The World’s Most Powerful Women: March 7

March 7, 2017, 9:06 AM UTC

The past year has been marked by considerable setbacks for women in politics. Brazil’s first-ever female president Dilma Rousseff was impeached amid a bribery scandal and now South Korea’s first female president Park Geun-hye is embroiled in her own corruption probe. And of course, the United States missed out on the chance to elect its first female leader, while American women failed to gain ground in Congress. Elections in Australia, meanwhile, ushered in an overall drop in women’s representation in parliament.

Discouraged yet? Don’t be. The Inter-Parliamentary Union has released a new paper ahead of International Women’s Day tomorrow that shows it’s not all bad news.

Worldwide, the average share of women in parliament last year rose from 22.6% to 23.3%—6.5 points higher than the global average a decade ago. That heartening figure is bolstered by countries’ individual success stories. The tiny island nation of Palau, for instance, saw the greatest number of women elected to parliament in the last 30 years after two female candidates won seats in the lower house. Ireland saw its share of women in parliament surge from 15.1% to 22.2% after all political parties fielded candidate lists that were between 31% and 35% female. In Morocco, 20.5% of seats belonged to women last year—nearly double the share in 2007. Gender quotas have fueled some of those gains, but such measures are by no means a cure-all. The IPU found that quotas ensure a minimum level of women’s representation but don’t always extend beyond that.

Here’s another bit of good news: the number of female speakers of parliament is at an all-time high—53 in total or 19.1% overall. Women’s presence in those positions is notable since speakers set the tone of debate and work to prioritize a parliament’s agenda. Nine new women speakers were elected or appointed in 2016.

Of the nations that had parliamentary renewals last year, Iceland’s legislature has the highest share of women—47.6%. Had women won two more seats in the October election, they would have been capable of forming a government outright.



May's way or the highwayU.K. MPs have pushed PM Theresa May for more say in the U.K.'s eventual Brexit deal. Her office said Monday that giving lawmakers an opportunity to amend the final agreement would “weaken” her government’s hand in negotiations with the European bloc since it would incentivize the EU to offer a bad deal. While Parliament will be given a chance to vote on the deal, May intends it to be a “take-it-or-leave-it” vote, with no amendments appended.


Conscious uncoupling
General Motors CEO Mary Barra officially announced her company’s exit from Europe yesterday with the sale of Opel Motors to France's PSA Group in a deal worth $2.3 billion. After Opel’s 16 consecutive full-year losses, PSA is determined to make the car manufacturer profitable once more. "The way I look at this is positioning Opel-Vauxhall to be incredibly successful in the future," Barra said at a press conference in Paris.

Sirleaf's lesson
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s ascent to become the first female leader of her country in 2005—propelled by a record turnout of women voters—offers a master class in how to get a woman elected president. Facing a roster of inexperienced male rivals who threatened to perpetuate the chaos that followed the nation’s civil war, Sirleaf and Vabah Gayflor, the minister for gender, mobilized a national cross-section of women at the polls. “Vote for Woman” emerged as the unofficial slogan of Sirleaf’s campaign, and 80% of female voters ushered the experienced international technocrat into office.
New York Times


Military disservice
In January, the same month that the first U.S. Marine infantry unit admitted women to its ranks, a members-only Facebook group of 30,000 active and retired Marines began sharing nude photographs of their female colleagues online. The photos, accompanied by vulgar and derogatory language, were uploaded to a shared Google Drive folder even though none of the women pictured consented to the photographs' dissemination online. The Department of Defense is investigating the incident.

The power of protest
As American women gear up to mark International Women’s Day with a nationwide strike on Wednesday, what was once considered a benign commercial holiday is returning to its radical American roots. The organizers that made the January 21 Women’s March the biggest single-day demonstration in U.S. history hope to repeat their success with Wednesday’s “Day Without Women.” In doing so, they echo the suffragists and socialists who invented the holiday back in 1909, when they put aside their differences to advocate for women’s rights.

Better late than never
Nevada will soon become the 36th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which was first introduced to Congress in—drumroll, please—1932. With Democrats in control of both state legislative houses, Nevada lawmakers hope the move will be a symbolic statement against the conservative White House and signal the start of a wave of liberal policies they hope to enact during their term. "I get giddy every time I think about the fact we have such a great opportunity in this state," Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford told the Washington Post.
Washington Post


By the book
A new textbook introduced to several Chinese elementary schools has shocked some parents for its frank and open discussion of sex and homosexuality, two typically taboo subjects in China’s largely conservative society. The textbooks, conceived by Beijing Normal University, are designed to counteract inaccurate portrayals of sex in the media, and have been celebrated as “incredibly progressive” in state-run outlets.

Imperiled president
Special prosecutors implicated South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Samsung’s ongoing corruption scandal yesterday, claiming that the embattled leader colluded to extract $37 million from the company in exchange for favorable treatment. In a 101-page document, prosecutors recommend 13 charges be brought against Park, who has rebutted the allegations. South Korea’s Constitutional Court will decide whether to uphold a parliamentary vote to impeach her as early as this week.
Washington Post

News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler



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New York Times

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"It’s a very sacred place, the stage and the screen. At the end of the day, what I do as an artist is channel characters and their stories and those moments in their lives that we sometimes hide."
--Actress Viola Davis, accepting Harvard University's Artist of the Year award.