Skip to Content

The World’s Most Powerful Women: April 24

French National Front leader Marine Le Pen, along with centrist Emmanuel Macron, came out on top in the first round of voting in the French presidential elections on Sunday, with 21.4% and 23.9% of the vote, respectively. They now advance to the final runoff scheduled for May 7.

Le Pen’s transition from fringe right-wing candidate to a leading presidential hopeful has been bolstered in part by her recent effort to appeal to female voters. Le Pen’s strong performance yesterday, and her supporters’ eagerness to cast her as a feminist in the style of Hillary Clinton—they used Clinton’s slogan #ImWithHer as an online rallying cry—suggest her efforts have worked.

But Le Pen’s success is not necessarily a boon for women’s rights. Despite her entreaties to French women, she still avoids describing herself as a “feminist,” and has been called a “pretend feminist” by the French feminist group Osez le Feminisme, which told Politico that “she uses the right of women for racist purposes, and [for] xenophobic [reasons], to express herself on migrants.”

Le Pen has tried to appeal to women in various ways, by softening her approach to issues like abortion, invoking French feminist Simone de Beauvoir, distributing campaign leaflets championing her as “a female politician in a man’s world,” and underscoring her identity as a twice-divorced mother of three. Since Le Pen took over for her father as leader of the National Front in 2011, the party has increased its standing among women. The percentage of women voting for the party nearly tripled between 2010 and 2015, rising to 28% in large part due to support from working-class women.

If elected, Le Pen has promised to permanently close French borders, to reinstitute the franc as the national currency, to shutter all mosques, to ban religious head coverings, to slash immigration, and to pull France out of NATO’s command structure. Only one element of her 144-point campaign platform mentions women’s rights, as BuzzFeed’s Jina Moore points out: Le Pen promises to “defend women’s rights against Islamism, which would take back women’s fundamental freedoms.”

“This is the election when Marine Le Pen figured out it’s good to be a woman,” writes Moore. Macron is expected to defeat Le Pen handily come May 7, but if she performs better than expected, it may very well be due to a surge from her female base.



Denmark looks to deportZarmena Waziri, 70, was a feminist pioneer as a young teacher in Afghanistan, among the first to remove her veil, shake a man’s hand, and run for parliament. Today, she lives with dementia in Denmark, where her daughter and grandchildren care for her, and where the government is planning to deport her back to Afghanistan. Given her ill health, deporting Waziri may violate the UN refugee agency’s policy, yet Denmark has the ultimate say in whether she stays or goes. The case is currently under review.New York Times


STEM standout
Russia stands apart from the rest of Europe when it comes to gender diversity in the sciences. While women make up 29% of people working in scientific research worldwide, that figure is 41% in Russia. A new study from Microsoft reveals that across Europe, girls tend to lose interest in STEM fields around the age of 15; Russian girls don’t follow that pattern, becoming interested in math and science earlier and sticking with them longer, thanks in part to an abundance of female role models, parental encouragement, and positive perceptions of scientific fields.

Stuck in the stone age
Thirty white wedding dresses were hung from nooses tied to palm trees along Beirut’s seafront to protest Lebanon’s repressive rape law, which exonerates rapists who marry their victims. Women’s rights campaigners are pushing to abolish the statute in an upcoming session of parliament. Minister for Women’s Affairs Jean Oghassabian described the law as being “from the stone age.”


Lawyers in the limelight
The female lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union are enjoying a newfound rockstar status thanks to their efforts to push back against the Trump administration’s executive orders. They may joke that the Constitution is “kind of our brand,” but they are also serious about maintaining the ACLU’s track record as the institution with the most cases before the Supreme Court. “The Trump agenda is quite extraordinary, so we have to be extraordinary,” said Louise Melling, director of the ACLU’s Center for Liberty.

Democratic detour
The Democratic Party’s “Unity Tour,” headlined by new DNC chair Tom Perez and Senator Bernie Sanders, drew harsh criticism from sectors of the left for suggesting that progressive politics do not necessarily include support for reproductive rights. Sanders and Perez may have hoped the Unity Tour would help the Democratic party regroup after its election loss, but by de-prioritizing reproductive rights and speaking primarily about economic issues, they are staging “a return to mistakes the party has made in the past,” Rebecca Traister writes, pointing out that women’s ability to control their reproductive systems is central to social and economic stability.
New York Magazine

Fighting the peacekeepers
Lawyers representing ten Haitian women who had children with UN peacekeepers and were left without child support are accusing the UN of refusing to cooperate with their case. Most of the men involved are no longer in the country, so the legal team needs the UN’s cooperation to win child support. One of the women was under the legal age of consent in Haiti when she became pregnant; another said she was raped.



Recipe for success
When Hiroe Tanaka’s father died, he left behind a recipe for fried meat on a stick. Using his directions, Tanaka revived Kushikatsu Tanaka Co., a skewer restaurant named after her. The company went public in September in an IPO priced at the top of its indicative range. Its shares, listed in Japan’s Mothers market for smaller firms, have gained more than 50%. “I pay tribute to my father every day,” Tanaka says.

Toxic trade
Palm oil, a critical ingredient in processed items like ice cream, instant noodles, toothpaste, soap, and lipstick, comes primarily from plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. There, thousands of women labor over the palms, spraying their trunks with a mix of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides, with no substantial protection against the chemical fumes. As a result, the women, who often have unstable work contracts and are denied days off, are exposed to severe health hazards that have human rights organizations fighting on their behalf.
Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting


U.K. plans no change to dress code law after high-heels petition
Financial Times

The most overlooked part of mentoring

The story behind Melania Trump’s reluctance to embrace the role of first lady
Vanity Fair

No woman has ever run for Iranian president. Will Azam Taleghani be the first?
Radio Free Europe

‘I Dreamed of Africa’ author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann is shot in Kenya
New York Times


“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.”
--A quote from physicist and chemist Marie Curie that a group of seven men and women at the Neumayer Station in Antarctica used as they participated in Saturday's March for Science.