The World’s Most Powerful Women: March 21

March 21, 2017, 9:16 AM UTC

On Sunday, NPR reported a shocking allegation against Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, whose confirmation hearing started yesterday. A former law school student of Gorsuch’s said the judge once told a class that employers should quiz female job candidates about their plans for having children, implying that women might extract maternity benefits from a company and quit shortly after taking their leave.

In a letter outlining her concerns, Gorsuch’s former student Jennifer Sisk said the nominee asked his students at the University of Colorado Law School how many of them knew of women who “manipulated” maternity benefits. When few students raised their hands, he “announced that…’many’ women use their companies for maternity benefits and then leave the company after the baby is born,” wrote Sisk, a former staffer for Democratic Senator Mark Udall. “He kept bringing it back to that this was women taking advantage of their companies, that this was a woman’s issue, a woman’s problem with having children and disadvantaging their companies by doing that,” Sisk told NPR.

Women’s groups—already concerned with Gorsuch’s record on access to birth control—pounced on the accusation, saying it disqualified him from the court. But the allegation also prompted Gorsuch supporters to spring to his defense.

Theresa Wardon, who clerked for Gorsuch from 2008 to 2009, told me it’s “inconceivable” that Gorsuch would “ever believe those things or say them in front of a class.”

Wardon, a partner at law firm Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell who characterizes herself as a Democrat, says the judge has been a “huge supporter” of her career and helped her decide to work at a small law firm. “The judge had done something similar and was super encouraging of me,” she says, adding that Gorsuch was one of the first people she contacted after making partner.

Wardon can’t remember ever discussing maternity leave specifically with Gorsuch, but says they talked about work-life balance. “I think he struggled with those issues himself as a dad; it’s something I could certainly turn to him about,” she says.

You can read more about what she told me here.

The White House, for its part, also denies Sisk’s allegations, telling Fortune they are “completely false.” Senators will begin questioning Gorsuch on Tuesday, so the judge may get a chance to speak on the matter himself.



Save the dateU.K. PM Theresa May will trigger Article 50, and thus begin the formal process of exiting the European Union, on Wednesday, March 29. The Article 50 notification will be delivered in a letter from May to European Council President Donald Tusk, in which the PM will outline her vision for a “positive” future relationship between Britain and Brussels. Negotiations are expected to begin immediately afterwards. May discussed the daily grind of preparing to lead post-Brexit Britain in a new interview with Vogue. Politico


Wave of hate
Labour MP Rachel Maskell is among the many U.K. politicians who have been subject to over 50 cases of abusive messages, harassment, and theft over the past six months. The abuse was reported to a specialist police squad formed to investigate crimes against MPs after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in June. Maskell is concerned that the level of vitriol aimed at female politicians in particular may discourage women from running for office; MPs spent £640,000 on bolstered security last year.
The Guardian

Gollo, the guardian
Nuria Gollo has made it her mission to protect every girl and woman in her Kenyan community from genital mutilation and other forms of sexual violence. Since founding the Marsabit Women’s Advocacy Development Organization in 2003, Gollo spends every week acting as “a detective, cop, lawyer, mediator, therapist, or social worker,” as Siobhán O’Grady reports in Foreign Policy’s Women’s issue. “Men fear her, women revere her, and the police are the first to admit they need her.”
Foreign Policy



Room of her own
Ivanka Trump is getting her own office in the West Wing to serve as the president's "eyes and ears." She'll get security clearance when she moves in, but not an official title and she won't take a salary. According to her attorney, Jamie Gorelick, Trump will voluntarily comply with ethics rules for government employees.

Sisterhood of Administration 44
Alyssa Mastromonaco, former deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, protested outside the White House just a week after the administration moved out. The longtime Democratic aide details her rise and offers advice for young women in her new memoir, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House. Mastromonaco cites off-the-record dinners with other female members of the senior White House staff as a crucial support system that helped ensure her input was taken seriously in the Oval Office.
USA Today

Canada's consent laws
A 20-month investigation into how Canadian police handle sexual assault cases revealed that convictions are exceedingly rare in instances where the victim is incapacitated due to intoxication. Experts say the lack of prosecutions stems from the fact that police don't fully understand the country's affirmative consent standards.
The Globe and Mail



Olympian standards
The Kasumigaseki country club, near Tokyo, voted to fully admit women as members, bowing to pressure from Olympic officials who threatened to take away its status as an Olympic 2020 venue if it did not guarantee women full membership status. Under the club’s former rules, women were barred from golfing on Sundays. Yuriko Koike, the first female governor of Tokyo, said the outdated rules made her “very uncomfortable" in this day and age.

Mission accomplished
Backchannel has the story of how a group of scientists in India—who happen to be women—sent a rocket to Mars in the country's first interplanetary mission. The project took just 18 months to launch and cost $74 million—far less than what the U.S. spent on its Mars probe ($651 million) and less than what it cost to film The Martian movie ($108 million).

News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler


Ivanka Trump's company sued over 'unfair competition'
New York Magazine

Nevertheless, Her Majesty persisted: How Queen Victoria balanced motherhood and power
Foreign Policy

'USA Today' appointed its first female editor-in-chief

For Gaza women, baseball is a hit
Wall Street Journal

Russia critic Louise Mensch sparked a feud at 'The New York Times'

Jane Austen has alt-right fans
New York Times



"He can lead a protest. I’m leading a country."
--U.K. PM Theresa May, on the difference between her and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party.