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The World’s Most Powerful Women: February 21

Women in Saudi Arabia notched a first yesterday when Samba Financial Group named Rania Mahmoud Nashar as its CEO. Never before has a woman led a listed Saudi commercial bank.

Her appointment came four days after NCB Capital CEO Sarah Al Suhaimi was named the first woman to chair Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, Tadawul.

The progress—albeit mild—of women in the upper echelon of Saudi business comes as the government tries to increase its efficiency and lessen its reliance on oil, in part, by expanding women’s role in the economy.

The accomplishments of Nashar and Al Suhaimi are certainly notable, but it’s difficult to celebrate the progress of a few Saudi women when the female population at large still has limited rights. Saudi women are, of course, banned from driving and subject to male guardianship.

In November, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal argued that if Saudi Arabia is really so concerned about its economy, it should let women drive. He pegged the cost of a chauffeur for the average woman at $1,000 per family per month. “Having women drive has become an urgent social demand predicated upon current economic circumstances,” he said.

The government was unconvinced. When Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled his “Saudi Vision 2030” to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil last year, he pushed for women to take a larger role in the workforce but stopped short of giving them more mobility to do so. “Women driving is not a religious issue so much as it is an issue that related to the community itself that accepts it or refuses it,” he said at the time.

@clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Masthead maybesLast month, British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman shocked the fashion world by announcing that she was stepping down from her role after a quarter century. Her job remains one of the most glaring openings in the Condé Nast publishing empire and an exceedingly rare one, but it’s still not known who will replace her.New York Times

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Turning the page, slowly
When Harriet Harman was elected to U.K. Parliament in 1982, 97% of MPs were men; women were even outnumbered by MPs named John. Her new book, A Woman’s Work, chronicles the achingly incremental progress she’s made in modernizing the legislature, especially for women, who—at 30% of MPs—are still a minority. 
Economist
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Breaking out
Pakistan’s women’s rugby team won just one match at the Asian Sevens tournament in Laos over the weekend, but for the fledgling squad—it formed only a year ago—it was a dream debut. In the nation of 200 million, only men’s cricket gets recognition and cultural barriers make it difficult for women to break into athletics of any kind. “First, that’s a big deal that women are playing rugby,” said player Mehru Khan. “And secondly that we are getting a platform to come and perform to represent our country.”
Time

THE AMERICAS

Technically speaking
Uber responded further to ex-employee Susan Fowler’s claims of sexual harassment last night as CEO Travis Kalanick said he’d hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the accusations. Uber also revealed for the first time that only 15.1% of its technical jobs are held by women. That’s lower than Airbnb’s 26% but not far behind Google and Facebook.
Financial Times
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Hashtag headaches
Since taking over the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2013, Cheryl Boone Isaacs—the institution’s first black president and third female president—has overseen a tumultuous period, enduring two Oscars seasons steeped in #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Ahead of Sunday’s awards show, the New Yorker has a profile of Boone Isaacs and her efforts to diversify the storied ceremony.
New Yorker
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Crashing the tea party
Last week the American Girl division of toymaker Mattel introduced its first boy doll. “Logan” is viewed as American Girl’s effort to attract young boys to the brand. But writer Caity Weaver sees it differently. She argues that the move “feels more like girls are losing something that used to be theirs alone.” Logan’s “fanfared debut,” she writes, “implies these spunky, self-sufficient girls needed a boy in their lives.” 
New York Times

ASIA-PACIFIC

Smoothing things over
Under normal circumstances, an Australian foreign minister’s trip to Washington, D.C., would go largely unnoticed, but after the now infamous “worst call” between President Donald Trump and Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, all eyes are on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as she visits the U.S. capital. Observers want to see if her talks with VP Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can soothe the allies’ relations, which took a beating in the early days of the Trump administration. 
Sydney Morning Herald
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Must welcome women
The International Olympic Committee is demanding that the golf venue for the Tokyo 2020 Games grant equal playing rights to its female members. Kasumigaseki Country Club, a private course, bars women from becoming full members and from playing on Sundays. IOC VP John Coates said organizers will find another venue if Kasumigaseki keeps its discriminatory policy. “We made quite clear that there has to be gender equality,” he said.
Guardian
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Support system
Angelina Jolie directed the movie adaptation of Loung Ung’s autobiography First They Killed My Father about the Cambodian genocide. The author talked to People about the film. “There were sad days on the set and there were difficult long hours. And to do it in an environment where people love and respect each other was exactly what we needed to get it done,” she said.
People

IN BRIEF

Emma Watson is promoting sustainable fashion during her press tour
New York Magazine

Jefferson’s Monticello is making room for Sally Hemings
Washington Post

‘The album is a love letter to men’: meet feminist supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique
Guardian

Irish women fear Brexit will limit their access to an abortion
Buzzfeed

Indian brands are discovering feminism like never before
Quartz

 

PARTING WORDS

“I’m a bionic woman with eight screws and a plate in one little ankle.”
--Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) who recently broke her ankle, in an interview about confronting President Trump.