Skip to Content

The World’s Most Powerful Women: April 10

During her appearance at the Women in the World conference last week, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon paused to apologize to the audience.

“I have to apologize because I get angry and upset just talking about this,” she said in an interview with publisher Tina Brown.

Sturgeon then described the so-called rape clause, a new policy in the U.K.’s welfare system that limits tax credits for children to a family’s first- and second-born. Subsequent children qualify for exemptions if they were born as a result of nonconsensual sex, but the provision requires a mother to prove her child was conceived by rape. The policy, first unveiled in the U.K.’s 2015 budget proposal, took effect Thursday.

As the government readied to implement the policy, it released the paperwork that women must complete to apply for the exemption. The eight-page form asks women to provide “any available evidence of a conviction for rape,” evidence of a financial award made in respect to the relevant sexual offense, or the signature of a health care professional to whom they’ve spoken about any coercive behavior related to conception.

Scottish National Party MP Alison Thewliss, who has spent years campaigning against the policy, says it’s “discriminatory and stigmatizing to the women and children in those circumstances.” It will force women to “relive the trauma of one of the worst experiences of their lives…just in order to claim tax credits,” she told the BBC.

When former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne introduced the two-child tax credit cap in 2015, he presented it as a way to cut welfare spending and to “be fair to working families” who don’t get the tax credits available to low income parents when they have more children.

Sturgeon referred to the provision as “disgusting and disgraceful,” adding that the policy “has been introduced by a woman prime minister.” Her not-so-subtle dig at U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May comes as the U.K. leader faces criticism for her cautious approach to women’s issues since entering 10 Downing.

“It’s not enough to be a woman in politics,” Sturgeon said. “You’ve got to do the right things with the power you’ve got.”

—@clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

First of her kindFrance’s past first ladies have a checkered history, committing extra-marital affairs, treason, and even murder. Brigitte Macron could assume the role if her front-runner husband Emmanuel wins the upcoming election, and she would stand out in her own right. Twenty-four years older than her husband, she has guided and coached him since his youth. She’s been active in his campaign, advising him on speeches and effectively helping set his agenda. “If I’m elected—no, sorry, when we are elected—she will be there, with a role, and a place,” the presidential hopeful said of his wife in March. “I owe her a lot, she helped make me who I am.”Bloomberg

.

Stories v. stigma
An online campaign last week encouraged hundreds of Egyptian women and girls to speak out against sexual harassment and to share personal stories about it on Facebook and Twitter. The posts broke a taboo in the country, but also prompted backlash from conservatives who said women must keep quiet to protect their honor and preserve their country’s image. The campaign—promoted by a recent university graduate—revealed an epidemic of abuse in Egypt’s crowded cities, where women face sexual harassment by men at public gatherings, protests, and celebrations.
Associated Press
.

Top cop
Cressida Dick will become the first female commissioner in the 188-year history of London’s Metropolitan police when she assumes the role today. She’ll start the job with the capital on high alert after the terrorist attack last month. Her first major public engagement will be the funeral of Keith Palmer, the officer stabbed to death during the Westminster incident.
Guardian

THE AMERICAS

Mixed messages
Yesterday, Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the U.S. does not see a peaceful political resolution for Syria’s civil war as long as President Bashar al-Assad remains in power. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, said that the Syrian people will decide Assad’s fate. The conflicting statements from Trump officials underscore the uncertainty surrounding the U.S.’s strategy in Syria following its missile strikes against a government airbase last week.
Washington Post
.

Picking a replacement
Mondelez International, the maker of Oreos and Ritz crackers, is reportedly preparing to look for a successor to CEO Irene Rosenfeld, who’s also chairman. The company has retained an executive search firm to help in the hunt. Rosenfeld said in February she had no plans to step down, but the snack giant is under pressure due to restive shareholders and the broad shift to healthier eating habits.
Wall Street Journal
.

Winning streak
Last week, Dawn Fitzpatrick started as chief investment officer of Soros Fund Management, which manages around $26 billion of investor George Soros’s personal and family wealth. The new gig cements Fitzpatrick’s status as one of Wall Street’s most powerful women and marks her ascent from the trading floor of the American Stock Exchange in 1992 where men literally bet on how long she would last. “One of the things I believe women have more of is humility in their investments,” Fitzpatrick says. “We’ll cut losers quicker, in a more effective way, than generally men will.”
New York Times
.

A publishing pioneer
Nan Talese often exists in the shadow of her husband, Gay Talese, the best-selling author. But the 83-year-old is a living legend in her own right. She’s become one of the first female editors of literary fiction and landed her own, eponymous imprint at Doubleday. After nearly six decades in the business, she’s a publishing pioneer, with a list of authors that includes Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, the late Pat Conroy, and Thomas Keneally. And no, she’s not all that interested in being celebrated for it.
Vanity Fair

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

Dressing the part
Piano prodigy Yuja Wang has gained a reputation for a wardrobe of slinky dresses that she wears during her performances of Chopin and Brahm. The 30-year-old who was born in China and now lives in New York defends her unconventional clothing choices. “[I]f the music is beautiful and sensual, why not dress to fit?” she says. “It’s about power and persuasion. [I]f I’m going to get naked with my music, I may as well be comfortable while I’m at it.”
Guardian
.

Teaching tolerance
Since the death of her husband, former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, in 2009, Sinta Nuriyah has carried on her family’s campaign for a feminist and tolerant Islam. She speaks out on behalf of minorities and tours Indonesian cities during Ramadan, holding interfaith breaking-the-fast ceremonies to promote tolerance. The former first lady’s actions have put her in the crosshairs of hardliners, but she says living “among different religions, ethnicities and cultures” means “it’s necessary that we stand up to extremists.”
New York Times

IN BRIEF

K. T. McFarland to exit the Trump White House
Bloomberg

Angela Merkel seeks to strengthen EU’s liberal voice
Financial TImes

Muslim women are opening a new, inclusive mosque in California
Huffington Post

Meet Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Islam’s most eloquent apostate
Wall Street Journal

In photos: How one woman cycled from London to Iran
BBC

A group of singing “Raging Grannies” convinced Portland to divest from all corporations
Quartz

 

PARTING WORDS

“Let us together repeal and replace brutality and make them passionate priorities.”
--Folk singer and songwriter Joan Baez, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Friday.