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The World’s Most Powerful Women: May 25

A lot has been made of Melania Trump’s body language on her husband’s on-going overseas trip. Twice she has appeared to swat away the president’s attempts to hold her hand in what were either efforts at culturally appropriate decorum or blatant rejections of his advances. No matter her intent, the video clips sent the Internet into a tizzy.

But beyond those viral moments, the first lady has, at times, looked unenthusiastic if not downright displeased as the first couple has been paraded through diplomatic protocol and photo-ops in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Rome. Her look is a stark departure from first ladies of the past, who, generally, have displayed permanent smiles while accompanying their husbands at public events.

No matter what you think of Melania Trump or her husband’s politics, there is a subtle strength in her stone-faced expression during these command performances. As the Washington Post‘s Robin Givhan puts it:

For a woman who was once a model, who ostensibly is practiced in the art of nonverbal communication, the willingness to forgo a grin seems less like an accident and more like the tiniest declaration of personal control and rebellion. She is here for you, but she is not going to perform for you.

In a way, Melania Trump’s countenance embodies the burden of being first lady—a ceremonial role, based largely on appearances, that is hoisted on a woman only because of her relationship to a powerful man. In calling for the office of first lady to be abolished in November, Politico‘s Jack Shafer argued that by giving the president’s wife a federal budget and nonstop press coverage, “we endorse a pernicious kind of neo-nepotism that says, pay special attention to the person not because she’s earned it or is inherently worthy of our notice but because of who she’s related to by marriage.”

But at a more fundamental level, Melania Trump’s facial expression is an affront to a society that still demands that women—rather than determine their own emotional state—always smile instead.



Loose lips sink relationships?U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd expressed exasperation with U.S. officials yesterday for leaking details about Monday’s terrorist attack in Manchester to U.S. media before British security forces were ready for the information to go public. “I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again,” she said. As Bloomberg notes: “It is rare for the U.K. government to publicly criticize the U.S. and in such blunt terms.” PM Theresa May is expected to raise concerns over the leaks with President Trump at a meeting of NATO leaders today.Bloomberg


Speaking from experience
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was among the first world leaders to respond to the Manchester terrorist attack, which recalled the carnage at the Bataclan concert hall on the November 2015 night when gunmen killed 130 people across Paris. “Parisians, who have suffered attacks, know the horrors into which the people of Manchester are plunged and know how it helps to have messages of affection and support to enable them to raise their heads, to stand strong and to carry on,” Hildago said.

Changing the channel
A new television station called Zan TV—or “Women’s TV”—launched this week in Kabul. The first-of-its-kind channel aims to give Afghan women a platform to express the ideas and news that matter to them. All of its broadcasters and producers are women.


Serving up expertise
Tennis superstar Serena Williams is joining the board of online survey giant SurveyMonkey to put to use her experiences as a player and entrepreneur. “I want to spread this knowledge,” she told Fortune‘s Leena Rao. Her appointment to the board resulted from Williams’ relationship with Facebook COO and SurveyMonkey board member Sheryl Sandberg and her late husband, Dave Goldberg, the company’s former CEO.

Exhibit A
Elle has a deep-dive on the long-running push to get a women’s history museum added to Washington, D.C.’s National Mall and how those efforts may fare under Trump. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D–N.Y.) has backed the idea for decades. “We have museums for spies, for stamps, for textiles, for the American Indian, now for African Americans; there’s a plan for a museum for Latinos,” she says. “Why are women always an afterthought?” 

Isn’t that rich
According to new data, the median pay for a female CEO was $13.1 million last year, while male CEOs earned $11.4 million. Both numbers represent an increase of 9% over the year before. The highest-paid female CEO of 2016 was IBM’s Ginni Rometty, who earned $32.3 million. While it’s true that women at the top are making—on average—more than their male counterparts, their sample size is much smaller. Of the 346 executives considered in the data, just 21 were female.


Armed with information
A Bangladesh-based tech company has a product it thinks will reduce pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths: a smart bangle. The bracelet reads aloud 80 prerecorded messages, like when and what to eat, over the course of a pregnancy. The product will first be sold in Bangladesh, where there are 176 maternal deaths per 100,000 children, due in part to inadequate or inaccessible health care services.

Historical footnote
Research published in the new book Bound Feet, Young Hands suggests that the binding of Chinese women’s feet has been largely misunderstood. Girls who had their feet bound didn’t lead a life of idle beauty but rather served a crucial economic purpose. The practice had a clear economic rationale: It ensured that young girls sat still and helped make goods like yarn, cloth, mats, shoes and fishing nets that families depended upon for income—even if the girls themselves were told it would make them more marriageable.


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“Go be courageously and fabulously you. Because you can.”
—Julie Foudy, a former player on the U.S. national soccer team, who has a new book called 'Choose to Matter'