Skip to Content

The World’s Most Powerful Women: July 31

In January, NPR reported that “for the first time in Japanese history three women of different political persuasions are in positions that could be stepping stones to the prime minister’s office.”

Seven months later, two of those three women are out of their high-profile roles.

Renho Murata, leader of Japan’s opposition Democratic Party (DP), stepped down from the job on Thursday following the DP’s poor showing in Tokyo’s assembly election earlier this month.

And on Friday, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada resigned amid a dispute over peacekeeping operations in South Sudan that contributed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plunging popularity. Inada is accused of trying to cover up an internal document that suggested Japanese peacekeepers engaged in combat in South Sudan, which is barred by Japanese’s post-World War II pacifist laws. Inada denies any cover-up but admits she fumbled the matter.

The last woman standing is Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, and her political star appears to be on the rise as her Tokyoites First party won 49 of 127 assembly seats in Tokyo’s local election, a victory for all but one of the candidates it fielded.

The downfall of Renho and Inada doesn’t just dim Japan’s prospects for its first-ever female prime minister; it’s also being seen as a setback for Japanese women more broadly. The women’s rise was celebrated as the start of a new era of female power in the patriarchal nation where women are underrepresented in the workforce and in politics, making up roughly 10% of parliament. In 2015, the government walked back its goal of getting women into 30% of private sector management roles by 2020 after realizing it would miss the target by a wide margin.

There were skeptics to the fanfare. Citing Abe’s failure to deliver on his “womenomics” agenda and prevalent sexism, Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan, wrote in September that despite the trio’s ascent “overall, politics in Japan remains a man’s world.”

After last week’s resignations, it’s even more so.

@clairezillman

EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Not fit to printBritain’s Sunday Times published a column about the BBC’s gender pay gap titled “Sorry, ladies – equal pay has to be earned” by columnist Kevin Myers that was not only profoundly sexist but also anti-Semitic as it pointed out that the BBC’s two top-earning women are Jewish. The piece appeared in the Times‘ Irish edition and online, but it’s now been removed. The Times has also given Myers the boot. CNN

.

On the run
The Guardian has the harrowing story of how Megan Nankabirwa, a badminton champion from Uganda, went from dining with the president to being chased from her country because she’s gay.
Guardian
.

Life of the party
Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe had previously said that President Robert Mugabe could “rule from the grave,” but last week she urged her husband, 93, to pick his successor as head of the Zanu-PF party. The first lady is herself a contender for the role as her political clout has grown in recent years, but she’s sent mixed signals about her interest in the job. 
Guardian

THE AMERICAS

Slight of hand
American progressives hailed Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.) as a hero Friday morning after he sunk the Republicans’ effort to repeal and replace Obamacare with a literal thumbs down vote. But Republican Sens. Lisa Mukowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine also voted against the bill as they endured threats from their own colleagues. The slight felt familiar to some female onlookers. Tweeted comedian Jenny Yang, “Giving McCain the credit for defeating this repeal when female Senators Murkowski & Collins were early Nos is EVERY WORK MEETING EVER.”
Vox
.

Public perception
Stitch Fix, the online retailer and personal styling service founded by CEO Katrina Lake five years ago, has filed confidentially to go public, according to TechCrunch, which cites an anonymous source. According to a Reuters report earlier this year, the company could be eying a value of between $3 billion and $4 billion. Stitch Fix’s public offering will be closely watched since consumer IPOs have not fared well in the first half of this year. 
Tech Crunch
.

Building bridges
The Washington Post has a profile of Sharon Osberg, who’s been a bridge teacher and partner to both Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. “When I first met Warren, his game was ragged around the edges,” Osberg says. “We would play in the evening, and I would go through teaching points. He absorbed it like a sponge. Bill is the same way. Pretty big brain capacity.”
Washington Post

ASIA-PACIFIC

What’s in a name?
In rural India, strict tradition prohibits women from calling their husbands by their first names as a sign of respect. Instead, women refer to them as “babuji”—the Hindi word for “father” or address them directly with “Hey ho,” which means roughly “Hey you.” Well-educated, urban women are ditching the custom and some campaigners are urging women in villages to give it up too. 
BBC
.

Fly the woman-friendly skies
To cut down on the dangers of flying while female, Indian airline Vistara has started offering women travelers a host of services—baggage carriers, escorts to and from ground transportation, and preferred seating. India’s business travel market is ballooning, but the nation has a reputation as unsafe for women. Vistara’s approach is similar to the women-only rows Air India introduced on flights in January after two groping incidents.
Bloomberg
.

Breastfeeding backlash
Aliya Shagieva, the youngest daughter of Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev, was accused of immoral behavior earlier this year when she posted a photo of herself breastfeeding on social media. She eventually removed the photo, but in a new interview she defended the image. “This body I’ve been given is not vulgar. It is functional, its purpose is to fulfill the physiological needs of my baby, not to be sexualized,” she says.
BBC

 

IN BRIEF

Conservative firebrand Tomi Lahren admits she’s benefitting from Obamacare
Fortune

Uzbekistan charges former dictator’s daughter with theft of $2 billion
Financial Times

Grocery stores are adapting to more male shoppers—whom they treat like knuckleheads
Washington Post

Why do girls as young as six believe boys are smarter?
Financial Times

PARTING WORDS

“I humbly stand on stage for those who were stung by racism or sexism or any other insidious bias and persevered. You are unbreakable. You make me proud.”
—Claire Smith, who received the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for baseball writing on Saturday. She's the first woman to win it.