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The World’s Most Powerful Women: July 18

According to UN Women, more than twice as many women—17—head a country today than about a decade ago. There are plenty of countries that are out of step with this improving trend, and among them, China is a standout.

Its neighbors Taiwan and Hong Kong have elected female leaders—Tsai Ing-wen and Carrie Lam, respectively—but China has not seen a women seated on the Communist Party’s highest body since it came to power in 1949. That’s despite its outward support of women’s advancement—President Xi Jingping announced a $10 million donation to UN Women in 2015.

A New York Times‘ story looking into the decades-long drought cites discrimination as a factor. But beyond that broad and unsurprising explanation, two other, unique forces are at work, and I find them particularly fascinating.

China abides by a system of mandatory retirement ages that requires female party cadres to leave work earlier—at age 55—than their male counterparts, who are supposed to depart at 60 (but many push that deadline back a few years). That early cutoff for women, based on the assumption that they will be the ones caring for grandchildren and aging parents, plucks female candidates from contention as their careers start to peak.

What’s more, China’s newly adopted “two-child policy” is putting even more pressure on women to stay home, meaning caregiving duties also weigh on the middle of their careers.

Women’s rights activists are urging the Communist Party to promote more women to leadership positions as its members gather this fall to decide who will lead the party in its eighth decade of power. But experts aren’t optimistic that the tide will turn. Cheng Li, director of the Brookings Institution’s China Center, wrote recently: “[I]t would take a miracle for a woman to become head of the People’s Republic of China in the foreseeable future.”

@clairezillman

 

Tune in to the livestream of Fortune‘s Brainstorm Tech conference today to see interviews with Kirsten Green, the founder of Forerunner Ventures, and Margo Georgiadis, the new CEO of Mattel. They’ll both take the stage on day two.

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Rudd’s retributionU.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has vowed to push for harsher sentences for those responsible for a recent string of acid attacks in London. The Metropolitan Police say assaults using the corrosive material that disfigures its victims rose by nearly 80% last year. Last Thursday night, five people were doused with it within 90 minutes in separate attacks across northeast London. In addition to her office reviewing the police response to the incidents, existing legislation, access to the products, and victim support, it will also “make sure that those who commit these terrible crimes feel the full force of the law,” Rudd wrote. “I am clear that life sentences must not be reserved for acid attack survivors.”Times of London

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Wishful thinking
Disney is being criticized for its casting of Jasmine in the new live-action remake of Aladdin. Naomi Scott, who’s of British and Indian heritage, landed the role alongside Mena Massoud as Aladdin, and Will Smith as Genie. Critics of the decision wanted an actor of Arab heritage to play the role of Jasmine instead.
Fortune
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A ‘massive’ problem
The killing of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch by her brother last year prompted Nighat Dad to expand her Digital Rights Foundation that fights cyber abuse on behalf of Pakistani women. She and her team now field up to 20 calls a day. In May, a study she commissioned found that 70% of women were afraid of posting their pictures online for fear they’d get misused, while some 40% reported being stalked and harassed on messaging apps. “Technology is ever changing, so violence in the online spaces has also increased,” she says. “It has become doxing, sextortion and revenge porn. It’s massive.”
Guardian

THE AMERICAS

Doing the heavy lifting
At Fortune‘s Brainstorm Tech conference yesterday, Nest CTO Yoky Matsuoka reassured the audience that today’s cutting-edge robots won’t lead to a dystopian future in which machines enslave mankind. Rather, she said, robots can do the repetitive tasks that humans “suck at,” such as lifting heavy objects like the suitcases that airline workers must carry. “Robots don’t hurt their backs, so let them do it,” she said.
Fortune
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A novel approach
Male writers who use pen names to author suspense novels rooted in the inner worlds of women who are finding that it’s good for business if their readers assume they are female. As a result, they’re being purposefully vague about their gender, since—as the Wall Street Journal reports—”some fans doubt the authenticity of the female narrator’s voice when it is delivered by a male author.”
Wall Street Journal
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Not convinced
The U.S. Labor Department was dealt a huge setback in its ongoing lawsuit against Google, which it accuses of perpetuating a “systematic” pay gap. A judge denied the agency’s request to access the full details on 21,000 Google employees, ruling that Labor wasn’t convincing enough in explaining why it needed such extensive data. Google, which denies having paid women less than men, says it will turn over a more limited data set.
Washington Post

ASIA-PACIFIC

Nothing to laugh at
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made another bizarre rape joke last week that seemed to praise those who commit the crime. “What I don’t like are kids [being raped],” Duterte said. “You can mess with, maybe, Miss Universe. Maybe I will even congratulate you for having the balls to rape somebody when you know you are going to die.” The Philippines hosted the Miss Universe pageant in January. Duterte’s spokesperson defended the remarks on the grounds that the “majority of the people, especially the masses, really get [the president].”
Time
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Isn’t that rich
China’s Zhou Qunfei, the 47-year-old founder and CEO of Lens Technology, has overtaken Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes as the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. In fact, with an estimated net worth of $9 billion, Qunfei is actually the richest self-made woman, period.
Money
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Taking the stage
Australian stand-up comedian Celeste Barber has attracted 2 million Instagram followers for parodying the glamorous photos celebrities post to the platform to hilarious effect. “I think people like seeing people make fun of themselves—I do—and just not caring,” Barber says of her popularity. “I think it’s nice to see on a platform like Instagram, where it’s all about how things are staged. It’s nice to see something that is so not.”
NPR

IN BRIEF

The U.K. is banning sexist advertisements
Financial Times

ISIS brides are fleeing the caliphate as a noose tightens on the terror group
CNN

An Indiana woman turned her cancelled wedding into a party for the homeless
Indy Star

People are making fun of Dr. Who fans upset over the casting of a female doctor
Buzzfeed

There’s officially a breastfeeding emoji coming later this year
Fortune

PARTING WORDS

“I missed my nap for this.”
—Julia 'Hurricane' Hawkins, 101, who on Saturday became the oldest female athlete to ever compete in the USA Track and Field Outdoors Masters Championships.