By Claire Zillman
October 26, 2016

The World Economic Forum has been keeping track of the global gender gap—how women’s health, education, economic and political opportunities compare to men’s—for a decade now. The ten years of data shows overall positive signs, but this year’s report sounds a sour note. The WEF’s examination of 144 countries chalks up 2016 as an “ambiguous” year for progress, with the number of counties making advances coming close to the number of those that reversed course. (Iceland topped the list, followed by Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Rwanda. The U.K. was No. 20 and the U.S. was No. 45.)

A big culprit in the stagnation is anemic growth in the labor participation rate among women. Women are still entering the workforce, but not as quickly as they once did. That slowdown is partly due to automation that’s eliminating jobs that tend to belong to women, like sales and administrative positions. It’s also the result of limited infrastructure for the care of children and the elderly, which keeps women away from work.

As women confront this economic setback, they’ve also reached near-parity with men on the WEF’s health and education metrics. That progress is the result of “deliberate” initiatives to ensure equal access, even in developing countries, WEF’s Saadia Zahidi told me.

Nations now need to put that kind of strategic effort into addressing the factors that hamper women’s livelihoods too.

clairezillman


EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Tell us how you really feel
Leaked audio from a speech that then-Home Secretary Theresa May gave to Goldman Sachs before the EU referendum in June sheds more light on how she views Brexit. May was publicly noncommittal leading up to the vote, but on the recording she warns that business would leave the U.K. if the country favored exiting the EU. 
Guardian
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A risky business
The 7,800-square kilometer Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to 300 mountain gorillas—a quarter of the animal’s entire population. This photo series by American photojournalist Monique Jaques features some of the female rangers who fend off poachers to protect them.
Refinery29
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Love your hair!
Russian tennis star Svetlana Kuznetsova sawed off her own ponytail mid-match of the WTA finals Monday night. She then staged a comeback to take the title. Never underestimate the power of a new ‘do.
Guardian

THE AMERICAS

Early adopters
An overlooked aspect of Snapchat’s tremendous success—it’s gearing up for an IPO that would value it at as much as $25 billion—is its early popularity with women. The app’s 150 million users are now split evenly by gender, but in 2013, its base was 70% female. Women were also early adopters of other major social networks.
Fortune
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Taking the first step
Female underrepresentation in American politics is not due to women’s chances of winning elections—their odds are as good as men’s—it’s the result of women not entering races in the first place. And the pipeline of female political talent is looking rather dry, meaning the gender gap for the next generation could be as glaring as it is now.
New York Times
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Listen up
Fortune just launched its latest podcast Fortune Onstage Presents: The Most Powerful Women, which lets you listen back to insightful conversations with some of the world’s most newsworthy MPWs. First up are three on-stage interviews from our recent Summit featuring Ivanka Trump, Sheryl Sandberg, and Apple retail boss Angela Ahrendts.
iTunes

ASIA-PACIFIC

Need more time
South Korean President Park Geun-hye wants to change the country’s constitution to allow presidents to serve for longer than what it prescribes now: a single five-year term. She said lengthier tenures would provide more continuity in domestic and foreign policy. Her remarks didn’t suggest a clear alternative, and they came at a time when her approval numbers are at an all-time low.
Bloomberg
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A crude critique
Two newly-elected lawmakers in Hong Kong who support its independence have been the target of intense criticism after using a derogatory term for China in their oaths of office (which have since been nullified.) One of them, Yau Wai-ching, is receiving especially vulgar insults that suggest she was only voted into office because of her looks.
Quartz

IN BRIEF

Meet the woman who runs Amazon’s Alexa unit
Fortune
Melinda Gates calls out the gender tech divide in India
Wall Street Journal
So you chose the wrong career: 8 women on their second acts
New York Magazine
At work, men are more motivated by their own success than women
Fortune
5 young female international artists you should know
Bustle
Samantha Bee visits the UN to talk misogyny with female heads of state
Yahoo
Sheryl Sandberg says Facebook prompts encouraged more than two million users to register to vote
Wall Street Journal

PARTING WORDS

"She is balanced, she has temperament, and no matter what anyone says, she has stamina."
- --Republican and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in his endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

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