The Fortune 500 adds a second Black woman CEO

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! PG&E’s CEO deals with a major obstacle, Dr. Katalin Karikó was one of two scientists awarded a Nobel Prize, and the Fortune 500 gets a second Black female CEO—again. Have a terrific Thursday!

– Dynamic duo. This week, Toni Townes-Whitley became the CEO of Science Applications International Corp., a Virginia-based Fortune 500 technology company that supports government agencies, intelligence services, and the Department of Defense.

With her appointment, Townes-Whitley becomes one of two Black women currently serving as Fortune 500 CEOs. The timing is notable; for all of September, TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett stood alone as the only Black female CEO in the Fortune 500 following the exit of Walgreens chief Roz Brewer. With Townes-Whitley’s hire at SAIC, Duckett is no longer an “only” among Fortune 500 chiefs and the smaller group of 52 female CEOs.

Not only that, but SAIC achieved a rare female CEO-to-female CEO handoff, with Townes-Whitley taking over from former SAIC chief Nazzic Keene. Townes-Whitley’s hire was announced in May and she became “CEO-elect” in June.

Toni Townes-Whitley in 2019.

Mike Coppola—Getty Images

Townes-Whitley spoke to Stephanie Mehta at Fast Company about the significance of her new role.

“I was with the other female in our duo just a few days ago,” she said of Duckett, “And we were talking about the importance of how we show up and that we have a greater pipeline into these roles.”

“This is an opportunity for me not only as a female but as an African American female,” she added. “We’ve never had an African American female as a CEO in national security. And yet, if you look at our security forces, they’re quite diverse. And so, we’ve got to ask ourselves, both by sector and by size of company, why are we not building that pipeline?”

Before joining SAIC, Townes-Whitley was Microsoft’s president of U.S. regulated industries, with an $11 billion P&L.

SAIC is smaller, with $7.7 billion in annual revenue and a No. 479 ranking on the Fortune 500. Townes-Whitley believes SAIC is undervalued; she aims to better articulate its differentiated value proposition and clarify its brand.

She’ll be doing that with more attention than a public sector-focused tech business usually garners.

“People like myself and others—we have to show up,” she says of her visibility. “We have to demonstrate that we can make this happen. We can grow businesses, we understand top line, bottom line, and all of the shareholder pressures, and we can deliver. And I think the more that occurs, you’re going to start to see some changes.”

Emma Hinchliffe

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– Nobel for novel research. Dr. Katalin Karikó was one of two scientists who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine yesterday for research in mRNA vaccine technology that led to the development of COVID-19 vaccines. Karikó is the 13th woman to win the prize and struggled through periods of exhausting research without permanent academic positions or funding. New York Times

– Fire plan fringes. Patti Poppe, CEO of utilities company PG&E, is in the midst of a final, last-minute fight with California regulators to save a $5.9 billion plan for the company to bury nearly 2,000 miles of its power lines. The plan became Poppe’s main objective when she took over PG&E after the company’s above-ground power lines caused devastating wildfires in California, but regulators want to cut the large amounts of customer spending the plan would require. Wall Street Journal

– X x Hilton. X announced that it tapped Paris Hilton and her ad agency 11:11 Media to produce original video content on the social media platform as CEO Linda Yaccarino looks toward new revenue streams. Hilton and her company will create four videos a year for the platform that blends beauty, fashion, and other topics with X’s live shopping feature. Financial Times

– Fashion forward. Phoebe Philo’s return to fashion since her 2017 departure from Céline has been highly anticipated. Her new line is approaching an Oct. 30 debut after developing in fits and starts, with support from major players like LVMH heiress and Dior CEO Delphine Arnault. Puck

– Power players. This year’s American Banker lists of the Most Powerful Women in Finance and Banking include JPMorgan Chase asset and wealth management CEO Mary Callahan Erdoes, Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser, and Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson. 

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Bumble Inc. added Sissie Hsiao, vice president and general manager for Google Assistant and Bard, as a board member. Jumpstart for Young Children announced Crystal Rountree as chief executive officer. Foursquare named Kit Krugman as senior vice president, people and culture. The Washington Post appointed Ann Gerhart as deputy managing editor and Brianna Tucker as deputy campaign editor. Roblox hired Stephanie Latham as vice president of global partnerships. The Society of Professional Journalists swore in Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins as president. 


The trolling of corporate America Fortune

How Katy Perry inspired a wave of housing bills Semafor

Why the ‘mother of the atomic bomb’ never won a Nobel Prize New York Times


“What we have been through since 1975—the battles we have fought, the lessons we have learned—together. I am her and she is me. She absolutely has my heart.”

—Singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks on a new sold-out Barbie designed after her

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