The World’s Most Powerful Women: May 3

May 03, 2017

When it comes to the Brexit process, the U.K. and EU seem to agree on at least one thing: Theresa May's "impressive" stubbornness as a negotiator.

Responding to leaked reports of a contentious dinner with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last week, the U.K. Prime Minister told BBC that her reported clash with Juncker about the U.K.'s desire to make Brexit "a success" was just “Brussels gossip,” adding that she will prove to be “bloody difficult woman” for Juncker and his colleagues during the coming months of negotiations.

The almost verbatim report of the dinner at 10 Downing was first published in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, which revealed that Juncker came away from the meeting with the impression that May was “on a different galaxy” in her understanding of the complexity of the Brexit process. “I’m leaving Downing Street 10 times more skeptical than I was before,” Juncker reportedly told May before departing. The rising tensions between the two leaders bodes poorly for the ensuing Brexit talks, which are unlikely to start in earnest until after the German elections in September.

The scale and detail of the leak may indeed have been an attempt to pressure May into softening her commitment to a “hard Brexit,” but as Politico’s Tom McTague reports, May is not a leader who can be so easily shaken out of her position. “Those who have dealt with May up close consistently report two things: stubbornness and a long memory,” he writes.

During her term as home secretary, May was the only cabinet member to stand up to then-Prime Minister David Cameron and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, repeatedly refusing to agree to the liberalization of Chinese visas at their request, as one MP told McTague.

She’s also known to hold a grudge, and to have mastered the art of the public put-down. “After six years serving in the cabinet with Cameron and his closest ministerial colleagues, May took an ax to all those who had slighted her in the past as soon as she got the keys to Number 10. It was a brutal display of power,” McTague writes.

That said, Juncker is as unlikely to budge as May; the EU's position on Brexit negotiations has remained mostly stable, and the block is presenting a relatively unified front, at least for now. The leak may have caused a minor scandal, but in the end it's unlikely to change either side's approach.

@lindakinstler

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Merkel builds a bridge

On her first visit to Russia in two years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to investigate reports that some 100 gay men in Chechnya have been tortured or killed. German officials described the trip as a “bridge-building mission,” and Merkel took the opportunity to answer concerns about the possibility of Russian meddling in the upcoming German election. At a joint press conference, she said she is “not an anxious person” and that Germany would take “decisive measures” if Russia attempted to interfere.

The Guardian

Socialist savior

The 140-year-old Spanish Socialist Party is hoping Susana Díaz, regional president of Andalusia and self-described “daughter of a humble worker,” will pull the party out from a string of “disastrous” election defeats. Díaz, who studied law and has never held a job outside public office, is campaigning to become Spain’s first female socialist leader in a vote later this month.

Politico

Diverging views

A new study of nearly 10,000 people in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine revealed that a majority of men hold views that are “woefully out of sync” with their female peers, believing that women are not fit to be leaders, should not work outside the home, and that it is more important to educate boys than girls. In Egypt, 90% of men and 58% of women agreed that “a man should have the final word about decision in the home,” and only 31% of men said a married woman should be able to work outside the home.

The Guardian

THE AMERICAS

Ivanka's learning curve

A deep-dive into Ivanka Trump’s path to the White House and her proposed West Wing agenda reveals that the first daughter is “alternately energized, defensive and daunted,” by her unexpected role, one that she says she is “really, really trying to learn” how to navigate. NYT’s Jodi Kantor, Maggie Haberman, and Rachel Adams reveal that Ms. Trump was driven to tears by her father’s hesitance to apologize for his recorded comments about grabbing women’s private parts, and that during the early days of her company, she was reluctant to grant employees maternity leave.

New York Times

Gender code gap

At Facebook, an internal study conducted by a longtime engineer found that code written by female engineers was rejected considerably more often than code written by their male counterparts. A Facebook spokeswoman described the findings as "incomplete and inaccurate," and the company's head of infrastructure said any discrepancy in rejection rates is a factor of rank, not gender.

Wall Street Journal

Lost generation

Latin America is the only region in the world where child marriage is on the rise. In Mexico, the trend is particularly concerning: a new study finds that 25,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 14 are in so-called “early unions,” and 10% of girls are married before the age of 15. Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, warned of the long-term ramifications of child marriage a few weeks ago when he said, “With one in five girls married or living in informal unions before the age of 18 we are losing entire generations to poverty, discrimination and violence.”

The Guardian

ASIA-PACIFIC

Design that defies

Designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons was honored at Monday night’s star-studded Met Gala, where celebrities sported her voluminous cuts and unfinished edges up and down the red carpet. Kawakubo has spent her career challenging assumptions about what it means for clothing to be fashionable and beautiful, creating architectural designs that argue against the notion of the “ideal” body.

Washington Post

Going to bat

Gopal Bhargava, a minister in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, gave hundreds of brides at a mass wedding ceremony wooden bats to defend themselves against alcoholic husbands. Bhargava says he encourages women to try to reason with their husbands before turning to violence, and has ordered 10,000 paddles to distribute to the region’s newlyweds.

BBC

News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler

IN BRIEF

Girls Who Code founder to Ivanka Trump: 'Don't use my story'

Fortune

The co-author of 'Shattered,' the gutting Clinton campaign autopsy, on what went wrong

Jezebel

The woman behind Howard Stern

Wall Street Journal

Saved from demolition, Rosa Parks's house gets a second life in Berlin

New York Times

Why the co-founder of Rent the Runway left her own company to join WalMart

Fortune

Meet the woman helping other women start law firms

Bloomberg Law

PARTING WORDS

"I’m back to being an active citizen, and part of the resistance."

--Hillary Clinton on her life after the election, in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

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