The World’s Most Powerful Women: April 19

April 19, 2017, 6:43 AM UTC

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May stunned her country yesterday by calling for a snap election on June 8 after vowing—on at least seven occasions—to do no such thing.

Why the sudden reversal? In this helpful, five-point explainer, my colleague Geoffrey Smith breaks down her rationale:

  1. It’s personal. The vote will give May her own mandate to govern and to pursue her “Hard Brexit” approach to splitting with the EU. She inherited her current mandate from predecessor David Cameron, who resigned after the Brexit referendum in June.
  2. Give her some space. May’s Conservatives only have a 17-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons, leaving her vulnerable to even a small in-party revolt. Gaining a bigger majority in an early election will theoretically give her more leeway to pursue her agenda with few compromises, especially in upcoming Brexit talks.
  3. Simply irresistable. The opinion polls are simply too good to pass up. Disorganization and infighting have crippled the Labour Party, giving Conservatives a current 21-point lead over the main opposition. May is seizing the moment.
  4. Timing is everything. It had become increasingly clear that May wouldn’t be able to complete a trade deal with the EU before 2020, when the next general election was scheduled to take place. Winning a five-year mandate in June will relieve pressure in 2019, when the Brexit negotiations are set to be finalized.
  5. Escaping the past. Securing her own mandate will also free May from non-Brexit commitments Cameron made—like promises to raise pensions and freeze taxes—that would have been hard to keep even before Britain voted to leave the EU.

May said yesterday that she arrived at her decision for a snap election “only recently” and “reluctantly,” before launching into campaign speak.

“Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the EU. Every vote for the Conservatives will mean we can stick to our plan for a stronger Britain and take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future.”

The question now is whether Brits will take her word for it.



Sturgeon snaps into actionThe snap election in the U.K. has high stakes for Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who called the vote “one of the most extraordinary U-turns in recent political history,” and asked her colleagues in the Scottish National Party (SNP) to “work harder than ever to retain the trust of the people” in the lead-up to June 8. A strong showing by the SNP could allow Sturgeon to claim a mandate for a second Scottish independence referendum.Fortune


All in the family
For Marion Maréchal Le Pen, the 27-year-old French National Front MP and niece of presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the personal has always been political. But recent disagreements between Marion and her aunt have led the younger Le Pen to consider a life outside politics, despite her prominent role in the party and her massive popularity in southern France. If Marine Le Pen loses the upcoming presidential vote, Marion might seize the opportunity to take over at the helm of the National Front.

The divorce divide
Afghani women have begun asserting their rights—including the right to divorce—over the past 15 years, but society has yet to catch up. The country’s young divorced women are not viewed as full adults in the eyes of the state, and have difficulty securing apartments and official government documents without bringing a male family member along. Navigating sexual harassment and neighborhood norms is also a considerable challenge, turning everyday tasks into daunting obstacles.
New York Times


Petitioning the producers
Protesters gathered outside Fox News headquarters in Manhattan on Tuesday to pressure the network to fire host Bill O'Reilly in light of allegations that he had sexually harassed five women surfaced. A petition calling for his removal has already garnered 140,000 signatures. O'Reilly's accusers were collectively paid $13 million in exchange for their silence, according to the New York Times. He has denied the charges. 

When women legislate
In the Nevada state legislature, female lawmakers have introduced bills to introduce cheaper tampons, office breaks to pump breast milk, and to eliminate co-pay on birth control. One of the most gender-balanced legislatures in the nation, Nevada is proving that having more women in elected office translates to an increased consideration of women in the legislative process.
New York Times

A man's mindset
Men’s opinions on issues such as abortion and government aid are subject to change according to how much money they make in relation to their spouses, according to new research from Harvard Business Review. Republican men who lost income in relation to their spouses became less supportive of abortion rights and government aid, while liberal men became more supportive. Interestingly, Democratic men who began making more than their partners became less supportive of abortion rights.


Working dinner
The same day that Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, the Chinese government approved three new trademarks for the first daughter’s company. The timing underscores how difficult it will be for Ivanka Trump to distance herself from her brand. The election boosted U.S. sales of Ivanka Trump items to a record high in 2017, despite boycotts of its products. The company recently applied for at least nine new trademarks in Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Canada in addition to China.

Villages' vigilantes
Women in the villages of India’s agrarian Bihar state are taking it upon themselves to enforce the region’s prohibition law, confiscating alcohol and routinely turning offenders over to police. Since the law was introduced last April, the vigilance of Bihar women has made it a success, resulting in a drop in crime rates and an increase in spending.
New York Times

News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler


Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau on her controversial anti-tourist policies
Al Jazeera

IMDB adopts classification system to champion women in film

What George W. Bush taught his daughters about feminism

How Liberia's new generation of female entrepreneurs is revitalizing the economy
Fast Company

Can grade-skipping close the STEM gender gap?
The Atlantic

Women ironworkers will get six months of paid maternity leave


"To be doing feminist work everyday, to live like a feminist, you have to take women’s lives seriously."
--Writer and political theorist Cynthia Enloe, on what feminism means today.