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The World’s Most Powerful Women: December 20

For those wanting more female CEOs, look to a growing trend among CFOs.

When Royal Dutch Shell appointed Jessica Uhl as its next chief financial officer last week, the move continued an ongoing pattern. More and more, women are holding the position of CFO. Data from MSCI reveals that of 2,470 big global companies, 203, or just over 8%, had a female chief financial officer at the end of September this year—up from 6.8% in 2015.

The phenomenon is promising in and of itself, but it could eventually have even larger implications. The shift is happening at a moment when the CFO job is transforming into one that’s more strategically and operationally important than in the past, Benjamin Finzi, managing director at Deloitte and leader of the company’s CEO program, told the Financial Times. As a result, the role of chief financial officer is increasingly viewed as a prime breeding ground for CEOs, so women who hold the CFO title may have a better chance of being tapped for the corner office.

 

clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

A loss for LagardeFrench judges yesterday found IMF chief Christine Lagarde guilty of negligence for failing to challenge a $417 million state arbitration payout to a business tycoon in 2008 when she was French finance minister. Despite the ruling, the presiding judge did not hand down any sentence in the case. The decision threatened to trigger a new leadership crisis at the IMF, but its directors said they still had “full confidence in [Lagarde’s] ability to continue to effectively carry out her duties.”Fortune

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Escaping Aleppo
Bana Alabed, the 7-year-old Syrian girl who captured the world’s attention by tweeting the horror of war in Aleppo, has been evacuated from the city, according to Humanitarian Relief and the president of the Syrian American Medical Society. Bana’s mother Fatemah, who runs the Twitter account, told Qasioun News Agency that she felt her family had “left their souls” in eastern Aleppo, but they had to flee.
Buzzfeed
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Making space
Meet Abimbola Alale, the only female boss of a major satellite company in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. She is CEO of Nigerian Communication Satellite Limited, a job she ascended to after attending the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, and vowing help Nigeria harness the benefits of space to bridge its digital divide.
BBC
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Feminist foreign policy
As Sweden begins its two-year term on the United Nations Security Council—including serving as the body’s president—next month, the feminist foreign policy of Sweden’s top diplomat Margot Wallstrom will be put to the test. Her left-of-center world view seems at odds with current geopolitics, but she says it’s “smart policy,” even for a leader like U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. “If he includes women and makes sure he works for gender equality,” he will “make America great again,” she says.
New York Times

THE AMERICAS

Following up
A new series of essays in The Atlantic titled “The Ambition Interviews” follows along as two colleges friends, Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace, track down their brilliant, hard-working sorority sisters to find out if life has come together as they’d hoped.
Atlantic
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Exit interview
In a sit-down with Oprah Winfrey, First Lady Michelle Obama struck a somber tone, saying that the “past election was challenging for me to watch as a citizen.” Yet she vowed to help her successor Melania Trump adjust to the role. “My offer to Melania was, you really don’t know what you don’t know until you’re here, so the door is open, as I’ve told her and as Laura Bush told me and other first ladies told me,” she said.
Washington Post
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Barrier-breaker, rule-maker
Debra Wong Yang is reportedly a top contender for the post of Securities and Exchange Commission chairman in Trump’s new administration. Yang became the first Asian-American woman to be named a U.S. attorney when she was appointed during the George W. Bush administration in 2002. If appointed, she’d be the fourth female SEC chairman in U.S. history, following Mary Schapiro, Elisse Walter, and Mary Jo White, who were chairs under President Barack Obama starting in 2009, 2012, and 2013, respectively.
Fortune

 

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

Hong Kong hopefuls
The upcoming contest for Hong Kong’s top leadership position is likely to include the city’s two highest profile female politicians, Regina Ip and Carrie Lam. Lam has yet to launch an official campaign, but she’s expected to run. If both women enter the race, it would up the chances of Hong Kong electing its first female chief executive. 
South China Morning Post
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Change of tune
The last time Choi Soon-sil appeared in public, the close confidant of South Korean President Park Geun-hye told reporters that she had “committed a sin that deserves death.” But on the first day of her abuse of power, extortion, and fraud trial, she struck a decidedly different tune. She told the judge yesterday that she had felt “willing to be punished” in October. “But now, I think I must clarify myself,” she said, confirming that she denied all the charges against her.
Guardian

IN BRIEF

Patients may live longer if their doctor is a woman
Fortune

British Muslim girls are taking up fencing and it’s badass
Buzzfeed

In Ghana, women march against husbands over unpaid housework
All Africa

A Danish woman who fought against ISIS faces jail sentence
Guardian

The unintended consequence of Angelina Jolie’s viral breast cancer essay
Washington Post

Makeup artist Bobbi Brown is leaving her cosmetics brand at the end of the year
WWD

 

PARTING WORDS

“The members of Muirfield Golf Club are hereby excluded from sitting on this bench. By the order of the female population.”
--A plaque on a beach near the Edinburgh mens-only Muirfield Golf Club that voted this spring to uphold a policy prohibiting women from membership