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The World’s Most Powerful Women: March 10

Iceland has developed a reputation as a sort of nirvana for working women, ranking No. 1 on the World Economic Forum’s index for gender equality. But the Nordic nation is by no means perfect, a point Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson made at the United Nations on Wednesday when he introduced a plan requiring Icelandic companies to pay men and women the same salary for the same work.

Benediktsson’s bill would require companies with at least 25 employees to undergo certification every three years to ensure their pay policies follow the equal pay rules. If the measure passes parliament as is expected, given the legislature’s near-even gender split, it will be the first law in the world to federally require equal pay at private and public firms alike. Other countries have equal-salary certificate policies, but Iceland is thought to be the first to make it mandatory for all large employers. Switzerland has a similar law that punishes non-compliers by making them ineligible for federal contracts. The U.K. will soon have an equal pay initiative that will force large employers to disclose how much they compensate male and female staff, but it doesn’t include a punitive measure for the worst offenders.

Iceland’s Equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson acknowledged that the new bill is a big ask of business. “It is a burden to put on companies to have to comply with a law like this,” he said.

For what it’s worth, several U.S. employers have voluntarily adopted equal pay practices. CEOs of companies that have done so have told me that it’s actually not such a huge lift. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff says identifying and eliminating the gender pay gap is relatively easy given modern human resources systems. “Every CEO needs to look at if they’re paying men and women the same,” he says. “That is something that every single CEO can do today.”

Bonnie Crater, a former Salesforce SVP who instituted an equal pay pledge at her 39-person startup Full Circle Insights, told me that guaranteeing pay parity “is really easy.” It’s a matter of examining which employees land in what salary bands and identifying any gendered pay discrepancies, she explains. “Every now and then—whether it’s every year or every other year—you call up your HR department and ask for the report,” she says.

Iceland’s Viglundsson says the new bill is worth the potential business risks. “You have to dare to take new steps, to be bold in the fight against injustice.”





Spanish sexismBarcelona Mayor Ada Colau is used to being the target of sexist insults. She’s one of many women to have made major political strides in Spain over the past few years. In 2016, women broke down Spain’s old-boy’s club of politics to win a record number of parliamentary seats, but sexual harassment and machismo still abound. Women who do make it into top political posts are often expected to hold the same opinions as their male colleagues rather than voicing opinions of their own.New York Times


Amal’s ambition
Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and her client, 23-year-old Nadia Murad, hope to bring Islamic State militants to court for crimes of genocide against the Yazidi people. Murad was 21 when IS fighters arrived in her village. A jihadist she was forced to marry raped her daily until she managed to escape and make her way to Germany. “I am ashamed, as a woman, that girls like Nadia can have their bodies sold and used as battlefields,” Clooney said in a recent speech at the UN. “I am ashamed as a human being that we ignore their cries for help.”
1843 Magazine

Protecting their own
Reporters Without Borders launched a center to protect women journalists working in Afghanistan this week, aiming to improve the rights and protections afforded to women based in the nation. There are currently about 400 female journalists working in Afghanistan, one of the deadliest countries for journalists overall, and where reporting is generally not considered a suitable job for women. Since 2002, four female journalists have been killed by their families in part because of their profession.


Taking stock
Getty Images is collaborating with founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, of New Jersey, on a collection of stock photos that capture the daily lives of Muslim women of all races and ages. “Positive imagery can have a tremendous impact by fighting stereotypes, celebrating diversity, and making communities feel empowered and represented in society,” said Pam Grossman, Getty’s director of visual trends. The company is also working with Jaguar Land Rover to create stock images of female engineers.

Primetime problem
Women made up just one quarter of all foreign policy and national security experts booked on major cable networks in 2016, according to a new study from Media Matters for America. CNN had the highest proportion of female guests among weekday primetime shows, at 29%, while ABC’s This Week trailed with just 16%. While the overall results are hardly uplifting, they do show a slight improvement from 2015, when women made up just 20% of experts booked across U.S. networks.
Media Matters

Canada’s turn
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has become the target of Russian propaganda attempting to discredit her by alleging that her late grandfather once edited a Nazi newspaper in wartime Krakow. “American officials have publicly said and even [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel has publicly said that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies,” Freeland, who is banned from entering Russia, said of the articles. “I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada.”
Washington Post

No interruptions
A Sao Paolo ad agency launched an app that records how many times a woman is interrupted over the course of her day. Called “Woman Interrupted,” the app is designed to run in the background of a mobile phone, using the microphone to quietly log each time the user is cut off during a conversation. Inspiration for the project stemmed from the first U.S. presidential debate, in September, when President Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton 51 times.
Business Insider


Ousted from office
South Korea President Park Geun-hye was ousted from office today as the country’s Constitutional Court upheld parliament’s December vote to impeach the nation’s first female leader. An influence-peddling scandal engulfed Park last year and triggered massive protests in Seoul. Violence erupted in the city following the court’s decision. A snap election on May 9 to determine Park’s successor is expected to shake up delicate diplomatic relationships in Asia and could alter South Korea’s ties with the U.S. The country’s opposition party is likely to gain power and its leaders want to engage more with North Korea and defuse tensions with China.
New York Times

Bootstrapping billionaires
Hong Kong billionaire Zhou Qunfei tops the list of Forbes’ ranking of self-made female billionaires with an estimated net worth of $7.4 billion. Qunfei started her smartphone screen company in 2003, with just $3,000 in savings; now it’s worth about $8.4 billion. She’s one of six self-made women from Hong Kong and China who dominate the list’s top ten. Chinese real estate powerhouse Chan Laiwa comes in third, at $5.6 billion, followed by financier Pollyanna Chu, at $4.9 billion.

Meghan’s mission
Actress Meghan Markle traveled to Delhi and Mumbai to advocate for menstrual hygiene management in India, where 113 million girls between the ages of 12 and 14 are at risk of dropping out of school in part due to the stigmatization of menstrual health. Only 50% of primary schools in India are equipped with toilets, leaving female students without anywhere to care for themselves and more likely to stay home.

News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler



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“J-n-a-n-a. Jnana.”
--Edith Fuller, 5, correctly spelling the Sanskrit-origin word for knowledge to win the Green Country Regional Spelling Bee in Tulsa, Okla. The victory made her the youngest person to ever qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.