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Sheryl Sandberg: Companies can’t risk losing their best women leaders

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Two women are the finalists to head the World Trade Organization, we get ready to welcome special guests to Fortune’s MPW Next Gen Summit, and Sheryl Sandberg sounds the alarm on the importance of retaining corporate America’s best leaders. Have a restful weekend.

– Senior-level crisis. Earlier this week, the Broadsheet covered the astounding number of women leaving the workforce: 865,000 in September alone.

That crisis is just the tip of the iceberg for corporate America, write Lean In cofounders Sheryl Sandberg and Rachel Thomas in a new op-ed for Fortune. Businesses risk losing their top female leaders—the senior most women at their companies—as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Senior-level women—tough, tested, ambitious leaders—are being pushed to their limits and beyond,” write Sandberg and Thomas. “This is a real problem for companies because these leaders are too important to lose.”

Like many working women, female executives are struggling with childcare. Case in point: Among senior leaders with partners, 63% of women have partners who work full-time, compared to just 35% of men. Even executive women who don’t have kids face burdens that men in similar roles simply don’t.

“Senior-level women report feeling more stressed, more exhausted, and more burned out than the men who are their peers. At Lean In, we’re hearing stories from executive women who say that the emotional labor needed to get employees through this crisis is disproportionately falling to them,” the pair write. “Some have been asked by the men they work with to step in to check in on employees and lead difficult internal conversations. … This emotional labor can be draining and often goes unnoticed and unrewarded.”

Sandberg and Thomas—who as Facebook COO and Lean In CEO, respectively, are both senior female executives themselves—are calling on businesses to prevent these valuable leaders from leaving behind their careers. “Unless companies take swift action, we risk losing hard-won gains in the number of women in leadership,” they write. “The ripple effects will spread across organizations: companies will lose women’s experience and expertise, and other women will lose their greatest champions.”

Read Sandberg and Thomas’s full op-ed here.

And an exciting announcement: Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex will join us at our Fortune MPW Next Gen Summit next week. This will be a new conversation on Tuesday following her appearance at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit last month. This time, The Duchess will talk about leading on the global stage (in conversation with me!). See our full agenda, featuring speakers from Peloton’s Ally Love to former Pinterest COO Françoise Brougher, and apply for an invitation here. This news is once again a Broadsheet exclusive, so keep an eye out for The Duchess’s full event description on the agenda shortly.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@emmahinchliffe

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