Welcome to The Chief Brief - Curating news from around the world, breaking down the story, and helping you connect with the women making news! Every Sunday, I spotlight global, diverse, and innovative female leaders, and the news influencing them to change the world. A first step in my passion project to build a globally connected community of women leaders.
As many lockdown restrictions lift from tomorrow in England, I’m taking little R&R spring break after a long, dismal, and cold winter. Next weekend, the CB will be taking Sunday (May 23rd) off, but will be back in your inbox, as usual on Sunday May 30th.
Let’s talk about
Muzzling the media
Whichever side of the debate about Israel and Palestine you may fall, this week’s bombing by Israel of the Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera offices should send alarm bells ringing in your head.
It sure did for me! I am a third-generation journalist and have been doing this job for almost two decades. Across all those generations, in our family we’ve been witness to different forms of intimidation, threats, and censorship. And we know the consequences. While I may not be a hardened war correspondent, experience tells me the bombing isn’t a one-off error in judgement in a war zone. Israel is a western ally, and its democracy closely tied to western ideals. That is why its move against AP and Al Jazeera for me, has dark implications for the fourth estate’s coverage of anything going forward which governments or special interest groups don’t want in the public eye.
The data is scary
Full frontal attacks on the fourth estate are a trend that’s been rising across the world for a while now. But what’s changed is that it no longer matters whether those journalists are based in western style democracies or autocratic dictatorships. And the attacks are coming from every angle. From governments, agencies, and individuals. For press freedom to survive, the next 10 years are going to be pivotal. We’re seeing multiple crisis converge. Geopolitical and democratic crisis, technological, economic, trust crisis are all now compounded by a global health crisis. Together these could be the death knell for a free press.
A recent UNESCO-ICFJ survey found that 73% of the women journalists surveyed reported having faced online violence while doing their job. The 2021 Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index data is even more worrying. Out of the 180 countries surveyed, 73% have a reported classification of “very bad,” “bad” or “problematic” environments for press freedom.
Why am I fixating on the Gaza bombing?
Israel purportedly does better than its Middle East neighbours on the Press Freedom Index at a ranking of 86. It allows a free press. But those very ‘free’ journalists are subject to hostility from the government, and its supporters. They have to seek personal protection and are subject to ‘military censorship’ - basically orders banning them from reporting on subjects, or lawsuits designed to “gag” them, according to Reporters without Borders. That leads to very little real, on the ground, and balanced coverage of Palestinian territories or Israeli laws. Palestinian reporters’ rights are often violated, and international freelancers find it next to impossible to get accredited to be there. This is why international media that has managed to establish a presence in the region is critical to get the facts on the ground. Without facts, there is no chance for either peace, or economic development.
But Israel has a history of a tense relationship with the international media. Accusations of biased coverage of the conflict have flown thick and fast in the past. This week the Israeli government gave the AP and Al Jazeera journalists a short 10-minute window to clear the building before razing it to the ground with their bombs. A first-hand account from one journalist talks about the crushing loss of the sense of safety. Also lost were equipment, records, notes and all that is needed for journalists to tell a factual story. That they were allowed to escape, and there were no deaths is a small consolation.
The condemnation was as swift, as it was ineffective. The UN Security Council is also meeting today to ‘discuss’ the conflict itself. But without any spectre of penalty for bombing the press, the international community has potentially left the Israeli government with a sense of impunity, and the journalists telling the story of the men, women and children caught up in it all, vulnerable in the future.
What can we do?
We in business, policy, academia, and civil society across the world talk a heck of a lot about transitioning organisations and strategies towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So, I want to take this moment to remind us all, of one of those key goals.
SGD 16 target 10 reads: “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”
One indicator for target 10 is tracking the number of verified attacks, be they killings, kidnappings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and torture of journalists. To grow and develop our world sustainably over the next 15 years, SDG 16 target 10 must become key in all our strategies, no matter our sector, our position, our politics, or where we are based.
The pressure to achieve SDG 16 target 10 must come from every angle, just as the attacks on press freedom do.
Resources to achieve the goal
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Chile leads the way
Chile’s getting ready to set a new standard for the world! In a two-day vote this weekend, Chileans will elect a 155-strong citizens’ assembly to write a new constitution for the country – the first anywhere in the world to be written by an equal number of men and women.
The current constitution was drawn up in 1980 during the Pinochet dictatorship and chiefly authored by a conservative Catholic lawyer, Jaime Guzmán. It prioritizes a market-driven economy but has been broadly criticized for failing to adequately guarantee healthcare, education and pensions. Read more here.
Testing the waters
The Mexican Labour Ministry said it is invalidating a union vote, having found proof of irregularities at a General Motors Co. truck factory, in the country. The U.S. requested a review by Mexico under U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s labour-dispute settlement enforcement tool called Rapid Response Labour Mechanism, which makes it easier for the U.S. to bring complaints against specific facilities in Mexico. The USMCA replaced NAFTA.
It all began as a fight between two rival unions (one being pro-employer) at GM’s plant in Silao. Accusations of vote tampering led to GM’s Mary Barra appointing a third-party firm to review the situation and agreeing to cooperate with the Mexican and U.S. governments. The Mexican government has ordered the union in Silao to conduct another vote within 30 days in a process that guarantees workers a free and secret ballot “without coercion or intimidation.” Read more here.
Canadians defy Michigan
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked for a shutdown of an Upper Midwestern oil pipeline (called Line 5) by May 12th. She pointed to the potential for a spill in a channel linking two of the Great Lakes. Canadian company Enbridge defied her ban saying only the federal government had regulatory authority over its operations. The company also cited last week’s hack of the Colonial Pipeline, the resultant shutdown and panic-buying by consumers as reasons to keep line 5 open. Read more here.
Don’t touch it
As Covid cases in India pass 20 million, and the Indian opposition party calls for a national lockdown, the country’s investment grade status was slashed by Moody’s along with other ratings agencies this week. Moody’s assigned the lowest investment grade with negative outlook for India citing the second Covid wave for its decision to slash its FY22 GDP forecast from the expected 13.7% to 9.3%. The ratings agency thinks deeper stresses on the economy and financial system from lockdowns could lead to a more severe and prolonged erosion of the fiscal strength of Asia’s third largest economy. Read more here.
New Zealand may be ready to say hi!
Jacinda Ardern is ready to start re-connecting with the rest of the world. New Zealand’s Prime Minister says the government is exploring more travel bubbles, and she will lead trade delegations later this year after more than a year of New Zealand isolating itself from the world. She also made it to the top of Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders list this week. Read more here.
Business not as usual
Forced solar power labour
Beijing is using forced labour in solar power factories that export products to the rest of the world. That is the latest allegation about China’s forced use of ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakh citizens in factories, according to a report from the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University in England. Citing Chinese government statistics, researchers say 2.6 million people have been placed in jobs throughout the Xinjiang region in what Beijing calls "surplus labour" initiatives. This includes those that work in factories that make solar panels and other products.
In the course of their research, the report identifies:
1) 11 companies engaged in labour transfers
2) 4 additional companies located within industrial parks that have accepted labour transfers
3) 90 Chinese and international companies whose supply chains are affected
SunPower Corporation’s head of policy and strategy Suzanne Leta says, while banning solar panel products from Xinjiang would lead to temporary adjustment in the supply chain, human rights should be the bottom line of the industry. Read more here.
Flawed and unlawful
Meng Wanzhou will return to court in Canada on August 3rd for the final leg of her extradition hearings. The CFO of Huawei will face the courts over three weeks (till Aug 20th) after a fourth attempt by her legal team to introduce new evidence regarding HSBC. Her lawyers plan to use the HSBC documents obtained in Hong Kong to prove the U.S. extradition request she is fighting, was flawed and unlawful. Read more here.
Happy as a clam
Burberry’s happy as a clam with its performance in China. The backlash against western brands, including Burberry who have spoken out about abuses Xinjiang has most luxury goods companies shaking in their designer boots. Burberry itself lost its Chinese brand ambassador, and its trademark checks were deleted off a video game back in March. But Burberry COO Julie Brown says, she couldn’t be happier with the brand’s performance in China, while declining to provide latest sales figures. She did add that Burberry continued to have "very good relations" with partner Tencent Holdings Ltd. Read more here.
Not bumbling along
Covid’s been quite good to Bumble. Turns out single people have been getting busy socialising on the online dating app. Founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd announced this week that the company’s first quarter 2021 revenues increased year-over-year to $112.6 million. Total Paying Users Increased 30% to 2.8 million. The company didn’t just beat expectations but is also forecasting current-quarter revenues above estimates. Read more here.
Post pandemic exodus
If you weren’t paying attention to your tech staff through this pandemic, get ready for the shock of your life, right when you were planning a big move to digitalisation. New research in the U.K. and Ireland of 500 HR heads and 2,000 workers warns of a post pandemic exodus that could cost businesses £17 billion!
The report suggests 4 in 10 employees plan to change roles as soon as the economy stabilises, rising to 55% of those in the 18-34 age group. 58% of those in IT and computing roles will be moving on. And while 45% of employers are worried about post pandemic resignations, only 26% have made talent retention a priority. Read more here.
Apple hired a Facebook employee last month. 2,000 other Apple employees raised objections this week. New York Times best-selling author, former product manager for Facebook, the CEO-founder of AdGrok, and a former quantitative analyst for Goldman Sachs Antonio García-Martínez was fired by Apple. What went wrong? His comments about women and minorities surfaced. Here are a few of those comments from his 2016 memoir:
“Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness.”
”Unlike most women at Facebook (or in the Bay Area, really) she knew how to dress; forties-style, form-fitting dresses from neck to knee were her mainstay.”
He also complained that few Facebook employees put their “femininity on display in the form of dresses and heels.” And he described a woman in a meeting at Facebook as needing “more cleavage or more charm.”
And then there were the offensive comments about Indians, Blacks and Latinos. Apple employees weren’t having any of it. Read more here.
Have you met
Claudia Salomon, The boss lady of International Arbitration
If you’ve got an international, investor-state or complex commercial dispute coming up post summer, you’ll probably need to know Claudia T. Salomon. She is set to become the first woman president of the International Court of Arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in its almost 100-year history. Once the formal vote passes the ICC World Council (ICC’s supreme governing body) in June, she will take on the role in July.
Claudia’s a former Partner and Global Co-Chair of Latham & Watkins’ International Arbitration Practice, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and widely recognised as one of the leading arbitration practitioners in the world. Read more here.
On the move
In the U.S.
Sally Buzbee has become the first woman executive editor of The Washington Post. She starts her new gig in June, after a stellar career leading the Associated Press, most recently as the global news service’s executive editor.
In the U.K.
Hilary Lopez is the new head of retail business for EMEA at Goldman Sachs Asset Management. She joins GSAM after a long stint at BNY Mellon Investment Management, where she served as head of intermediary distribution for Europe and Latin America.
Lily Choh is the new Singapore CEO of global asset manager Schroders. She will focus on growth in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Lily was most recently Schroder’s Singapore deputy CEO, APAC head of institutional and is also a director on Schroders Singapore’s board.
Susan Soh whom Lily is replacing, will now focus exclusively on her role as Schroders’ Asia co-CEO and remain as a director on the board of Schroders Singapore. Susan was Schroders Singapore CEO for the past 14 years.
Elain Lockman has been appointed CEO in addition to her role as director of online Equity Crowdfunding platform Ata Plus. Elain’s fellow cofounders Kyri Andreou and Aimi Aizal Nasharuddin will assume the roles of executive director. Elain’s new role sets her up to take Ata public.
Anna Shelly is the new CIO of AMP Australia, a global investment manager. She starts her new role in July, swapping out from her CIO roles from Equip super/Catholic Super.
Sonia Bluzmanis has been appointed as head of global equities at asset manager Rest Super in Sydney. Sonia will manage Rest’s global equities asset class, the fund’s largest asset class by funds under management. She joins from BT Investment Group where she was senior portfolio manager of equities.
Caught my eye
Italy’s new female spy chief
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has appointed diplomat Elisabetta Belloni as the head of Italy's spy agency, the first woman to lead the Department of Information Security (DIS). Read more here.
Defying Investor doubts
Women entrepreneurs in Africa have seemingly put doubting banks, and investors to the side and found ways to challenge incumbent market leaders. From the rags to riches story of Kenya’s wealthiest woman Tabitha Karanja, co-founder and CEO of Keroche Breweries to the success of Njeri Rionge, co-founder of Wananchi Group Holdings, a home entertainment and internet service provider, and Dorcas Muthoni, CEO of Openworld, a software company she founded in Nairobi. Read more here.
I won’t be getting a table at Chef Clare Smyth’s London restaurant Core anytime soon! As the first female British chef to win three Michelin stars, Clare Smyth sold out three months of bookings in 20 minutes when the restaurant said it would reopen from lockdown. Read more here.
Saudi convolution of the law
Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released in February after three years in prison. That came after pressure by U.S. President Joe Biden on de-facto Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This week she was summoned by security officials and informed of a supreme court decision that ultimately upholds her initial conviction. Observers are left asking why she was informed of a legal ruling by the country’s security agency. Read more here.
Be a sport
Teens battle it out
Polish teenager Iga Swiatek beat American teen Coco Gauff in the day's second semi-final of the Italian Open. Nineteen-year-old Iga, seeded 15th, beat 17-year-old American Coco 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 in one hour and 46 minutes.
She plays Czech player Karolina Pliskova seeded 9th, in the Italian Open final in Rome this Sunday afternoon. Follow the finals here.
The Women's Champions League final is taking place later on Sunday evening. Barcelona will face Chelsea in the English team’s first appearance in this major women’s football (soccer for our American friends) event in Sweden. Barcelona’s captain Alexia Putellas will be looking to do better than the humiliating defeat the team suffered in 2019. Keep tabs on the match here.
The artsy stuff
Wonder Woman faces backlash
Israeli actress and DC Comics star Gal Gadot waded into the Israel-Palestine clashes with a tweet that seemed to rub camps on both sides the wrong way. As the worst violence between the two countries since 2014 rages on, some accused the actress of spreading Israeli propaganda, while others described the backlash she faced as anti-Semitic. Read more here.
This was Gal Gadot’s tweet: You can judge it for yourself.
African fashion’s moment in the spotlight
A pioneer of African fashion, Folashade "Shade" Thomas-Fahm is set to take centre stage at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2022. The museum’s planned Africa fashion exhibit will feature not just Nigeria’s first modern designer, and former president of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria, but also stalwarts like Mali's Chris Seydou and Ghana's Kofi Ansah. Keep your eyes peeled for a ticket or an invite! Read more here.
The Underground Railroad
Director Barry Jenkins TV adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel has garnered reviews with adjectives ranging from beautiful, harrowing, brutal, bleak, and brilliant. But it also comes with a critics’ warning: Don’t binge watch it!
Watch ‘The Underground Railroad’ on Amazon Prime.
Sunday long read
How do fish become male or female?
In 1975 Scientists concluded that we knew essentially nothing about fish sex. It is more complex than the XX/XY chromosome system of humans. They have varied ways of sex determination.
Clownfish, for example, are all born male, but one male in a group will irreversibly turn into a dominant female. In Atlantic silversides, sex is influenced by water temperature: Warm means male, cold means female. In a family of fish called cichlids, some species have a sex-chromosome system similar to that of humans, while closely related species have a system similar to that of birds.