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The World’s Most Powerful Women: December 13

This year has been a doozy for supporters of gender equality and women’s advancement, even beyond Hillary Clinton’s defeat and Donald Trump’s victory. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, was ousted from power, and South Korea’s first female president, Park Geun-hye, now seems poised to meet that same fate. The IMF’s first female chief, Christine Lagarde, is currently engulfed in a trial that could jeopardize her future. The number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 sank from 24 to 21. And some bright, still rising business stars—Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer—have plummeted like fireballs back to earth.

So grab hold and don’t let go of this tiny victory: a cartoon character in a bustier, underpants, and cape will no longer represent female empowerment. That’s right, the UN has canned Wonder Woman from her role as an honorary ambassador.

You may recall that in October, after rejecting seven qualified, real-life female candidates for secretary general in favor of yet another man—one more black mark for women in 2016—the body decided it was a good idea to appoint fictional heroine Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador for “the empowerment of women and girls.” UN staffers were rightfully outraged, and nearly 45,000 people signed a petition that said Wonder Woman’s image as “a large-breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit” sent the wrong message. The organization went ahead with its plans in October, but it seems Wonder Woman’s reign will end rather abruptly this Friday.

The UN hasn’t explained the move other than to say that fictional characters’ campaigns are sometimes brief, so let’s just allow the unspoken logic of the decision to fill the vast, vast void of good news for women on the world stage.

 

clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Covered up but speaking outUnder ISIS’s rule, women in Mosul were subjected to a nightmarish dress code that required every inch of their bodies to be covered, including their eyes. ISIS’s “morality police” went as far as to punish women who lifted their veils to eat. It soon became obvious that the goal was to keep women cloistered in their homes. They’re “making us live in the Stone Age,” one woman said.New York Times

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Lost in the shuffle
On the first day of her negligence trial, Lagarde presented herself as an overwhelmed political novice when she took over as France’s finance minister. She said she approved the $425 million government payout in question without reading a detailed internal note advising her not to. Instead, her chief of staff told her “verbally” that a unit of the ministry had recommended against an out-of-court settlement. “Was I deceived? Were a number of us deceived? I want to know,” Lagarde said, “Was I negligent? No.”
Financial Times
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Role reversal
There’s an interesting and unexpected side effect to Yemen’s prolonged war—it’s recalibrating gender roles. As the war destroys jobs and men enter the fight, a growing number of women are providing income for their families by working jobs—as barbers, butchers, chicken sellers—that were once only available to men in the ultra-conservative tribal society. But despite their progress in the labor force, women remain shut out of Yemen’s political process.
Washington Post

THE AMERICAS

Upping the ante
American Express is giving male and female employees 20 weeks of fully-paid leave after welcoming a child through birth, adoption, or surrogacy, plus $35,000 for adoption and surrogacy events and another $35,000 for infertility treatment. Under the company’s old plan, primary caregivers could take six weeks of paid leave and secondary caregivers received two weeks off.
Fortune
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The Trump treatment
Lockheed Martin, led by CEO Marillyn Hewson, was on the receiving end of Trump’s Twitter wrath yesterday when he said the cost of the company’s F-35 fighter jet program was too high. Last week, he attacked Boeing in the same way for its “out of control” costs on a new fleet of Air Force One planes. Lockheed’s stock dipped 4% in early trading after Trump’s tweet.
Fortune
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Familiar face
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and past presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is reportedly a contender for Donald Trump’s director of national intelligence. The two sparred as rivals on the campaign trail with Trump famously insulting Fiorina’s looks—”Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”—and Fiorina calling for Trump to drop out of the race after the release of the video in which he bragged about assaulting women. They met yesterday, having—apparently—made amends.
Fortune
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Listen up
The latest episode of the Fortune OnStage Presents podcast features IBM CEO Ginni Rometty talking about the future of work: “If you step back and you look at technology through every era, it has displaced jobs but it has also created a lot of jobs.” 
iTunes

ASIA-PACIFIC

Risky (family) business
Nurul Izzah Anwar, a Muslim woman, is the leader of the political opposition in Malaysia, a country that regularly jails critics of its ruling government. (Her father held the same position and was arrested and beaten while in custody in 1998.) Nevertheless, Anwar is demanding that Malaysia’s current PM Najib Razak step down since he’s been implicated in a multi-billion dollar money laundering probe of the country’s 1MDB state development fund. “We deserve better than the kleptocrats running our nation,” she says.
Quartz
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Far out
A program director at the Indian Space Research Organization, where the share of women is well below 50%, talks about what it takes to pursue a career in science in India’s patriarchal society. “Once I had made up my mind that I needed a purposeful career where my passion lay, I created a good set up at home,” Anuradha T.K. says. “My husband and my parents-in-law were always cooperative, so I didn’t have to worry much about my children.”
BBC
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Let’s talk
Entrepreneur Aditi Gupta created Menstrupedia—a platform with a website, social media, and a comic book—to open up the conversation about menstruation in India. In South Asia, the widespread reluctance to speak about periods has resulted in low education and awareness—1 out of 3 schoolgirls did not know about periods before experiencing one for the first time. Gupta also wants sanitary product companies to change the way they sell “to do so in a more positive way.”
Time

IN BRIEF

Breast cancer deaths are down in many countries worldwide
Time

Gordon Ramsay’s 15-year-old daughter lands a cookbook deal
Eater

20 holiday gifts to give girls a head start
Huffington Post

Chelsea Handler pens an open letter asking women to unite post-election
Fortune

Kellyanne Conway says she turned down the job of White House press secretary
Fortune

PARTING WORDS

“Life is too short to worry about the dough on the ceiling.”
--Great British Bake-Off winner Nadiya Hussain