The World’s Most Powerful Women: March 14

Mar 14, 2017

Last fall, tens of thousands of women, dressed in black and clutching umbrellas, filled the streets of Warsaw, Poland. Women turned out in smaller cities and towns across the country, too. They were protesting against a proposed change to the nation's already strict abortion law, one that would essentially outlaw the procedure altogether and threaten mothers and doctors who pursued and performed abortions with jail time.

After the extraordinary outpouring of opposition—an estimated 6 million people protested in all—Poland's ruling right-wing party distanced itself from the bill and the measure was defeated two days later.

The demonstrations were deemed a success. "Poland's parliament rejects near-total ban on abortion after protests," the Guardian declared at the time. Last week, stories about the American "Day Without Women" cited the Polish demonstrations as examples of the power of a pointed protest. But the current mood among progressive women in Poland is anything but celebratory.

In a new exposé, Buzzfeed details the enormous scope of feminists' on-going fight. Here's a taste of what women there are up against:

There’s another version of the abortion ban wending through Parliament in a less direct fashion, and there’s moves to ban hormonal contraception, which is what most Polish women use. [The ruling, right-wing party] PiS has introduced a bill to make emergency contraception prescription-only, which would essentially make it inaccessible. And conservatives remain committed to ending in vitro fertilization. Marta Szostak, who coordinates a reproductive rights alliance called ASTRA, sums it up simply: “They’re really concerned about all the issues connected to women’s vaginas.”

Poland's attack on women's rights is not limited to reproductive health. Two days after assuming control of the government, PiS's justice ministry slashed funding to nonprofits that aid domestic violence victims because it considers such organizations discriminatory against men.

Poland's liberal base remains energized by the success of the fall protests, in much the way some American women continue to draw strength from the momentum of the (albeit less targeted) Women's March on Washington. Now, Poland's feminists are done begging for reprieve against "draconian laws," Krystyna Kacpura, director of the Federation for Women and Family Planning, told Buzzfeed. Rather, they're working to get their own people elected in the first place—an approach their American counterparts are starting to replicate.

@clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Making way for May

U.K. PM Theresa May has the green light to initiate the formal Brexit process after MPs approved legislation that gives her the power to do so and the Lords balked at picking a fight over it. There were rumors that May would trigger Article 50 as early as today, but that expedited timeline could have appeared cavalier, so she's expected to launch the process in two weeks.

Financial Times

Let's try this again

Meanwhile, Scotland FM Nicola Sturgeon yesterday confirmed she will ask for permission to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence between the fall of 2018 and the spring of the next year. Sturgeon is seeking the second vote—the first failed 45%-55% in 2014—to protect Scotland's interest as the U.K. pursues its split from the EU, which the majority of Scots voted against. Sturgeon is justified in seeking the measure, but Fortune's Geoffrey Smith argues that, economically speaking, a standalone Scotland is a seriously bad idea. 

Fortune

A dissenter departs

MIT professor and potential Federal Reserve candidate Kristin Forbes will leave her post as external member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee at the end of June to return to the university. Forbes distinguished herself as a ‘rebel voice’ on the committee, where she often dissented from the consensus. For instance, she opposed elements of the 2016 stimulus package and suggested the U.K. may need a rate increase in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. Her departure also draws attention to the committee’s lack of diversity; since 1997, just seven of 40 committee members have been women.

Bloomberg

THE AMERICAS

Making more than Mayer

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's net worth could increase by about $189 million when she leaves the company after its deal with Verizon closes, thanks to a $23 million severance package, $69 million worth of unexercised stock options, and the $97 million of Yahoo stock she already owns. But in some ways her replacement, Thomas McInerney, could be getting an even sweeter deal. He'll have a base salary of $2 million, double what Mayer currently takes home. Plus, he will be eligible for as much as $24 million in annual stock awards—twice as much as Mayer's grant in 2015, the last full year before the Verizon deal was announced.

Fortune

Left out of paid leave

The ascendance of tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple was said to have ushered in expansive paid family leave policies across the business world. Women working at those companies may have seen their benefits expand over the past decade, but the majority of new parents actually saw their leave allowances contract. Still burdened by the recession, firms are reluctant to spend on paid family leave. Instead, many businesses require new mothers to have temporary disability insurance, which guarantees some paid time off but excludes fathers and adoptive parents from benefits.

Bloomberg

Unsavory alliances

U.S. representatives at the UN Commission on the Status of Women this week risk finding themselves on the same side as nations like Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia when it comes to women’s rights. President Donald Trump’s reinstatement of the global gag rule, which deprives international NGOs of U.S. funding if their work deals with or mentions abortion, threatens many of the gender equality issues that the commission works to support. That would seem to make coming up with an action plan to improve women’s economic opportunities—the task before the UN delegates—a difficult one indeed.

Guardian

ASIA-PACIFIC

Posh and pious

The well-heeled women of Karachi are embracing a form of Islamic culture that fits into their modern lifestyles, attending lectures on love and marriage by female preachers and shopping for “Islamic-themed consumer goods.” The increasing demand has led to a boom in shops and services catering to wealthy religious women, including “Shariah-compliant” workout classes, sequined abayas, and designer prayer mats.

New York Times

Defeat down under

Australia's populist movement, led by One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, suffered a major setback in state elections over the weekend, winning fewer votes than expected. The shortfall delivered a crushing blow to the Western Australia state branch of PM Malcolm Turnbull’s ruling Liberal Party, which had joined with Hanson, a controversial, right-wing firebrand, in hopes her high profile would help avoid an expected election defeat. The gamble backfired, showing that the resonance of populists' nationalist rhetoric is limited, at least in local elections.

Wall Street Journal

Constructing Cambodia

One-third of migrant workers in Cambodia’s robust construction industry are women, many of whom move to Phnom Penh with networks of family and friends to work on the capital’s soaring skyscrapers. Photographer Charles Fox profiles the city’s female construction workers in a revealing photo essay that captures the hard conditions the women work in, usually for lower pay than their male colleagues.

BBC

News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler

IN BRIEF

Venture capital's funding gender gap is actually getting worse

Fortune

Activist Li Maizi on why feminism is “going backwards” in China

Quartz

Glamour Editor-in-Chief Cindi Lieve on the best advice her mom ever gave her

Thrive Global

Nike's Pro Hijab sends an important cultural message, but it's also a sound business decision

The Outline

Mega-investor Blackrock is going to push companies to get more progressive

Fortune

PARTING WORDS

"There is no happy hour for menstruation."

--California State Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, advocating for eliminating taxes on feminine hygiene products by increasing liquor taxes.

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