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The World’s Most Powerful Women: September 2

If you’re in Italy, mark your calendar for Sept. 22, when the country will celebrate its state-sponsored “Fertility Day” to promote family planning and parenthood. Think that name is bad? It gets worse.

The government’s campaign aimed at upping Italy’s birth rate, which health minister Beatrice Lorenzin introduced this week, features a series of 12 promotional images that were supposed to be encouraging but came off as oddly threatening and, alas, went viral for all the wrong reasons. One with an image of a woman holding an hourglass says: “Beauty has no age. But fertility does,” according to Quartz. Another reads, “Male fertility is much more vulnerable than you might think,” and shows a decaying banana peel.

Italy’s low birth rate—along with its aging population and generous social services—is a threat to its financial future. Italy is giving women the “make babies” directive in hopes of combating that risk, even as its workplace culture still discriminates against pregnancy.

The tone deafness of the campaign also reflects Italy’s on-going struggle to get more women in positions of power. They make up 28% of Italy’s Senate and 31% of its House. There are five women in Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s 16-member cabinet—down from eight in 2014—and clearly not enough of them told Bea that the Fertility Day campaign was a terrible, sexist idea.

@clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

An organizing force
Women in the farm belt of Afghanistan are emerging as the leaders of small unions, putting them in critical roles as the country tries to shift away from dependence on foreign aid to a more sustainable economy. New York Times

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Hashtag activism
Women in Saudi Arabia are using the hashtag #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen to advocate for the end of the kingdom’s male guardianship laws, which Human Rights Watch has deemed “the most significant impediment to realizing women’s rights in the country.” 
Refinery29

THE AMERICAS


Life-saving stabs
In this essay, Ali Jaffe, who works for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, chronicles how the EpiPen—the medical device whose price surge has embroiled Mylan CEO Heather Bresch—saved her life on 12 different occasions. 
New York Times
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Not so fresh
Campbell Soup’s bet on items like carrots and protein drinks didn’t fare too well in its latest quarter, as sales from its Campbell Fresh unit declined 5%. CEO Denise Morrison, who’s overseen the company’s shift toward healthier items, called the results “unacceptable.” Fortune‘s John Kell reports on what’s gone wrong.
Fortune
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The feedback gap
New research shows that women are far more sensitive to peer feedback than men. That reflects women’s self-awareness, but it also means that negative assessments can discourage women from taking on new challenges. 
Fortune

ASIA-PACIFIC


Not here to “serve the tea”
When Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong first started in business, she was regularly mistaken for a secretary. “[Y]ou learn to laugh these things off,” she told a conference in Sydney this week. She also discovered that the best way to overcome gender stereotypes was to deliver. 
Sydney Morning Herald
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The end of paid labor
This story examines India’s $2 billion commercial surrogacy industry, which has become a lifeline for women who’d otherwise work manual jobs. There are ongoing efforts by the Indian government to dismantle the market. 
The Economist

IN BRIEF

Melania Trump sues Daily Mail for $150 million for ‘lies’ about her past
Guardian

Watch comedian Amy Schumer shut down a sexist heckler during her stand-up show
Entertainment Weekly


Why women are more environmentally friendly than men
Washington Post


Poll: Brits support a burka ban two-to-one
The Telegraph

Female lawyers are laying down the law on unequal pay
Motto

 

PARTING WORDS

If you don’t speak out, it’s going to stay the same.
—U.S. Paralympian Tatyana McFadden on the gap between prize money for able-bodied athletes and those with disabilities