The World’s Most Powerful Women: June 20

June 20, 2017, 6:00 AM UTC

In Sunday’s legislative election, in which President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move party (LREM) gained a commanding majority, France elected a record number of women to parliament.

Of the 577 newly elected lawmakers, 223 are women, a number that easily eclipses the previous record of 155. With women now holding 38.6% of the National Assembly seats, France has leapfrogged to 17th place on the world ranking of female parliamentary representation, skipping over countries like Britain and Germany.

Women’s success in the election was due, in part, to LREM’s decision to field a gender-balanced candidate list. In France, party funding is limited if women don’t constitute at least 49% of candidates, but some parties still fail to put women forward. And even when they do, women often stand in constituencies where they have little chance of winning. In that regard, LREM’s list of candidates was somewhat revolutionary, since it gave women the opportunity to run in elections they could actually win.

Despite this milestone, French politics is far from a gender equality utopia. For example: Last month, 17 current or former female ministers—including IMF head and former French finance minister Christine Lagarde—signed a letter stating they would no longer be silent about sexual harassment in politics. “Like all women who have entered spheres that up until then were exclusively male,” the letter said, “we have had to fight against sexism.”

Having more women in politics overall could be a powerful force in waging the ongoing battle.



Rhythm is gonna get youZumba instructors in Iran are revolting against a new edict that bans the dance classes as un-Islamic. The aerobic exercise class has gained popularity among Iranian women as the country has undergone a health revolution. Instructor Sunny Nafisi says she'll go on with her scheduled Zumba classes in Tehran despite the new rule. “I have 40 students—they want to work out,” she said. “I’ll just rename the class.” New York Times


Sharpening her tongue
Activist Stella Nyanzi spent 33 days in Uganda's maximum security women's prison in April for describing President Yoweri Museveni as a "pair of buttocks." Her insults stem from what she sees as the president's broken promise to provide free sanitary pads to girls, many of whom miss school because of their period. Nyanzi remains resolute despite her jailing. "My language will grow sharper if the government continues to oppress us," she says. 
The Guardian

Word on the street
A study from international research group Promundo and U.N. Women examined men's motivations for harassing women on the streets of Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian territories. The survey of 4,830 men suggested that one reason they harass women is to assert power to combat their own feelings of stress, depression, or shame. 


Reversing course
The steady march toward gender parity among Fortune 500 board appointees reversed abruptly last year, according to a new report from executive search and leadership consultancy Heidrick & Struggles. After inching upward since 2009, women's share of new board appointments declined two percentage points to 27.3% in 2016. The dip means gender parity among incoming directors won't be reached until 2032, according to the firm's extrapolation. That's six years later than previously predicted.

Plan of attack
Karen Handel's involvement in the decision by breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen Foundation to stop funding grants to Planned Parenthood has factored into Handel's bid for a Georgia congressional seat in a tight election today. (When the charity yanked its funding in 2012, Handel was running public policy.) The controversial episode was a boon to Handel in the Republican primary, but in the closely-watched general race, her opponent Jon Ossoff has turned it into a potent attack line.

Staying on track
The New York Times has the inspiring story of Gabriele Grunewald, who continues to run professionally despite being diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer that has a 15-year survival rate of 40%. She's receiving chemotherapy as she trains, with hopes of running in the United States Championships later this month in Sacramento. “I’m relentless or insane,” she says.
New York Times


Music to her ears
Wu Man, 54, is the world's greatest player of the pipa, a four-stringed Chinese lute with a two-millennia history. She is the first person to ever get a master's degree in the instrument. To discover its full possibilities, she ventured to the U.S. and that broader stage brings her to New York this week, where she'll play with the Shanghai Quartet at the Park Avenue Armory.
Wall Street Journal

Dear Ayawawa
Yang Bingyang, known as Ayawawa online, is one of China's preeminent online dating advisors, having tapped into urban women’s anxieties about finding a man to marry. (Those not wed by age 27 are considered "leftover women.") The former model and author of nine books is often criticized for doling out advice that reinforces gender stereotypes, but defends her approach. “Our world has been hijacked by political correctness,” she says.
New York Times


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Teen calls out her school's sexist dress code in hilarious yearbook quote
Huffington Post


"When I’m out there traveling, I feel that my mind is bigger, my brain is bigger, it’s more open, aware, and alive."
—'National Geographic' photographer Jodi Cobb, one of the first photographers to travel to China when it opened to the West, and the first woman named White House Photographer of the Year.