The World’s Most Powerful Women: February 17

February 17, 2017, 9:45 AM UTC

Earlier this week, members of the U.K. Parliament erupted over revelations that Brexit Secretary David Davis had made a slight about MP Diane Abbott’s looks in a text to a friend. Fellow MP Shami Chakrabarti characterized Davis’ behavior as “very silly, sexist and patronizing.” Another female MP said it showed Davis’ “arrogance.”

Abbott, who was Britain’s first-ever black female MP when she was elected in 1987, issued her own response in a poignant op-ed, in which she addressed the “misogynist text exchange” and the other abuse she regularly receives. Rape and death threats are commonplace. “And [I’m] sent horrible images on Twitter,” she wrote. Despite her long tenure in Parliament, the fight against misogyny and racism, “is getting harder.”

Abbott is certainly not alone: In January, a survey revealed that a majority of female MPs have received online and verbal abuse from the public and a third have considered quitting as a result. “This is an issue for all women in the public space, and it is particularly an issue for those of us who would like to see more young women involved in political activity,” Abbott wrote.

That got me thinking about how the issue of online abuse will play into the Donald Trump-era trend in the U.S. that’s seeing more women pursue politics. It turns out U.S. organizations that support female candidates are training women on how to deal with this sort of harassment.

Rachel Thomas, national press secretary for Emily’s List, which works with pro-choice Democrats, told me the organization “help[s] campaigns identify when and how to stand up against these attacks while remaining focused on the most important piece of their campaigns—speaking to voters about their vision and the issues that matter to them.”

Erin Forrest, executive director of the Wisconsin arm of Emerge America, another group that supports Democratic women candidates, said in a statement, “We talk about online harassment as an unfortunate reality. Much like other forms of sexism you don’t necessarily get to avoid it if you don’t run for office.”

The good news is that women who win office understand online abuse and are in positions to do something about it. In her previous role as California’s attorney general, Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat, was the first in the nation to successfully prosecute an operator of a cyber exploitation website. And Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) has pushed for stronger investigations and prosecutions of online attacks—especially against women.

“Because women are often the targets of cybercrime and cyberbullying,” Thomas says, “it’s women leaders that we’re seeing taking bold action to prevent others from being the targets of future attacks.”



Pressing hardRussian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova used a press conference this week to lash out at the publication of an unverified dossier about Trump and at Western media at large. She complained of an anti-Russian information campaign and repeated her denouncement of the "inhumane" and "unbearable" dossier BuzzFeed published in January.BuzzFeed


Can't have it all
Brexit has stirred up speculation that Paris could replace London as Europe's financial hub, but Dominique Senequier, founder of French private equity company Ardian, is pouring cold water on that suggestion. The French "have many other things. We are very good cooks. We have the Mediterranean and we are very good entrepreneurs," she says, but Paris is "less financially minded" than London and will therefore never overtake it.
Financial Times

A book boom
Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is ushering in the latest surge of interest in African writers as authors like Chika Unigwe, Petina Gappah, and Taiye Selasi gain popularity for their work that often captures the immigrant experience. Another writer, Imbolo Mbue, recently received a $1 million advance for her new novel Behold the Dreamers. Growing prosperity in Africa, which has allowed thousands to study and work overseas, is helping fuel the literary movement.


Toying with us
As researchers call for an end to gendered toys—American Girl answered that demand with its first boy doll on TuesdaySmithsonian magazine argues that the "sexist" Erector Set of the 1920s is part of the reason for the current women-in-STEM gap. The marketing of the miniature tool set taught boys to dream big while its female equivalent at the time—the Little Laundress—"encouraged girls to dream a much smaller dream, one that was sadly close to the reality they were already living."

Listen up
For your weekend podcast listening, cue up the latest episode of MPW OnStage, featuring Khloe Kardashian. She talks about the inspiration for her new denim line. 


Samsung's sister act?
A South Korean court today ordered the arrest of Lee Jae-yong, the head of the Samsung Group, in the corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye. His arrest could put greater focus on his sister Lee Boo-jin, CEO of the Samsung Group's Hotel Shilla arm. Shares in the hotel company rallied earlier this week on market speculation of a larger role for her. It's highly unusual for a woman to assume control of a family conglomerate in South Korea.

End scene
Billionaire actress Zhao Wei has been dubbed China's female Warren Buffett for her track record of investing in firms whose values have later skyrocketed. But she's had to abandon her latest plans for a 3 billion yuan acquisition of a little-known animation company Zhejiang People Culture, which is listed in Shanghai. Zhao, one of the most popular actresses in Chinese-speaking regions, dropped the deal because banks declined to extend credit lines to her.
South China Morning Post

Tao's on trend
Donald Trump's youngest daughter Tiffany had a generally awkward time at this year's New York Fashion Week as designers reportedly shunned her. But she was welcomed to a front-row seat at Chinese designer Tao Wang's show, catching the eye of observers in China who reveled in the attention paid to the home-grown talent. Trump wore a suit from Tao's Taoray Wang line for her father's inauguration, a decision the designer was "proud and grateful" for.


How one brilliant woman mapped the ocean floor’s secrets
National Geographic

Henrietta Lacks’ family wants compensation for her cells
Washington Post

Female prison workers, harassed by inmates and ignored by bosses, stood up for their rights—and won

The new generation of breast pumps might not actually suck

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How the webseries 'Brown Girls' offers a voice to queer women of color


"I'm glad that you like computers and robots. I think if you keep working hard and following your dreams, you can accomplish everything you set your mind to."
--Google CEO Sundar Pichai, responding to Chloe Bridgewater, 7, who wrote him a letter asking for a job.