The World’s Most Powerful Women: February 15

February 15, 2017, 7:59 AM UTC

Yesterday, I chided President Donald Trump for his paltry maternity leave proposal and his homogeneous cabinet, and a new book is calling me on the carpet. Drop the Ball, by Tiffany Dufu, argues that in our search for gender equality advances, we should look away from the White House and into our own homes.

The Daily Beast writer Keli Goff predicts Dufu’s book will stir up the same feminist zeal as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, if not more. She explains why:

Dufu uses data and her own story to affirm that until women—and of necessity her argument applies only to straight women in relationships—demand more from their partners at home, professional and societal equality will never be within reach. The reason this message is profound is that historically, feminist leaders have focused on how society needs to change, how workplaces need to change. In other words, how every other man needs to change to help us—except the ones who have the biggest incentive to do so.

Dufu is tapping into the on-going debate about women’s unpaid labor—the housework and caregiving duties they’re still largely responsible for, despite their growing role as breadwinners. The problem is global. In the U.S., women spend 4.1 hours on unpaid work, while men expend 2.7. In the U.K., the ratio is 4.3 to 2.3. In South Africa, it’s 4.3 to 1.5. And in Japan—where the gap is exceptionally wide—it’s 5 to 1. The effect these responsibilities have on women’s economic advancement is enormous. When the time women spend on unpaid work drops from five hours a day to three, their labor force participation increases 20%, according to the OECD.

Dufu argues the sometimes self-inflicted expectation that women must care for everyone and everything at home is unhealthy and distracts from the tasks that are truly important. She does not dispute that societal changes are needed, but she presses women to expect progress in their own households as well. And she urges them to be okay with “dropping the ball” here and there—ordering takeout, delaying a load of dishes—and with not picking it up again.



In fashionSamantha Cameron, the wife for the former U.K. PM, has a new fashion line named Cefinn and it launched this week on Net-a-Porter. The line's "classic separates" are geared toward working women and the project marks Cameron's own return to the professional world. Before her husband became PM, she was creative director of British leather goods label Smythson.Wall Street Journal


Action in their own hands
This extraordinary story chronicles how Khatoon Khider, formerly a popular Yazidi singer in Iraq, became the head of an all-woman unit of soldiers fighting ISIS. Some of unit's 200 women have themselves survived ISIS’s slave markets. Others were motivated to sign up by the fate of sisters, friends, cousins, and aunts. "Every day I am taking revenge," Khider says.



Planning ahead
As guest editor of WMPW's sister newsletter The Broadsheet, philanthropist Melinda Gates shared how contraception shaped her life. She wants women's access to family planning resources to be a priority for global leaders. "For many [women], the ability to plan their pregnancies is nothing less than a matter of life and death," she says.

A 'Wynn'-fall for women
Billionaire Elaine Wynn, co-founder of Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts, has donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood. She said as a woman, mother, and grandmother, she wants to protect access to reproductive health. Her gift to PP follows Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's donation of the same amount.

An 'aha' tape?
Oprah Winfrey—of all people—is factoring into the confirmation process of labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder. Ahead of Puzder's hearing, The Oprah Winfrey Network gave senators a 27-year-old tape of Winfrey's talk show that features Puzder's ex-wife Lisa Fierstein—in disguise—accusing him of physically abusing her in the 1980s. Politico has the details of the baffling storyline.



Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati says the anti-trade mood sweeping parts of the world could hamper efforts to pull millions out of poverty. The former World Bank MD discredits the belief that trade is a zero sum game; that "if you’re profiting, then somebody else is losing." She says flatly: "This is not the basic core or value or belief or theory, whatever you name it, it’s not economics."

Lost luster
When the Philippines' former dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in 1986, authorities confiscated jewelry worth millions from his wife. Imelda Marcos—most famous for her 1,000 pairs of shoes—had been persistent in trying to retrieve her jewels, including a rare 25-carat pink diamond. But the nation's Supreme Court ruled the items were ill-gotten, which could trigger the sale of $21 million worth of treasures once belonging to the former first lady. 

Succession plan scandal
Sasikala Natarajan was supposed to take over the role of Tamil Nadu chief minister for her long-time confidant J Jayalalitha, a popular politician in the Indian state, who died last year. Instead she's going to jail. India's Supreme Court has convicted Sasikala of corruption, which bars her from running for office for 10 years. Her appointment as chief minister had stirred controversy because she'd never before held public office. 


Ethics watchdog denounces Kellyanne Conway’s endorsement of Ivanka Trump products
New York Times

French Vogue features its first transgender cover model
USA Today

ABC finally casts a ‘Bachelorette’ lead for the right reasons

Breast cancer survivors hit the catwalk at New York Fashion Week

This activist is the first British woman to join the fight against ISIS in Syria


"Applause to all women around the world who speak up, stand up and support other women!”
--Melania Trump, in response to Emily Ratajkowski's account of shutting down a slut-shamer who'd targeted the first lady.