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The World’s Most Powerful Women: November 22

Nov 22, 2016

There's growing concern that the fallout of the scandal engulfing South Korean President Park Geun-hye is reaching beyond the Blue House and tainting the atmosphere for future female leaders in the deeply partiarchal nation.

Gender is coloring protests of Park, whom prosecutors have accused of being a criminal accomplice in the influence-peddling scandal involving her close confidant Choi Soon-sil. Here's a taste of the commentary going around Twitter: “If Hillary is elected, the United States will have its first female president. If Trump is elected, it will have its first crazy president. South Korea got both in 2012." Park was elected that year.

Park's lawyer is making the situation worse by citing gender as a reason for leniency. He said Park was "a woman before being president" and that her "privacy as a woman" must be protected from prosecutors, according to The New York Times.

The irony is that despite being the nation's first female president, Park is not considered a feminist icon. She rose to power by casting herself as a modern version of her late father, military dictator Park Chung-hee, rather than a champion of women's rights.

Nevertheless, feminist groups say the scandal is being touted as evidence that women are not qualified for politics. And regardless of their validity, those claims could make it harder for South Korea to cross the all-important threshold I wrote about yesterday—the election of a second female leader.

clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Foiling fake news

After facing criticism for letting fake news stories proliferate, Facebook has announced a plan to crack down on fabricated or misleading stories and its EMEA VP Nicola Mendelsohn is the latest to talk about its approach. She said yesterday that Facebook sees the crackdown "as a responsibility.”

Fortune

Get on board

New research shows that boards are likely to have significantly more women directors if the CEO or chairman is also female. The proportion of women serving as non-executive directors at the U.K.’s top 150 public companies has reached 29.9%, up from 17.5% five years ago. But that share is considerably higher—40%—on the six boards with a female chairman. It's 35.4% when the CEO is a woman.

Financial Times

THE AMERICAS

Making sense of Mercer

Politico has a profile of Rebekah Mercer, the press-shy hedge fund heiress who's quietly influencing Donald Trump's transition effort. Her work is tied closely to conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society and calls into question Trump's claim that his own personal fortune makes him independent from deep-pocketed donors.

Politico

Snuffing out sexism

Women hold just 12% of the U.S. government's permanent wildfire suppression jobs at the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Parks Service. They're often driven out of the profession by discrimination, sexual harassment, and verbal abuse. A new 10-day training program, the Women-in-Fire Training Exchange, is intended as a "safe space" for women to learn wildfire training alongside female colleagues. 

Washington Post

Renewed relevance

Twenty-five years ago, Julie Dash became the first black female director to achieve nationwide theatrical distribution with the release of Daughters of the Dust, a film about a family living on one of the Sea Islands off of the South Carolina coast. The movie has found renewed relevance due to the themes it shares with Beyonce's visual album Lemonade. It was re-released in New York this weekend.

NPR

ASIA-PACIFIC

Saving a sinking ship

As a growing economy pushes Bangladesh and its vast network of river deltas into the future, the nation's fleet of inland boats—the largest in the world—is being overrun by powerboats. Entrepreneur Runa Khan is working to preserve Bangladesh's old-world boatbuilding technology. She hired master ship builders and helped them amass the ancient skills. The boats they've built will be on display in the Bengal Friendship Boat Museum that Khan plans to open in 2018.

National Geographic

Touting Tokyo

Yuriko Koike, Tokyo's first female governor, is this week launching an effort to re-establish Tokyo as Asia's leading financial center and reverse years of banks' downsizing in the city. A panel will convene to deal with Tokyo's turnoffs—a language barrier, high personal tax rates, arcane regulation, and the Bank of Japan's dominance of the bond market. Her push coincides with political turmoil in rival cities London and Hong Kong.

Financial Times

IN BRIEF

Slain British MP Jo Cox will soon have a public place named after her

Brussels Times

Fidelity says Abigail Johnson will succeed her father as chairman

Bloomberg

Why the 'Birchbox for Muslim women' is sending customers pepper spray

Fortune

AT&T teams up with Reese Witherspoon to tell women's stories

Fortune

Theresa May prepares to roll out the red carpet for Donald Trump

Financial Times

The mother behind the U.S.'s 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal dies at 67.

New York Times

PARTING WORDS

"To be able to perform like we do and to be the best in the world, we should be treated the same as them."

--Soccer player Morgan Brian on the U.S. women's team's ongoing fight for equal pay with men

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