Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Childcare costs pile up for Congress’s new women, we hear from “the replacements,” and Mary Barra says layoffs—while business is good—are what’s best for GM. Have a terrific Tuesday.
• Barra’s belt-tightening. General Motors yesterday announced that it plans to slash up to 14,800 jobs and idle production at several plants in North America.
If that news catches you off-guard; you’re likely not alone. With the economy chugging along and GM reporting stellar profits, the move seems to be ill-timed. But that’s precisely the point, says CEO Mary Barra, No. 2 on Fortune‘s MPW list.
“We think it’s appropriate to get in front of it while the business and the economy are strong,” she said yesterday. “This is what we’re doing to transform the company. The industry is changing very rapidly.”
The goal is to tighten GM’s belt; to make it more nimble amid the auto industry’s dramatic shift to electric and self-driving technology. The job cuts will result, in part, from halting production at plants in Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario that manufacture slow-selling cars. (With gas prices low, consumers are flocking to SUVs and pick-ups.) Slimming down production will make it easier for GM to share technology between its vehicles and streamline the time and labor it takes to build automobiles.
The move, of course, comes with political blowback. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he’d talked with Barra to express his “deep disappointment” about the cuts in Ontario. President Donald Trump said yesterday that he’d also talked with Barra, reminding her that the U.S. “had done a lot for General Motors” and urging her to bring new products back to the Ohio plant in particular. (Recall that U.S. taxpayers bailed out GM during the recession.)
Barra will no doubt have to answer for the human cost of her plans; the United Auto Workers union has promised that GM’s move “will not go unchallenged.”
From a management standpoint, the strategy fits neatly into Barra’s cutthroat playbook. “Don’t confuse progress with winning,” she told Fortune‘s Geoff Colvin in 2014. “I accept no excuses for why we can’t be the best.” At the time, Barra was just starting the herculean task of remaking GM’s notoriously slow and insular culture, which had just come under fierce scrutiny during the Chevrolet Cobalt ignition-failure saga.
One of the biggest changes Barra made early on in her tenure was measuring success against external—rather than internal—metrics, a head-smackingly-obvious but nonetheless huge shift for a corporation that had “long been obsessively inward-looking,” as Geoff put it.
Barra pointed to external forces in explaining the cuts yesterday. “This about making sure GM is lean and agile to get in front and lead in autonomous and electric vehicles,” she said.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Congressional childcare. Many of the women joining Congress are entering an institution that wasn’t built for them. Democratic Rep.-elect Katie Porter is a single mother of three, and will have to pay for overnight childcare for her kids in California while she’s in Washington. It’s a challenge, Porter says. The $174,000 salary for representatives is generous, but it’s not quite round-the-clock-childcare generous.
• The replacements. An amazing story in Elle features 12 of the women who replaced powerful men accused of sexual misconduct. Robin Wright of House of Cards, The Takeaway‘s Alison Stewart and Tanzina Vega, New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood, 500 Startups’ Christine Tsai and more share what it was like to take over at such a critical time.
• Paying a price. Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand was a leading voice calling for the resignation of her fellow Democrat Sen. Al Franken a year ago over sexual misconduct allegations against him. Now some major Democratic donors are penalizing Gillibrand as the race for the 2020 presidential nomination approaches, saying they “will never do anything for her” again.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Advertiser WPP merged ad agencies J. Walter Thompson and Wunderman to create Wunderman Thompson, with Wunderman global CEO Mel Edwards serving as global CEO of the new venture and JWT global CEO Tamara Ingram stepping into the chairman role. Lara Balazs is the new CMO at Intuit, joining from Amazon.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Shanghai shakedown. It’s not just Fan Bingbing facing a crackdown on celebrity wealth in China. Actress Zhao Wei (also known as Vicki Zhao) was barred from acting as a senior executive for any company for five years, adding to an earlier punishment that prohibited Zhao and her husband from trading on the Shanghai stock market. The pair, both investors, were penalized over a failed 2016 takeover bid.
• Crimson chief. Earlier this month, The Harvard Crimson announced its new president: Kristine E. Guillaume. Guillaume will be the first black woman to lead the 145-year-old college newspaper, known as a training ground for everyone from JFK to CNN’s Jeff Zucker. “If my being elected to the Crimson presidency as the first black woman affirms anyone’s sense of belonging at Harvard, then that will continue to affirm the work that I’m doing,” Guillaume says.
New York Times
• ‘Great frustration.’ A few Harvey Weinstein updates this week: The Manhattan district attorney decided not to charge Weinstein with financial crimes over his settlements with women who accused him of sexual assault. (Charges over the assaults are still in process.) Meanwhile, departing Motion Picture Association of America chief Joan Graves said in an interview with the New York Times that dealing with Weinstein as she doled out movies’ PG-13 and R ratings was the most challenging part of her job.
• Bipartisan support. An ally in the fight for paid leave? Rick Santorum. The former Republican senator—who opposed the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993—argues that his party should work with Democrats on the issue.