Good morning, Broadsheet readers! European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wades into the debate over drugmakers’ IP, another female-founded company readies an IPO, and the latest pandemic shortage is far more serious than toilet paper or lumber. Enjoy your Mothers’ Day weekend!
– What’s worse than no TP? One of the hallmarks of the pandemic news cycle has been a rotating cast of shortages. First toilet paper, then yeast, bikes, patio furniture, now lumber and rental cars.
They’ve all been a pain for those affected, but that pales in comparison to the potential impact of the latest shortage to rear its head: childcare.
This development is as dangerous as it is utterly predictable. The economics of the U.S. childcare industry have always been lose, lose, lose: care is wildly expensive, workers are paid low wages, and childcare providers still struggle to make money. (Read more about the field’s mind-boggling economics here.) So, when the industry got hammered early in the pandemic, many providers just couldn’t hold on. According to Reuters’ Jonnelle Marte, the number of licensed childcare providers was 13% lower in December than it was a year earlier, and by February, the number of people working in the industry was down 16% from pre-pandemic levels.
This would be a problem no matter what, but coming on the heels of a downturn in which many women lost or left jobs, it could be positively disastrous. It could mean that unemployed moms will miss out on the job boom that is already beginning to take shape. Indeed, Marte cites research showing that, although both moms and dads of young kids left the labor force in high rates when the pandemic hit, fathers have largely recovered—mothers, not so much. (And I should note that the impact is disproportionately felt by Black and Latina moms; 36% of Black mothers and 30% for Hispanic mothers say they are not working or working less because of childcare/remote school disruptions.)
So, how to get out of this mess? Congress has approved $50 billion in aid to stabilize the industry, and President Joe Biden’s childcare plan has the potential to make care much more affordable and accessible—should it survive the political minefield that lies ahead. This crisis presents an opportunity to fix an industry that’s long needed it. Let’s hope we’re able to seize the moment.
The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Kristen Bellstrom.
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- Opening up on IP. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the EU is willing to discuss a proposal to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines. Her statement follows President Joe Biden's announcement that the U.S would back a waiver and prompted further outcry from the pharma industry, which argues that such a move would discourage drug companies from investing in vaccine development. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, is against the U.S. proposal; she argues it could complicate vaccine production.
- From cafe to drugstore. Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO (and former Starbucks COO) Roz Brewer talks to Hoda Kotb about her new gig running the health care giant, her path to the corner office, and the discrimination she's faced as a Black woman along the way. TODAY
- More on Melinda. There's plenty of reporting out there this week about Melinda and Bill Gates' divorce. The WSJ notes that the division of assets has begun, with Bill transferring company stakes worth nearly $2.4 billion to Melinda on Monday. (More details on what businesses she now holds a chunk of here). The NYT, meanwhile, asks who will get the couple's jaw-dropping $131 million Seattle-area mansion (which comes with the preposterous nickname of "Xanadu 2.0"). Fun fact: the Times story quotes the 2008 Fortune profile of Melinda written by Pattie Sellers, in which Melinda calls the original plans for the home, "a bachelor’s dream and a bride’s nightmare.”
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Chuy’s Holdings has appointed Jody Bilney, most recently chief consumer officer of Humana, to its board.
- Scrubs go public. FIGS, the direct-to-consumer health care apparel (aka scrubs) company founded by Heather Hasson and Trina Spear has filed for an IPO. Fortune
- Stefanik take a right. Rep. Elise Stefanik is doubling down on her embrace of former President Donald Trump—and his misinformation about election fraud—as she seeks to take over the leadership role now filled by Rep. Liz Cheney. Nevertheless, the WSJ reports that some in the GOP's conservative wing are unhappy with Stefanik's more centrist voting record. WSJ
- Distributed chaos. PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada appeared on Mad Money to talk hybrid work. The takeaway? Managing employees who are working in a mix of locations (including, in some cases, in the office) is already proving much more difficult than when everyone was fully remote—and it's not going to get less complex anytime soon. CNBC
Defending or abandoning Afghan women is a false choice Foreign Affairs
How adult children affect their mother's happiness The Atlantic
Births in the U.S. drop to levels not seen since 1979 WSJ
I remember them all.
- Linda Owens, a retired HR manager in California, who's fostered 81 infants over 34 years.
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