding or a Series B funding round doesn’t usually make international headlines beyond the tech pages. But U.K. based ed-tech start-up WhiteHat’s rebranding as Multiverse, raising $44 million in the current round, with a speculated $200 million valuation did. A credible option to expensive university education is what co-founders Sophie Adelman and Euan Blair are building. Too bad the headline writers forgot about one founder. But other having a family name like Blair can only help raise the money and attention they need. (Story by TechCrunch)
PensionBee is disrupting the pension industry. Founded in 2015, the U.K. based company manages around £1.4 billion, with more than 120,000 active customers. Founder and CEO Romina Savova says she hopes to be able to structure to list on the high-growth segment of the London Stock Exchange sometime in 2022. With consumers paying extra attention to their finances during the pandemic she says, the timing is just right. (Story by Evening Standard)
Caught my eye
Trying to figure out why you’re not getting female applicants for that job you posted? You want to look at the language you’re using. It’s probably putting them off. (Story by Computer Weekly)
The Chinese embassy in the U.S. referred to Uighur women as “baby-making machines” prior to government intervention. Twitter shut them down. (Story by The Verge)
Looking your part matters in Japan’s tough job recruitment market. Especially for new graduates. But some are now raising their voice against the constraints of gender in Japan's highly structured, year-long recruitment process known as "Shushoku katsudo." (Story by BBC)
Some good news! The number of companies in Europe with a high participation of women in decision-making has doubled in the past year, according to the European Women on Boards’ latest Gender Diversity Index. (Story from Staffing Industry Analysts)
Being a boss and 9% owner of the world’s biggest soy sauce maker has its perks. Cheng Xue, the vice-chairwoman of Foshan Haitian Flavouring, has displaced dozens of technology executives as China’s highest-paid corporate chief, according to the inaugural Hurun China Richest Professional Managers 2021. (Story by SCMP)
This caught the attention of The Chief Brief community member Elizabeth Busch: LISTEN to the story of Kochi, the capital of the Indian state of Kerala (‘God’s Own Country’), making itself a hub for female entrepreneurs. (Story by BBC World Service)
Have you met
Yulia Navalnaya - She was a support act, and now she has been pushed into the spotlight. From finding a way to get her poisoned husband Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to Germany, becoming a leading voice for protests about his imprisonment on his return and finally arrested on Saturday (media reports say she’s since been released). President Putin seems to have a knack for driving wives of his opposition into politically charged positions of power (think Svetlana Tikhanovskaya). (Story by France 24)
Belén Garijo - German pharmaceuticals giant Merck announced her appointment in September last year as its new CEO. She starts May 2021 and will be the first woman to take on the reins of a DAX 30-listed company, without a male Co-CEO tagging along for the ride. (Story by The Local)
On the move
United Kingdom: Last week Jette Nygaard-Andersen was being considered for the role, this week it is confirmed. UK listed gambling firm Ladbroke’s owner Entain has appointed the Dane as CEO. (Story by The Guardian)
United States: Former L’Oréal executive Ginny Wright has taken over as luxury watch company Audemars Piguet’s new CEO of North America and Latin America. (Story by Robb Report)
Japan: Talk about breaking barriers, Japan now has its first female CEO of a container terminal operation. APM Terminals Japan announced the appointment of Sakura Kuma this week. (Story by Maritime Executive)
Jamaica: The global booze business is really warming to female CEOs in 2021. Martha Miller has been appointed CEO of National Rums of Jamaica, making her the first female boss of the 40-year-old company. (Story by Jamaica Observer)
United States: Sarah Thomas, has been considered a trailblazer having become the first full-time female official in NFL history in 2015. This week, she broke another barrier when the league announced that she would become the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. (Story by Forbes)
Be a sport
The #MeToo movement is alive and creating waves in Greece’s sailing circles. The vice president of the Hellenic Sailing Federation (HSF) resigned after allegations of abuse were levelled against a “member of the HSF” by Olympic champion Sofia Bekatorou.
The England national (women’s) football team needed an interim boss. Their new manager Sarina Wiegman, (current boss of the Netherlands team) starts only in September. Cue… Hege Riise! The Norwegian Olympic champion, female football legend and coach of the U.S. women’s soccer team is stepping in.
It’s all in the art
I still remember queuing a few years ago for my first Yayoi Kusama experience at London’s Tate Modern. It was strange, empowering, and worth it! Artists like her have led the way for those rebelling against the stereotyping of the female form today. A new exhibit by 20 female artists titled “My Body, My Rules,” has been organised in Miami, by Brazilian curator Jennifer Inacio. Check it out if you’re there between now and September. (Story by Artsy)
The Victoria & Albert Museum in London is holding an African exhibition in 2022. It will be curated with the help of Christine Checinska. The celebration of African fashion will feature designers like Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah and Alphadi. But the museum wants your help. (Story by Harper’s Bazaar)
Amanda Gorman has no doubt - poetry is political! Watch her set the stage (back in 2018) for her spotlight stealing performance this week (can you tell I’m a little obsessed?) (Talk by TED)
Tip of the week
I know my sleep patterns have become erratic in the many months of lockdown. Scientists are reporting the global nature of the pandemic is causing sleep disturbance at an unprecedented level. Some have even named it ‘Covid-somia'.’ Who can blame us? We are balancing worries about our finances, social isolation, and health with the pressures of working from home, balancing childcare, and family life.
One solution could be to sneak in a 90-minute daytime nap (if you can spare that amount of time!). A 2020 study of 43 young adults found a 90 minute afternoon nap (after a nightly sleep) helped increase hippocampal activation. Maybe try it before your next Zoom meeting? Let me know if it helps! (Story by Oxford Academic - Sleep)