Dear Quartz readers,
This week at Quartz, we are mourning the loss of a beloved colleague. Lauren Brown, 37, was a founding editor of Quartz, and the person responsible for some of the most ambitious content we’ve ever produced. Many of our colleagues will tell you she also was responsible for making them the accomplished professionals they are today, whether through her mentorship, her gift for connecting people, or the welcoming environment she offered to everyone in Quartz’s orbit.
As our head of special projects, Lauren dreamed up intensely creative concepts that captivated the imagination of the sponsors who agreed to underwrite them, and she worked closely with reporters around the world to bring those concepts to life. Her cross-functional role meant there were few areas of our company that weren’t exposed to Lauren’s genius, or to her generosity. It also means her loss is being felt by people across every department we have, and in the many newsrooms from which Quartz alumni called and texted and tweeted this week to share their memories and grieve with former colleagues.
One of the last projects Lauren oversaw is called The World in 50 Years, in which respected thinkers from around the globe share their most daring predictions for life in the coming decades. Considering how visionary and forward-thinking Lauren was, it’s unfathomable that she wouldn’t be here to see how it all pans out.
There are many good arguments for why the workplace should not be thought of as a family, but they don’t feel relevant at Quartz this week. When we learned of Lauren’s death from cancer, our immediate instinct was to gather, in the office and over Slack, with a level of caring for one another that Lauren always insisted on, whether at work or anywhere else. To all of Lauren’s family, and to her many friends, industry colleagues, and readers around the world, we extend our heartfelt condolences. —Heather Landy
The one word not to use in the office. Women are not only paid less than men in the same roles, but also underrepresented in leadership positions. One problem, Lauren wrote in 2016, is the way we tend to describe work done by women as “help.” As she noted, “the words we use matter. And the way we describe work affects how we think about it.” Her advice: Thank colleagues for their work, not their help.
Teaching girls to cope with adversity. Today’s girls and young women are often incredibly accomplished yet prone to anxiety and depression in the face of stress. In 2018, Lauren visited Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, to report on a groundbreaking program that aims to build girls’ resilience. The strategy? Put students in stressful situations, like ropes courses and white-water rafting, and equip them with the psychological and social tools they need to get through tough times.
What students really need from education. In an age of information overload, kids need more than the ability to recall facts and parrot popular arguments. More important, Lauren contended in 2017, is their ability to wade through noise, discern facts, analyze perspectives, and develop their own expertise. As she noted, “one of the most powerful tools anyone can harness is the single-minded pursuit of mastering how to seek the truth from information.”
Looking for love while battling cancer. Is anyone lovable on Tinder? Does a serious diagnosis make it harder to find a match, or are dating apps inherently tilted against true connection? Lauren sought to find out even as she began to feel her femininity was under assault by her treatments. In the process, she wrote in 2015, she also learned something about herself.
On finding happiness. “Happiness is just persistence and sheer will,” Lauren also wrote in 2015, the year after her cancer diagnosis, “not a feeling, but an orientation.” She treated hope as a discipline and disappointments as bends in the road, and honored her own desires and needs, even if they were unpopular. “Happiness is an uncompromising, calculated approach to life,” she added. “Despite all of the circumstances in life we can’t control, ‘happiness’ is one thing you can.”
Change you can feel. Quartz launched in 2012 as a digitally native news outlet, designed to be consumed on smartphones. But at the five-year mark, it got tactile, publishing a thick-paged book entitled The Objects that Power the Global Economy. As Lauren noted in 2017, the book will be just as relevant in 2030 because the objects featured—including a turbopump, iris scanner, and lithium-ion battery—“mark incredible shifts in how our economy works.”
Women at work. What started in 2018 with 50 successful women and their insights about workplace dynamics has turned into an ongoing exploration of the fight for gender equality. In its first year, How We’ll Win also included chapters on girls’ empowerment, female founders, and the male perspective on parity. This year, the project’s focus is on how injustice is being confronted, and the cultural landscape that makes women’s equality a worldwide imperative.
The corporate ideal. Quartz’s first Perfect Company project has readers scroll down an illustration of an office building. Stopping at one floor offers a deep dive into marketing at Kenya’s Safaricom; another provides a look at sustainability efforts at Japan’s Muji; and so on. (Subsequent editions have focused on different approaches to supply chains and talent development.) As Lauren told Quartz designer Elan Kiderman, “There is no such thing as a perfect company, but if we zoom in and look at different slices of one…there are interesting stories to be found about the changes that are happening and the flattening of corporate hierarchies.”
The internet is physical. Covering everything from underwater cables to government chokepoints to orbiting transmitters, the award-winning Map of the Internet project from 2016 shows how we cannot take for granted the collection of physical machines that comprise the global network, or the implications of allowing that network to decide how and where our data flow through it.
Happiness looks different for everyone. The stories in 2017’s Happiness Experiment use economics, history, philosophy, and evolutionary psychology to shed light on humans’ ever-evolving notions of fulfillment. As one piece explains, “Because unhappiness motivates us to make changes, we’re hard-wired not to remain too happy for long.” Nevertheless, as Lauren noted, happiness is a choice we’re all empowered to make—you just have to define what it looks like for you.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, condolences, and rabbit emoji (Lauren’s favorite) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Weekend Brief was brought to you by Jenni Avins, Kira Bindrim, Heather Landy, Lila MacLellan, Steve Mollman, Holly Ojalvo, Zachary M. Seward, Sarah Todd, and David Yanofsky.