By Claire Zillman
September 14, 2017

A fascinating new story in The Atlantic argues that motherhood is not diabolically opposed to creativity, despite plenty of suggestions that it is.

A study of a mother rat, for instance, showed that while pregnant, she was more resourceful, stockpiling whatever materials she could find to make a nest. She was more efficient too, adopting a “more direct and lethal” cricket-hunting tactic.

“Whether rodent or human,” writes the story’s author, Erika Hayasaki, “a mother’s brain requires cognitive, emotional, and behavioral flexibility”—traits that can fuel creativity.

At one point, Hayasaki argues that the frequently-peddled misconception about moms and creativity may contribute to the dearth of women in the arts. But her story got me thinking beyond just creative fields, to the professional world at large. She makes a remarkable case for getting more moms into the workforce. Find me a business that doesn’t want resourceful, innovative minds these days.

And yet, in the U.S., the number of mothers in the workforce peaked around 2000, according to Pew data. Another poll, this one by the New York Times, CBS News, and the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2014, found that that’s not for a lack of desire on women’s part. Nearly two-thirds of nonworking women ages 25 to 54 said family responsibilities were keeping them home. And of women who identified as homemakers and had not searched for a job in the last year, nearly three-quarters said they would consider returning to the workforce if a job allowed for flexible hours or let them work from home.

I’ve written a few stories about Path Forward, a nonprofit that helps companies create internships for (mostly) women who’ve taken time off work to care for children or elderly relatives. The programs not only give the “returnees” a foot in the door and a fresh line on their resumes, they meet a business need, too.

One HR head told me that her company signed on to the program in an effort to recruit “a diverse group of people with different levels of education and experience.” People who have served as caregivers, she said, “bring a unique value” to the workplace.

One woman in Hayasaki’s story, artist Hein Koh (a photo of whom—balancing a computer on her lap with a baby on each breast—went viral last year) hammers this point home. “Becoming a #mom (of twins no less) has personally helped me become a better #artist—I learned to be extremely efficient with my time, prioritize what’s important and let go of the rest, and #multitask like a champ.”

—@clairezillman


EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Full court press
BBC chairman David Clementi spoke out on behalf of the public broadcaster’s female journalists yesterday, rebuking politicians for tolerating abuse of the press—especially female reporters—and urging them to confront such heckling. Clementi did not identify any journalists by name, but broadcaster Laura Kuenssberg is a frequent target of sexist vitriol online and reportedly required a bodyguard while covering the general election.
Guardian
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Second look
Munroe Bergdorf, the transgender model fired by L’Oreal after comments about systemic racism, has a new gig. She’s the new face of U.K. beauty brand Illamasqua, which had said it was “angered” by L’Oreal’s decision to drop Bergdorf. 
BBC
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An open book
Activist Masha Alyokhina, a member of Russian art collective Pussy Riot, has a new book called Riot Days in which she details her experience in a remote prison colony in the Urals Mountain. She was jailed there after being convicted for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” “If you hear someone talking about the humane treatment of women in Russian prisons, it is a total lie,” she says.
Vice

THE AMERICAS

First up
The Financial Times this morning published an extensive story based on several interviews with Ivanka Trump. The first daughter reportedly advised her father to take a firmer stance against the Neo-nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, which the president did, only to walk it back in later comments. Ivanka explained how she approaches such situations: “To voice dissent publicly would mean I’m not part of the team. When you’re part of a team, you’re part of a team. That doesn’t mean everyone in the White House has homogeneous views—we don’t, and I think that’s good and healthy—but that doesn’t mean we’re publicly undermining [each other] and this administration.”
Financial Times
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Safe space
At Recode’s Code Commerce event, Nadia Boujarwah, CEO of plus-size e-commerce company Dia&Co, explained why her customers are drawn to online shopping. They moved online earlier than “straight-sized women” because the Internet offers more inventory. Plus, she said, “the overwhelming feedback we hear from our community is that brick-and-mortar is a place of anxiety.”
Recode
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Wake-up call
As the UN General Assembly convenes in New York and as the Trump administration threatens dramatic funding cuts to global health programs, Bill and Melinda Gates have released a report warning that the world is on track to fall short of global health and poverty targets set for 2030. “This report will be a bit of a wake-up call to some leaders of certain countries,” says Melinda Gates. “There is a lot of work to be done, and we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and as a world get busy on that work.”
Quartz

 


ASIA-PACIFIC

Still processing
As Halimah Yacob became Singapore’s first-ever female president yesterday, there was backlash over the process that installed her in the largely ceremonial post without an election. Yacob secured the job after authorities decided her rivals did not meet strict eligibility criteria. Critics are using the hashtag #notmypresident—popular in the U.S. after the election of Donald Trump—to express their disgust.
Guardian
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No show
Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has canceled her trip to the UN General Assembly that’s gathering in New York City this month as the crisis involving her nation’s Rohingya minority escalates. Her spokesman said she’ll be a no show due to “terrorist attacks” in the Rakhine state where the Rohingya are concentrated. Suu Kyi has repeated blamed terrorism for the violence against the Rohingya, but the UN’s human rights chief has called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
CNN
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A travel ban of her own
Wu Rongrong, of the “Feminist Five” group of women who were arrested two years ago for campaigning against sexual harassment, has been banned from leaving China for ten years. The sentence, seen as proof of Beijing’s tightening grip on civil society, means Wu won’t be able to enroll in law school in Hong Kong as she’d planned.
Financial Times

 


IN BRIEF

‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli heads to jail for placing a bounty on Hillary Clinton’s hair
Fortune
Angelina Jolie, unbroken
New York Times
Here are the best and worst places in Britain to be a woman
Refinery29
Why that story about a fake male co-founder went insanely viral
Fast Company

 

 


PARTING WORDS

"There was a need, I had the means—so I wanted to help out."
- —Sister Margaret Ann, a nun and principal of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School, after a video of her wielding a chainsaw to cut through hurricane debris—in her full habit, no less—went viral .

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