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A Global 500 CEO on leading through crisis



Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Sephora signs the 15% Pledge, Rep. Karen Bass has been fighting to reform policing for 30 years, and a Global 500 CEO reflects on leading through crisis. Have a peaceful Thursday. 

– Chain of eventsWhen the coronavirus pandemic began to upend global supply chains in January, you could argue that no company was more affected than Flex. “I can’t think of something that’s essential that we’re not involved in,” says CEO Revathi Advaithi. 

Advaithi leads the $26 billion global manufacturing and supply chain logistics company, which makes everything from ventilators and other healthcare equipment to the infrastructure needed to keep the world’s communications systems functioning. She is one of few women of color to run a Fortune 500 or Global Fortune 500 company. 

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic stateside, the Broadsheet has been asking executives to tell us how the crisis has affected their businesses; past interviews include Enterprise CEO Chrissy Taylor and Citi president and global consumer banking CEO Jane Fraser. I wanted to talk to Advaithi for several reasons, including the newfound resonance of supply chains with consumers; casual readers of business news may have never heard of the term before wondering why they couldn’t find toilet paper on store shelves

Flex’s supply chains are slightly more complex, and Advaithi shares some of those details here. She usually spends 60% of her time traveling to the company’s factories around the world (“Think of a country, I probably have been there in the past year,” she told me) but has been grounded in California since March.  

We conducted this interview before protests over police brutality and racism exploded across the country and around the world. While Flex sent a statement from Advaithi about demonstrations in Minneapolis—saying that “we have work to do until every black man can walk on the street without worrying about his life, until every black woman knows that she is safe in this country”—Flex declined to make Advaithi available to answer further questions about leading through this moment. 

Hopefully, some of her lessons about leading through the crisis of the coronavirus can apply to the multiple challenges the world is facing right now. Read the rest of our interview here

Emma Hinchliffe

Plus: Black employees in the corporate world, Fortune wants to hear from you: Submit anonymous thoughts and anecdotes here to be included in a new series, Working While Black.

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