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The World’s Most Powerful Women: April 13

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has worked for four presidents—Ronald Reagan, both Bushes, and now Donald Trump. One of the lessons she’s learned along the way? “I prepare so much more than some of my male colleagues,” she says.

Chao talked about how the practice of preparation has helped her excel in male-dominated fields on Politico‘s Women Rule podcast. She also said she developed subject matter expertise that made her indispensable. Chao was the first Asian American woman ever confirmed to the U.S. Cabinet when she became labor secretary in 2001. “I knew what I was doing,” she told Politico.

Chao then posed a question: “Men don’t prepare that much so why do we have to prepare as much?”

“Because we probably have to work harder,” she said. The topic seemed to strike a nerve:

“I know women who are prepared more and we get ridiculed, and it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh. She’s just preparing so much. She’s such an automaton. Can’t she just like, wing it?’ Well, I’m not comfortable winging it. I don’t prepare as much as I used to because experience does count. But in the beginning, yeah, I prepared, and I tried to make it look as if I wasn’t preparing because I didn’t want to be ridiculed.”

The scenario Chao presented played out in real time during a presidential debate in September, when Chao’s current boss Donald Trump chided rival Hillary Clinton for reports that she had spent a lot of time studying for the showdown.

“You criticize me for preparing for this debate,” Clinton said in response. “And, yes, I did. Do you know what else I prepared for? I also prepared to be president.”

Chao’s point will no doubt resonate with women besides Clinton. A YouGov poll in October found that 74% of U.S. adult women—versus 60% of men—said they tend to prepare for things rather than improvising. At the same time, 32% of men indicated that they tend to improvise, compared to just 17% of women.

Thorough preparation has paid off for Chao, but—as Clinton proved—sometimes it’s just not enough.

—@clairezillman

Fortune’s London office is closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday. I’ll see you back here on Tuesday. Enjoy the weekend!

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Seeking a ‘sea change’British MP Caroline Ansell, who was alerted by police that they had received a “credible” threat against her life, spoke about how the death threats impacted her family and called for a “sea change in the way in which people view their politicians.” Ansell said she’s become accustomed to “low-level abuse,” but that continued threats might keep women with children out of politics, especially after the murder of MP Jo Cox in June 2016. The man who made threats against Ansell has been jailed for four months.BBC

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Check’s in the Mail
The Daily Mail agreed to pay $2.9 million in damages to U.S. First Lady Melania Trump over claims the tabloid made last year regarding Trump’s modeling career. The British paper published allegations that she had once worked as an escort, but later retracted the article and published an apology online.
Fortune
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Ending exploitation
The 2015 death of Paola Clemente, who collapsed of a heart attack while working on an Italian vineyard, has led authorities to investigate the brutal conditions endured by the 40,000 women who labor in winemaking’s “system of modern-day slavery.” Six people have been arrested for extorting female laborers, and a new law imposes a six-year sentence for exploiting workers. Some measures put Italy behind only Poland as the worst EU country for the enslavement of people.
New York Times

THE AMERICAS

Isn’t that rich
Women accounted for four of the 10 highest-paid CEOs in the U.S. last year. Safra Catz of Oracle (No. 5), Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (No. 6), Ginni Rometty of IBM (No. 8), and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo (No. 10) landed in that top tier. The median pay of the nine women on Equilar’s list of 100 highest-paid CEOs dramatically eclipsed men’s: $21.2 million to $14.4 million.
Fortune
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Piece of cake
In an interview with President Donald Trump on his decision to launch air strikes against Syria, Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo “gave a master class in how to butter up the president,” according to The New Republic. Trump responded in kind, telling Bartiromo about his dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and how the two leaders had just been served “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake” when Trump decided to begin the strikes.
New Republic
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Will she or won’t she?
Maine Senator Susan Collins is seriously considering running for governor in 2018. Collins says she will officially decide whether to enter the race this fall. If she were to be elected, she would have to leave her Senate seat, abandoning the unique role she’s built for herself as a moderate in the legislature and creating an opening for Republican Governor Paul LePage to appoint her successor, a possibility that Maine Democrats are working hard to avoid.
Fortune
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Shoe on the other foot
The Chicago Tribune flipped the script on how women are typically referenced in the press when it referred to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as actress Olivia Munn’s “boyfriend” in a tweet about the couple’s breakup. Men reacted angrily on Twitter to the paper’s language, saying Rodgers “deserves” better.
Mic

 

ASIA-PACIFIC

Put to the test
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s new chief executive and the semi-autonomous city’s first female leader, is hoping to endear herself to students who protested her predecessor by softening academic pressures on high school students. She has promised to increase the annual education budget and cut some stress-inducing forms of testing. But the reforms are unlikely to quell students’ democratic fervor. China is pushing Hong Kong politicians to sing the party’s praises during school visits, which is likely to stoke young people’s discontent even further.
The Economist
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Squad goals?
The special police squad tasked with preventing public sexual harassment, also called “eve teasing,” in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has encountered some pushback as its 1,400 officers have taken to the streets. The squad’s aim is to protect women against unwanted molestation and verbal harassment, but some say it has wrongfully engaged in moral policing. Most residents appreciate the effort to curb harassment, but hope the squad learns from its early mistakes.
BBC
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News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler

IN BRIEF

Please stop trying to ’empower’ women with cutesy titles
Fast Company

Stores play hide-and-seek with Ivanka Trump’s products
Bloomberg

Women surgeons around the world are replicating this ‘New Yorker’ cover
New Yorker

Hillary Clinton modeled Katy Perry’s shoe line on Instagram
Fortune

‘Charging Bull’ sculptor says New York’s ‘Fearless Girl’ violates his rights
The Guardian

How one tech company ditched “brogrammers”
Vanity Fair

 

PARTING WORDS

“I paraphrased [Lady Macbeth] to myself to put ice water in my veins.”
--Jean Afterman, the Yankees' assistant general manager. Some say she could become Major League Baseball's first female GM.