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The World’s Most Powerful Women: October 19

Oct 19, 2016

In August, new research found that female CEOs have a 27% chance of facing activist investors while male chief executives' likelihood is closer to zero. The study's author provided one possible reason for this phenomenon: the market tends to react negatively when female leadership is announced. That sends a company's stock price lower, giving it the perception of being undervalued and making it a ripe target for activists.

At Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit on Tuesday, ex-DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, who confronted activist investor Nelson Peltz in her former role, provided her own perspective. "There are a lot of tough things that women CEOs have been asked to take on, and have taken on and done phenomenally well with. If it makes us a target, that’s part of life,” she said in her first public appearance since leaving DuPont a little over a year ago.

Kullman won an initial proxy fight with Peltz, but when he indicated he would launch another, she stepped down. Her situation was unique—a Fortune 500 CEO facing an activist investor who was pushing for a deal—but the rationale behind her decision to leave is surprisingly relatable: "At some point when you are fighting these fights, you lose your joy a bit. And these jobs are tough. You really need your joy to get up out of bed every morning at 5 am and do what we do," she said.

She also indicated, quite candidly, that she has no regrets as she took a jab at the pending deal between DuPont and Dow that she'd opposed as CEO. (The companies plan to briefly combine, before breaking apart again.) “Break up, recombine. Break up, recombine,” she said. “That doesn’t create any value except for bankers and lawyers.”

clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Pumping the brakes on Brexit?

The Brexit case brought by investment manager Gina Miller took an interesting twist yesterday when the lawyer for Theresa May's government said the U.K. parliament will "very likely" have to ratify an eventual agreement between Britain and the EU when the country exits the bloc. The comments are significant because the majority of MPs are opposed to leaving and are upset at indications that the government will not even try to keep the U.K. in the EU’s single market as it negotiates the Brexit settlement.

Fortune

"It makes me weep."

Refinery 29 has a profile of the day-to-day life of a mother in war-torn Aleppo that starts with this devastating scene: "In the corner of Afraa’s living room in Aleppo, her children whisper secrets to the dolls they’ve cut from scrap paper. Each is named after one of their dead friends, but the game brings them back to life."

Refinery 29

Businesses for breastfeeding

Cafes, restaurants, and shops in the Scottish city of Aberdeen have signed up for a program that highlights businesses where breastfeeding is welcome. Participating establishments are hanging signs in their windows that tell mothers they are welcome to feed their babies inside. 

BBC

THE AMERICAS

A dynamic duo

Nearly one year after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan announced their plan to pledge up to $1 billion to philanthropic efforts over the next three years, Chan provided some insight into what makes their partnership work. At the MPW summit, she told interviewer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, that she and Zuckerberg "challenge each other to think more deeply about the questions we’re faced with."

Fortune

A positive spin

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty spoke at the MPW summit one day after her company reported its 18th straight quarter of declining revenue. "Some companies are high-growth. We are high-value," she said. Looking beyond the firm's financials, she said IBM has a big responsibility to help in education: "We should prepare our future workforce differently."

Fortune

What's the rush?

Despite its one billion monthly users—almost one-third of all people on the internet—YouTube is still in the investment stage, CEO Susan Wojcicki said at the MPW summit yesterday. Declining TV viewership in the prime 18- to 34-year-old segment is a massive opportunity for her team, and she said "there’s no timetable” on profitability.

Fortune

Creating culture in the gig economy

How do you create a positive company culture when the people offering your product don’t actually report to you? At the MPW summit, execs from TaskRabbit and Airbnb weighed in on this vital question.

Fortune

ASIA-PACIFIC

Boots on the ground

Universal Pictures Chairman Donna Langley told the MPW summit yesterday how the studio has expanded its reach in China. Five years ago, it relied on third-party companies to distribute its movies. Now, it runs its own operations there.

Fortune

New messenger, same message

Japan's new opposition leader Renho tells the FT that she represents a change in style, personality, and branding that will usher the Democrats into a new era. "The first thing that has changed is [that the DP] is now run by a woman in her forties...It's a party of the next generation," she says. Even with the new guard, the DPs remains staunchly opposed to PM Shinzo Abe's "Abenomics" economic strategy, but its alternative plan remains vague: a mixture of "growth strategy" and redistribution. 

Financial Times

A head-scratcher

The low labor participation rate among Indian women is truly puzzling. Among major emerging economies, India is the clear laggard in putting women to work even though its women have access to top educational institutions and positions of authority. One explanation for the phenomenon is that it's cyclical; an indication of growing household incomes. Another possibility is that cultural attitudes are barring women from employment. Whatever the reason, it's a cause for global concern since India's growing population means it should be a vital cog in the world's economic engine, but it's currently operating nowhere near full capacity.

Bloomberg

IN BRIEF

WikiLeaks reveals the real Huma Abedin

Politico

African-American designer who created Jackie Kennedy’s wedding gown finally gets her due

New York Times

Watch President Obama imitate his daughters' cell phone use

Time

Leaked Clinton campaign emails show she might have considered Xerox's Ursula Burns and GM's Mary Barra for VP pick

Fortune

How homeless women cope with their periods

Bustle

PARTING WORDS

"I didn’t know what to do, but I did know how to start a Facebook page."

--Shannon Watts, the mom who started a grass-roots gun control movement in the United States.

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