The World’s Most Powerful Women: March 29

Mar 29, 2017

U.K. PM Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 today, launching the process of splitting Britain from the European Union and starting the negotiations to determine the U.K.’s future relationship with the 60-year-old bloc.

May will play the protagonist in what’s expected to be a two-year drama, but after just eight months in the role of prime minister, questions remain about what hand she’ll bring to the bargaining table.

This story in the Financial Times attempts to piece together a portrait of May: The Negotiator, based on how she’s struck deals in the past. Here are some of the main takeaways:

  1. She makes decisions only after exhaustively studying all the options. For instance, as home secretary in 2012, she decided—at the very last minute—against extraditing a Scottish man that the U.S. accused of hacking government computers, issuing her judgement as a plane prepared to take him to the U.S.
  2. She relies on facts rather than on personal relationships. Footage of her standing awkwardly apart from colleagues at a recent European summit is one piece of proof.
  3. She is unrelenting in defending her position. Says a former police chief: “There were times when I thought I could sit with Theresa May for 24 hours a day for the rest of time and [still not] manage to convince her that her position is wrong.”

Taken together, these factors indicate May will be a diligent and determined negotiator. “She is someone serious, meaning there was competence and frankness in our relations,” Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s prime minister and former interior minister, said of her. “To have an able interlocutor is always preferable to having one who isn’t.”

But some former counterparts see her rigidness as a flaw given the multilateral nature of the upcoming process. Nick Clegg, Britain’s former deputy prime minister under David Cameron told the FT: “[S]he will now need to develop quite different quicksilver skills—ingenuity, agility, an ability to think on her feet—when dealing with 27 other governments and parliaments, each with their own needs and bugbears.”

According to the paper, another colleague describes her style as “crab-like”—"she moves calmly and sideways” and “takes her time.” The next two years will prove whether she can adapt that approach amid the highest stakes and against the ultimate deadline.

@clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Baltic diplomacy

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid is both the first woman and the youngest person to be elected to her post. In a new interview, Kaljulaid underscored her staunch faith in the NATO alliance, and critiqued the consumerist perception of democracy that she sees as all-too prevalent in the West. “Too many people in the world associate democracy with their ability to go and buy more and more every year,” she said. “I come from a country where it’s much more popular to remind people that democracy is available at every income level and this is something which you need to protect…The freedom of speech. The freedom of thinking. The freedom of coming and going.”

Washington Post

Solidarity against surrogacy

In Europe, conservative Catholic women and left-wing feminists have found a common cause in their opposition to surrogacy, which remains illegal throughout much of Western Europe. They gathered in Rome last week alongside other female participants concerned about building pressure to legalize the practice. As one conference speaker told The Atlantic, feminists “see it as a struggle against the patriarchy, the Catholics see it as a struggle to preserve the traditional family, some anarchists see it as a struggle against capitalism.”

The Atlantic

How low can you go?

The Daily Mail got slammed yesterday for its front-page depiction of Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at their Monday meeting in Glasgow. It features a photograph of the two, both in skirts, with the headline “Never mind Brexit, who won legs-it!” The tabloid’s are-you-kidding-me sexism is yet another example of the double standard women in leadership are held to and a reminder of the daily challenges women at all professional levels face.

Fortune

THE AMERICAS

Out of the woods?

Last night, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delivered a speech in which she criticized the Trump administration for the dearth of women in top roles and expressed dismay at Press Secretary Sean Spicer's reprimand of a female reporter just hours earlier. She also urged voters to stand up to policies that she sees as promoting suspicion of refugees and voter suppression. "It's the kinds of things you think about when you take long walks in the woods," she said. "Resist, insist, persist, enlist."

Fortune

Haley's heels

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s talent as a public speaker and relative openness to the press have made her a rising star in the Trump administration. Haley is being praised for her recent remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference, where she said, “I’m not there to play,” when asked about a previous statement that the U.S. is “taking names” among countries that don’t support its policies in the UN. “I wear heels, but it’s not for a fashion statement, it’s because if I see something wrong, we’re gonna kick ‘em, every single time,” she said, to wild applause. Her approach to her new job comes in stark contrast to that of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has been conspicuously avoiding the press.

Washington Post

Defending Barra's board

GM CEO Mary Barra is defending her company against activist hedge fund manager David Einhorn’s recent attempt to “storm the board” and introduce a radical stock split. Einhorn sought to nominate four new directors and to get GM to split its stock into two categories in order to placate investors and improve its shareholder base. GM rejected his proposals outright in a statement yesterday, saying Einhorn’s plan carried an “unacceptable level of risk” for a “unproven and entirely speculative valuation impact.”

Financial Times

ASIA-PACIFIC

Clandestine cause

There wasn’t much news coming out of China on International Women’s Day, March 8, because women there celebrated two days ahead of time and in secret to protect themselves from detention. A video of the clandestine demonstration shows Chinese women holding small pink banners that read “We won’t retreat on the feminist road!” and “A hundred years ago they were awake, today you’re all asleep!” Security guards repeatedly chased them away.

New York Times

Forgotten talent

Catherine Leroy was the greatest war photographer you’ve never heard of. She lived with soldiers during the Vietnam War, making her way by living off rations and selling photos she took while parachuting into combat. She was captured during the Tet Offensive in 1968 and persuaded her captors to let her take photographs of their quarters before they let her go. The images later landed on the cover of LIFE Magazine. Leroy never promoted herself or her work, and later made a living running a vintage clothing website.

New York Times

News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler

IN BRIEF

Uber's first diversity report is nothing to brag about

Fortune

Meet the women trolling the GOP with bills that restrict Viagra and ejaculation

Broadly

U.S. women's hockey team ends boycott after striking 'historic' pay deal

Guardian

The Apprentice, but for real: how some companies are closing the skills gap

Foreign Policy

Bobbi Brown on why she really left her brand, and on her next moves

New York Magazine

In pictures: how a new campaign is fighting sexual harassment in Egypt

Al Arabiya

PARTING WORDS

"I don’t want this to be one of the greatest achievements for Arab women. I want it to look minuscule, I want it to look like a footnote in history. I want us to go to the moon."

--Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi Arabian woman to summit Mt. Everest, on how she hopes her achievement will be eclipsed by future generations.

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