5-13-19 The taekwondo black belt who runs the Nasdaq
The BBC's weekly The Boss series profiles different business leaders from around the world. This week we speak to Adena Friedman, the chief executive of US stock market giant Nasdaq. Adena Friedman says that being a black belt in taekwondo has helped her become more fearless in business. The 49-year-old boss of the Nasdaq took up the martial art more than a decade ago, after taking her two sons to classes from a young age. "It is a great discipline for my body and mind," she says. "It has impressed upon me the idea that success is in my control. "It has also helped reduce the fear of getting [metaphorically] punched. I know that I can get hit, and it's not the worst thing in the world. "I just need to decide to get back up, and keep fighting." Ms Friedman, who has been the chief executive of Nasdaq since January 2017, is one of the world's leading female business leaders. In fact, Forbes magazine rates her as the 16th "most powerful" woman on the planet. This puts her ahead of talk show host turned media boss Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth II, and Jacinda Arden, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. What makes Ms Friedman's success at Nasdaq particularly impressive is that she started out at the company on the lowest rung of the ladder. She first joined the business back in 1993 as a 24-year-old unpaid intern. Over the next 26 years she rose slowly but steadily to the top, spending all but three years of that time at the firm. While Ms Friedman says she "would like to be known as a great leader, not a great female leader", she has introduced policies to help more women get senior roles at Nasdaq. Born and raised in the US city of Baltimore, Ms Friedman says she got inspiration to succeed in life from her parents. It was her father who introduced her to the world of finance, as he had a senior job at an investment firm. As a child she would often spend time with him on the trading floor. "I got to hang out with the trading guys, which was a fun place to be," she said in a 2017 interview with Bloomberg. Meanwhile, Ms Friedman calls her mother her "hero". Her mum was originally a stay-at-home parent, but she went on to get a law degree and become the first female partner at a local law firm. Educated at an all girls private school, Ms Friedman didn't initially want to go into the world of finance. Instead, after watching Sally Ride became the first American woman to go into space in 1983, she too had dreams of becoming an astronaut. Later, after gaining a degree in political science at Williams College in Massachusetts, she wanted to throw her hat into the political arena. But following a stint working for former US Vice President Al Gore back when he was a US Senator, she settled instead on the world of business, where she felt she could have "more immediate impact". After gaining a master of business administration qualification she joined Nasdaq. She says she rose through the ranks by working hard, and happily taking on unfashionable projects, where she could show that she was able to make a big, positive difference. By 2011 she had held a number of senior positions at the company when she had a hiatus, and was made chief finance officer and manager director, for The Carlyle Group, one of the world's largest private investment companies. Ms Friedman then returned to the Nasdaq in 2014, before taking up the top job in 2017. Her annual salary that year was reported to total $14m.
5-10-19 African-American women
When attorney Cheslie Kryst (pictured) was crowned Miss USA last week, it was the first time that African-American women won the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA (Kaliegh Garris), and Miss America (Nia Franklin) contests all in the same year.
5-6-19 First time black women win all three biggest US pageants
In a historic first, the 2019 winners of America's three biggest beauty pageants are all black women. Nia Franklin, 25, became Miss America in September, followed last week by Kaliegh Garris, 18, as Miss Teen USA and Cheslie Kryst, 28, as Miss USA. The wins are particularly meaningful given the competitions' decades-long history of racism and bias. Vanessa Williams was the first black woman to win a top pageant in 1983. After Ms Williams was crowned Miss America, it took until 1990 for another black woman to win a major pageant. "Mine is the first generation to have that forward-looking mindset that has inclusivity, diversity, strength and empowered women," Ms Kryst said in her acceptance speech on Thursday. Ms Kryst is a civil litigation lawyer from North Carolina who also works pro-bono to reduce unfair sentences for prisoners. She will now represent the US in the Miss Universe pageant. The reigning Miss America, Ms Franklin, is an opera singer who also works with the Sing for Hope charity to promote accessibility of the arts and social change. Teen winner Ms Garris and Ms Kryst have both also been praised for opting to wear their natural hair in the pageants.
4-29-19 Sports Illustrated features first burkini girl
A Somali-American supermodel has become the first Muslim model to appear in Sports Illustrated wearing a burkini. Halima Aden is featured in its annual swimsuit issue in the swimwear which covers the entire body except the face, hands and feet. "Young girls who wear a hijab should have women they look up to in any and every industry," she told the BBC. Halima Aden grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp, moved to the US aged seven and began wearing the hijab shortly after. "We are now seeing politicians, business women, television reporters, and other successful hijabi women in visible roles and that is the message we need to be sending," she said. "The response has been incredible and I'm so honoured that Sports Illustrated has taken the step to showcase the beauty that modestly dressed women possess." Sports Illustrated, which has featured Tyra Banks and Beyonce on its front pages, is an American magazine with a predominantly male readership, and there was mixed reaction to the news. One Twitter user commented: "If you're going to wear the hijab and cover your skin - whether you think our religion calls for it or you want modesty - it is completely counterintuitive to strike a sexy pose in a magazine known for objectifying women." Another comment read: "I would get it if it were for a swimsuit catalogue for women to buy. But for a magazine specially made for men. It beats the whole purpose of the hijab." On Instagram the cover generated more positive comments: "Amazed every year by the inclusivity efforts of the issue. This year is a new level." Another comment simply read: "Breaking boundaries baby!" In a BBC interview in 2017 the model described her hijab as her "crown" and explained how designers were reacting to a woman's right to choose: "It's almost surprising we haven't seen a hijab-wearing model. It should be normal, it shouldn't be any different to any other model." That same year she became the first hijab-wearing model to appear on the cover of a major US magazine.
4-26-19 A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II
Now that her story is finally getting out, Virginia Hall is “bound to be everyone’s new favorite World War II hero,” said A.J. Willingham in CNN.com. A spy like no other, the Baltimore native was a 35-year-old frustrated desk clerk with a wooden leg when she talked her way into an undercover gig in 1941 Vichy France and surprised her British handlers by not just surviving but also organizing a network of 1,500 resistance fighters that would prove crucial to Allied victory. And that’s only the start. In Sonia Purnell’s electrifying new biography, we learn that Hall became the most wanted spy in France, and when the Gestapo got too close, she fled on foot over the snow-covered Pyrenees and sent a telegram that jokingly referred to the troublesomeness of her prosthetic, which she’d nicknamed Cuthbert. Then she begged back into France to do more. “From the outset,” said The Economist, Hall “seemed to have known she was different.” Though her mother only hoped her daughter would maintain her social standing by marrying well, Virginia insisted on an education at Radcliffe and Barnard colleges, plus a stint in 1920s Paris that allowed her to pick up three languages and fall in love with France. Stymied in her bid to forge a path as a diplomat, she was working a dull State Department job in Turkey at 27 when she shot herself in the foot during a hunting outing, leading to an infection and amputation. By 35, she was a woman with a limp and more ambition than résumé, but when Germany invaded France, she eagerly put her life on the line to help turn back the Nazi advance. “James Bond had nothing on Hall,” said David Holahan in USA Today. Licensed to kill and capable of assuming four different identities in the same day, she cultivated sources among madams and prostitutes, found and trained saboteurs, and even organized spectacular jailbreaks for fellow spies. She eventually married a spy she met late in the war, yet there was also a “decided lack of glamour” to her MO: For her 1944 return to France, she had her teeth ground down so she could pass as a peasant, and when the war was over, she all but refused to be celebrated, preferring to quietly carry on for 15 years as a CIA officer. When she died in 1982, her legacy was secure inside the agency but little known outside it. Two books and a movie this year should change that. “Her work will be remembered.”
4-26-19 Women leading protests
Sudanese activists continued their nationwide protests this week to press the military to hand over power to a civilian authority after the overthrow of longtime President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month. Women activists, who have been in the forefront of the protest movement since it began last December, said they want gender parity in a new civilian transitional authority as well as in a future parliament. “We have suffered a lot. More than men in many cases,” activist Marsiliya Yakub told AlJazeera.com. “Women should be at the center of any government.” Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes against the population of Darfur, where government forces and government-allied militias used mass rape as a weapon.
4-18-19 Ivanka touts aid
President Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump traveled to Ethiopia and Ivory Coast this week to promote a $50 million U.S. initiative to boost women’s employment in developing countries. In Addis Ababa, Trump signed a joint statement with the African Union Commission on fighting child marriage, human trafficking, and sexual abuse and attended a summit on African women’s economic empowerment. “Investing in women is a smart development policy,” she said, “and it’s smart business.” Ethiopia has made great strides in women’s inclusion. Half the ministers in the cabinet of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed—who took office last year—are women, and in October the legislature elected Sahle-Work Zewde to be the first woman to hold the largely ceremonial post of president.
4-14-19 Ivanka Trump in Ethiopia to 'promote women'
President Donald Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, has arrived in Ethiopia to promote a US government initiative aimed at advancing women's participation in the workplace. The initiative aims to benefit 50 million women in developing countries by 2025. Ms Trump will visit women working in the coffee industry and a female-run textile facility. She will also visit Ivory Coast during her four-day tour of Africa. Launched in February, the Women's Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative aims to train women worldwide to help them get well-paying jobs. According to the initiative's website, low participation of women in the formal labour markets impedes economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries. The project is financed by a $50m (£38m) fund within the US international development aid agency (USAid). Ms Trump, who also serves as an adviser to her father, will attend a World Bank policy summit while in Ethiopia. She tweeted ahead of the trip that she was "excited". She will visit Ivory Coast later in the week and is set to visit a cocoa farm, as well as participate in a meeting on economic opportunities for women in West Africa. The Trump administration's policy in Africa has focused on the war on terror and trying to manage the growing political and economic influence of Russia and China on the continent. It has, however, backed democratic reforms in countries like Ethiopia where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has implemented a series of progressive changes including the normalisation of relations with Eritrea after a bitter border standoff going back two decades. The US also recently backed pro-democratic protests in Algeria and Sudan. Mr Trump, however, upset many in the continent last year after he reportedly used the word "shithole" to describe African nations.
4-5-19 A refugee in Congress
Ilhan Omar wasn’t fazed by her rough few first months as a congresswoman, said Benjamin Wallace-Wells in The New Yorker. The outspoken Minnesota Democrat was widely criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for comments about congressional support for Israel, but she’s accustomed to adversity: She was a child in Somalia when a brutal civil war broke out in 1991 and vividly recalls hiding as mortar rounds exploded around her family’s home. That experience has a lot to do with her passionate opposition to conflict and violence. “I have PTSD around, like, guns and ammunition and bombs,” Omar, 37, says. “I see conflict that has violence, and I think deeply about what the little children are going through. What we seek to do is good. But what we end up doing is causing hurt and furthering human suffering.” The youngest of seven children, she was born into a prominent family in Mogadishu, but the war forced them to flee to a Kenyan refugee camp. The family lived in that camp for four years before moving to the U.S. After the Sept. 11 attacks, she began wearing a hijab as an expression of her cultural identity, as opposed to a religious awakening. This year she became the first woman to wear the head covering on the House floor. “I don’t have a way of making myself less threatening as a black person, as a black woman, as a Muslim person,” she says. “And so it is just living with the reality that there are people who will see you as a threat.”
3-19-19 Karen Uhlenbeck is first woman to win prestigious maths Abel prize
Mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck has become the first woman to win the Abel prize, sometimes called the Nobel prize of mathematics. She has been awarded the 6 million Norwegian kroner ($700,000) prize for her work in the fields of gauge theory and geometric analysis, which have been credited with far-reaching impact in both mathematics and physics. Gauge theory underpins much of modern theoretical physics, and is integral to cutting-edge research in particle physics, general relativity and string theory. Her work laid the foundations for one of the major milestones of 20th–century physics, the unification of two of the four fundamental forces of nature: electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force. “The holy grail in physics has always been unification of forces,” says Jim Al-Khalili at the University of Surrey, UK, who gave a talk about Uhlenbeck’s prizewinning work today. “She has made a big contribution to the mathematics that allowed us to progress some considerable way along this path.” Among her other meaningful contributions was her work on the calculus of variations, the study of how small changes in one quantity can help find the minimum or maximum value of another. A real-world example comes in blowing soap bubbles, which always adjust their shape so that their surface area is minimised. Predicting comparable structures in higher dimensions is enormously challenging, but Uhlenbeck’s work has greatly helped. Uhlenbeck has always blazed a trail for women in mathematics. Her plenary lecture at the 1990’s International Congress of Mathematicians was the first delivered by a woman since Emmy Noether in 1932.
3-19-19 Bubble maths researcher wins top award
One of the highest prizes for mathematics has been awarded to Prof Karen Uhlenbeck of the University of Texas in Austin, US. Prof Uhlenbeck received the Abel Prize for her work on "minimal surfaces" such as soap bubbles. She is the first woman to win the £530,000 award since it was established in 2002. The award has been made by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo. The chair of the award committee, Hans Munthe-Kaas, said that her work had "dramatically changed the mathematical landscape". "Her theories have revolutionised our understanding of minimal surfaces, such as more general minimisation problems in higher dimensions," he said. An everyday example of a "minimal surface" is a soap bubble. They are interesting from a mathematical point of view in that they pull the soap film into the shape of the least surface - a perfect sphere. Representing and manipulating soap bubbles mathematically enables researchers to model the behaviour of physical phenomena, such as electrical fields. Prof Uhlenbeck's maths has given theoretical physicists the tools with which to tackle some of their greatest puzzles, such as the behaviour of sub-atomic particles and the unification of electromagnetism and nuclear forces. As well as her ground breaking work, Prof Uhlenbeck has been a role model in her field, according to Prof Jim Al-Khalili, a physicist at Surrey University and broadcaster. "Young mathematicians not only know of her work, but they also know how hard she has worked to try and promote maths and encourage young women to get into the field," he told BBC News. Prof Uhlenbeck wanted to be a scientist when she was a young girl, but she became drawn to mathematics when she had started her degree at the University of Michigan.
3-8-19 Mae Jemison: the astronaut plotting a journey to other stars
Best known as the first black woman to go into space, Mae Jemison has done much more in her remarkable career as an engineer, doctor and science ambassador. Now, she is leading the 100 Year Starship project, an effort to drive forward the capability for interstellar travel within the next century. Jemison grew up in Chicago in the 1960s. She always had a keen interest in science, but also wanted to be a professional dancer. She enrolled at Stanford University at the age of 16 and graduated in chemical engineering, then faced a difficult choice to study medicine or become a dancer. “My mother said you can always dance if you’re a doctor but you can’t necessarily doctor if you’re a dancer,” she said in an interview on StarTalk Radio. After gaining her medical degree, she worked as a general practitioner, then joined the Peace Corps as a medical officer and worked in Sierra Leone and Liberia. In 1987, she applied for NASA’s astronaut programme and was one of 15 candidates selected from 2000 applicants. Jemison got to space in 1992, on the 50th space shuttle flight, and orbited Earth 126 times. “I was really irritated when I joined the astronaut programme because when I was a little girl, I figured by the time I was old enough to be an astronaut, I would be hanging out at least on Mars,” she said on StarTalk Radio. She believes the lack of progress is not down to engineering limitations, but a lack of public commitment to space exploration. “That’s why we have to bring so many people in and include them in things. People didn’t see why it made a difference,” she said. With her current project, she is determined to rectify that by including people with a broader range of backgrounds and skills, and showing that pushing the frontiers in space can reap benefits for life on Earth. The Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which she established in honour of her mother, was awarded a grant from the US government agency DARPA to pursue the radical leaps in our capabilities needed to achieve interstellar flight.
3-8-19 The Lebanese female air force pilots breaking barriers
Most women serving in the Lebanese armed forces work in administrative or logistical roles, but its top commander is trying to change this, the BBC's Eloise Alanna reports. Gen Joseph Aoun says bolstering women's roles is among his top priorities, with the ultimate aim of getting them into combat roles. Women are not allowed to work on the front line in the army, but there is no such rule in the air force. Six women have so far applied to be pilots in the air force - they went through testing and only two qualified. They are 1st Lieutenant Chantal Kallas, 27, and 1st Lieutenant Rita Zaher, 26. Rita says she met resistance when she first decided to join the armed forces, with many seeing her as "taking a man's job". Chantal wanted to become a pilot from a young age but her parents were worried she would not be able to juggle work and family life. Despite the social pressures, she followed through with her plan. "In my opinion, a woman has to overcome all of the challenges with their family or society to realise her ambition," she says. Twenty-four year old Manar Eskandar is a sergeant and the first female mechanic in the air force. When she started out, Manar was given mainly administrative tasks. But she later asked to be given a real mechanic's work - and her superiors agreed. "When I first came here my male colleagues looked at me with sympathy, like I needed help. But little by little I have become stronger in my job and started doing work that they can't do themselves," Manar says. "I have small hands so sometimes I can do things they can't, like reaching into areas of the engine they can't." Chantal says times are changing for women in the Lebanese armed forces. "Everyone in the air force is helping us and encouraging us to fulfil our ambition, and this is why perceptions are changing and men have become more accepting of women in combat positions and emancipating women in society."
3-2-19 Dorji Dema: A female archer taking aim at sexism
Traditional Bhutanese archery is for men only - even though the country's women archers have had great success in the modern sport. As Michelle Jana Chan reports, Olympic archer Dorji Dema is assembling a team of women to put this right. I hope I've got the right house… I walk past a potato patch to the front door. There's no knocker, so I call out. Dorji Dema appears at the doorway, a visibly toned and youthful 35-year-old in a tight orange T-shirt. She's an archer, and archery is Bhutan's national sport. Long associated with victories over invading forces, archery has been practised for centuries here. Most villages have at least one range and contests are integral to the numerous religious festivals. As I travelled across Bhutan, inside its monasteries and temples I'd seen statues and paintings of figures holding bamboo bows, often pulled back taut, aimed at their enemies. Some were male, others fantastical creatures; none looked anything like the woman in front of me. Dorji smiles shyly and apologises for her English. Shorter than me, with a friendly smile and her hair tied back with a ribbon, she doesn't fill me with fear, but Bhutanese men quake when she lifts her weapon. I remove my shoes and enter her home. A wall is covered with certificates, medals and security passes from international archery competitions - in venues from Thailand to Sri Lanka - and there are polished trophies on a shelf. "It's not the winning, of course," Dorji says. "It's the participating." "Surely not," I reply sceptically. "You must have wanted to win." She shakes her head. That's very Bhutanese. Not a lack of ambition or passion, but congeniality, the sense of the collaborative. Tournaments in Bhutan are often as much about fun as the frenzy of competing. They are accompanied by raucous singing, boo-ing, cheering, dancing and sometimes even heavy drinking by contestants. Archery is much more than just a sport. "In the past, women weren't even allowed to touch a bow. It was considered bad luck," she says. "But now we should be equal."
2-5-19 Women seem to have younger brains than men the same age
Women have younger brains than men the same age. A study basing age on metabolism rather than birth date found an average 3.8 year difference between men and women. The discovery may help explain why women are more likely than men to stay mentally sharp in their later years. All brains get smaller with age, and it was already known that men’s tend to shrink at a faster rate. To investigate the differences further, Manu Goyal at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis and colleagues looked at the brains of 205 men and women ranging in age from 20 to 82. They used positron emission tomography, an imaging technique that helps uncover brain metabolism by measuring the flow of oxygen and glucose. The brain consumes large amounts of glucose for energy, but the pattern of use alters with age. They found that metabolic brain ageing correlated with chronological ageing in both men and women, but that at any given age women’s brains were younger, metabolically speaking, than men’s. “It’s not that men’s brains age faster — they start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life,” says Goyal. “What we don’t know is what it means. I think this could mean that the reason women don’t experience as much cognitive decline in later years is because their brains are effectively younger, and we’re currently working on a study to confirm that.”