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Happy Friday, rulers! We’ve had an exciting week here, with our first in-person meeting of Women Rule: the Exchange! More on that below. I’m going on a little ski trip with friends this weekend, and I fully expect to be put to shame by Elizabeth Ralph, the editor of this newsletter and a former member of her college’s ski team. Thanks to Maya Parthasarathy for helping to put together this newsletter.

The pandemic and the economic shock of prolonged lockdowns revealed just how fragile the working lives of Americans, and especially women, really are. Without reliable child care and paid sick leave, millions of American women were pushed out of the workforce; there are still over 1 million fewer women in the labor force than there were before the pandemic.

Optimists might say that the pandemic presented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to confront the flaws in American workplaces and safety nets. The less optimistic would say very little actually changed, and now, as mask mandates drop, restaurant dining rooms fill up, and life mostly returns to how it was in the beginning of 2020, the window for real reform has passed.

I heard both groups make their case at our Women Rule: the Exchange meeting“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:””,”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e280006″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e280007″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>Women Rule: the Exchange meeting this week. The meeting focused on building a better economy for women after the pandemic, and in particular on fixing three gaps that still prevent women from being equal partners in the economy: the skills gap, the leadership gap and the wage gap. In one panel conversation, there was a range of opinions on whether the pandemic prompted just a lot of talk about these problems, or real change.

Susan Neely, president and CEO at the American Council of Life Insurers, listed off a number of challenges to women’s economic advancement that the pandemic had laid bare: The pay equity gap, needing to take time off to care for parents and children, holding a disproportionately large amount of student debt. “If there’s any silver lining in all of this it’s that we’re all paying attention now,” Neely said. “I think everybody’s waking up to this, and you hear policy leaders at all levels talking about how to advance solutions.”

Dr. C. Nicole Mason, the president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, was asked if she agreed. “Well, actually, I do not,” she said. Mason said she thought the pandemic would accelerate conversations “about a broken childcare infrastructure, the need for paid sick and family leave, [and] raising wages,” she said. But, she continued, “it hasn’t necessarily translated in this moment … we’re having a lot of struggle trying to get things through.”

“I’m still optimistic,” Mason continued, “but I’m less so than I was probably a year ago when I was wearing this shirt that said, ‘Good things are coming.’”

One of the biggest legislative hurdles: Build Back Better, President Joe Biden’s spending package that was passed by the House but has been in limbo in the Senate for months. In an earlier one-on-one conversation at the event, POLITICO’s Morning Money author Kate Davidson interviewed the chair of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, Cecilia Rouse. “I think for women in particular, the … investments in the care economy are the most important,” Rouse said in that conversation, followed by paid leave. “It’s those parts of the agenda that I think are so important for helping women to really balance their multiple responsibilities.”

Sponsored by Business Leader members of Women Rule: The Exchange:

What will it take to build a new, more equitable workplace? POLITICO Focus connected with members of Women Rule: The Exchange to get their perspectives on some of the critical topics — diversity and inclusion, equal pay, mental health and family-friendly policies — that are driving this debate and will make or break the future of work for women. Read More

Other takeaways from the meeting:

On why parental leave needs to be managed better: As more companies adopt generous parental leave policies, I was interested in what one participant has observed about how they can be implemented and managed poorly. “As a manager, I take maternity and paternity leave very seriously,” she said. “I have noticed that many of my man counterparts don’t take that maternity and paternity plan as seriously. They’re like ‘Oh yeah, someone’s going out on maternity leave,’ and like, ‘Ok, how are you handling? Who is stepping in to take on these responsibilities?’ … We need to take these seriously. You’re going to lose someone for six months. I need them thinking about it because I want to ensure that they’re thinking about when that person gets back, and their continued growth, and that they see those individuals, especially women, as valued members of their team.”

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On code-switching: One participant remembered the moment her career took off. “I stopped code-switching. … I don’t straighten my hair anymore. It grows out of my head like it should. … When I stopped code-switching and [started] bringing my full authentic self … I actually started to climb up the ladder. And I think it’s because I have more time to concentrate on the job … as opposed to being consumed by superficial things that weren’t going to help me be successful. I say that to a lot to younger Black women: If we don’t start being ourselves, corporate America can’t see us.”

On not making excuses: How much transparency is too much transparency when it comes to communicating other commitments, either personal or professional, to your boss? “I think the best advice anyone ever gave me professionally was … men just say they have conflicts; they don’t explain what it is,” one participant said. “I just kind of said to my boss at one point, ‘Why do you assume that I wasn’t doing the same thing you were doing this morning? You were at a fundraiser; I was at a fundraiser.’”

MARK YOUR CALENDARS — Cindy McCain, US Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture will join Women Rule editor Elizabeth Ralph on March 8, International Women’s Day for a virtual panel on the future for Afghan women following US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the U.S., Roya Rahmani, and Hawa Haidari, a member of the Female Tactical Platoon will also join to discuss how the female Afghan veterans now in the U.S. are planning their futures, what the women still in Afghanistan are facing, and what the U.S. could do to support these groups. Register here to watch live.

Rashida Tlaib is pictured.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File

“Tlaib diverges from Biden’s State of the Union address,” by Nancy Vu for POLITICO: “Rashida Tlaib gave her own response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, touting the wins of the White House while directly contrasting with Biden’s talking points on climate change and police reform.

“Speaking on behalf of the progressive Working Families Party, the ‘Squad’ member mirrored many of the issues mentioned in Biden’s remarks, commending the administration for boosting the struggling economy and for quickly tackling the coronavirus pandemic through health care and financial relief. But the Michigan lawmaker quickly pivoted, homing in on talking points that the president either avoided, or had a differing opinion on.

“Tlaib particularly focused on climate change, calling on Biden to ban federal fossil fuel leasing and to direct federal agencies to reject permits for new projects. In contrast, the president barely mentioned climate change ― which was at odds with his domestic agenda of making the biggest climate investment in U.S. history.”

“Ketanji Brown Jackson to meet with McConnell this week,” by Laura Barrón-López for POLITICO: “President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, will hold her first meetings with senators on Wednesday, including the Republican minority leader and the two top senators on the Judiciary Committee.

“In addition to meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday, Jackson plans to meet with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates told POLITICO on Monday. She will also meet with the chair and ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee: Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

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“‘Last week the President announced an extraordinarily qualified nominee in the mold of Justice Breyer, with a record of deep experience across our justice system and a demonstrated commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law,’ said Bates. ‘Judge Jackson went to work immediately, doing prep on Saturday and Sunday, and she’s looking forward to her first meetings with senators of both parties.’”

“Abbott sued over Texas transgender care investigation order,” by Juan Perez Jr. for POLITICO: “Civil rights groups, a clinical psychologist and the family of a Texas child protection worker sued Gov. Greg Abbott and the state on Tuesday, challenging the Republican governor’s order to investigate the use of gender-affirming procedures on children.

“According to a complaint filed in a state district court, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services launched an investigation into one of its employees — who is also the parent of a 16-year-old transgender girl — days after state officials declared gender-affirming medical care can constitute ‘child abuse’ under state law.”

Sponsored by Business Leader members of Women Rule: The Exchange:

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The pandemic brought corporate America to a tipping point. Business leaders weigh in on the issues that will make or break the future of work for women.

Block of text reading: 5: The number of California companies that had all-male boards at the end of 2019. A 2018 law mandated at least one woman on boards in the state. Previously, 28 percent of boards had no women.

Read more here.

A woman holds her baby inside a bus as they leave Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

“Ukraine’s Surrogacy Industry Has Put Women in Impossible Positions,”“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:””,”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e3b0000″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e3b0001″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>“Ukraine’s Surrogacy Industry Has Put Women in Impossible Positions,” by Alison Motluk for the Atlantic: “Nothing crystallizes the ‘her body, my baby’ conundrum of surrogacy quite like a war. Should a surrogate be tucked away somewhere safe, to protect the child she’s growing for someone else? Or should she be with her own family, or in her hometown, or even out on the streets defending her nation? That is a live question in Ukraine right now.

“Ukraine is an international surrogacy hub, one of only a handful of countries in the world that allows foreigners to enter into surrogacy arrangements. That means people from the United States or China or Germany or Australia can go there and hire a local woman to gestate their child. There are conditions — the parents have to be straight and married and have a medical reason for needing a surrogate — but surrogates are plentiful, paying them is legal, and establishing legal parenthood for the intended parents is uncomplicated. …

“There can be tensions in these relationships. The woman carrying the baby deserves bodily autonomy, the parents deserve security for their child, and occasionally the two are at odds, even under the best conditions.”

“What do women want at work? It’s not just better pay, study finds,”“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:””,”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e3b0002″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e3b0003″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>“What do women want at work? It’s not just better pay, study finds,” by Anne Branigin for the Washington Post: “Better pay and benefits — as well as greater work-life balance and well-being — were top priorities for both men and women. But while women and men said better income and benefits were ‘very important’ to them at similar rates — 65 percent and 63 percent, respectively — women said other factors were just as important to them in a way men did not.

“Topping the list for what women considered most important in looking for a new job was greater work-life balance, at 66 percent, followed by compensation and benefits. Women also wanted to find a job that ‘allows me to do what I do best,’ with 62 percent agreeing this was very important to them. …

“But the most significant difference was in how men and women value diverse and inclusive organizations. This was the fifth most important factor to women, behind greater stability and job security: Just over half of women said this was very important to them in considering a new job. Meanwhile, one in three men said this was very important in weighing their decision to take a job, according to Gallup.”

Justice for the ‘Bimbo,’“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:””,”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e3b0004″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e3b0005″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>Justice for the ‘Bimbo,’” by Alana Hope Levinson for The Cut: “‘Around the turn of the millennium, it became fashionable for women to appear stupid — to get by solely on their looks and to be concerned only with fame and materialism. Some of the effects of that moment in the zeitgeist still linger today,’ [Holly] Madison said in the author’s note to her 2015 memoir, Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”[]c2[p]cl0891we30000k7ogd11wo8dm[u]5[t]w[r][d]D[z]m&tag=thecutonsite-20″,”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e3b0008″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e3b0009″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny. ‘I felt like I had something to say about being in the midst of that whole thing that was going on where Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson and Kendra [Wilkinson] were so celebrated — and I was a part of it, too — for being dumb on TV,’ she told BuzzFeed. ‘Part of the reason I wanted to write the book was to show the other side of it.’

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“As was the case with the holy trinity, women like Madison were ‘celebrated’ — they got rich off being perceived as hot and dumb — but the personal cost was being terrorized by a ruthless and abusive media that drove them to the point of insanity, addiction, or both. Drawing on a legacy established by Marilyn Monroe, who appeared on the cover of the first Playboy in 1953 without her consent”,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:”″,”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e3b000a”,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e3b000b”,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>without her consent, and furthered by Playmates turned bimbo superstars like Anna Nicole Smith and Pamela Anderson, the badge of bimbo has always seemed to come with a heavy dose of humiliation. In light of the new documentary, it’s clear The Girls Next Door essentially functioned as propaganda, one that relied on the whimsy and innocence of the bimbo aesthetic to cover up the dark realities of abuse. [Hugh] Hefner’s power lay in his ability to spin his predation into empowerment, to craft a narrative that his enterprise was about sexual liberation and changing sociosexual values, not exploiting young women.”

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Sponsored by Business Leader members of Women Rule: The Exchange:

COVID-19 has upended the American workplace — and it continues to shine a light on what isn’t working — particularly for women. But within every crisis, there is opportunity. Women Rule: The Exchange brings together leading women in business each quarter to confront these challenges and help find solutions to today’s most pressing issues at the intersection of gender, industry and policy.

Most recently, this included an examination of the future of America’s working women. In this inaugural edition of ‘view from The Exchange,’ we sat down with a few of these leaders to continue the conversation and get their perspectives on some of the critical topics — diversity and inclusion, equal pay, mental health and family-friendly policies — that are driving this debate and will make or break the future of work for women.

Block of text reading: "[Cuomo] is a very vindictive individual. He said he's going to file a complaint against me. File. File it." --New York AG Letitia James

Read more here.“,”link”:{“target”:”NEW”,”attributes”:[],”url”:””,”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e410000″,”_type”:”33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df”},”_id”:”0000017f-6293-d1e9-a1ff-f6ff2e410001″,”_type”:”02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266″}”>Read more here.

Lisa Allen will be the new VP and general manager of Washington operations at Gray Television. She most recently was EP of “Full Court Press.” … Aja Hill is joining Hilton as a diversity, equity and inclusion associate. She previously was a comms coordinator at WaPo. (h/t Playbook) …

Hannah Suh is now special adviser in the Office of the National Cyber Director at The White House. She is an alum of WestExec Advisors. (h/t Nat Sec Daily) … Stacey Hutchinson will be vice president of communications and government affairs for POWDR Corp., a ski and adventure lifestyle company. She was most recently a principal at Monument Advocacy. (h/t Politico Influence) …

Joseline Mata is now political director for Sen. Maggie Hassan’s (D-N.H.) reelection campaign. She most recently was at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. … Hassanatu Savage is joining Deloitte as a government and public sector consultant. She previously was a defense, immigration and national security legislative correspondent for Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). (h/t Playbook)

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