12-13-19 Young women lead
Finland has a new coalition government made up of up five parties led by women, four of whom are younger than 35. At 34 years old, Sanna Marin is the world’s youngest sitting prime minister. The former transport and communications minister was picked as leader of the Social Democratic party this week, after Prime Minister Antti Rinne, 57, resigned because of criticism over his handling of a postal strike, and she also won a vote of confidence. Asked about her trailblazing coalition, Marin said, “I have not actually ever thought about my age or my gender. I think about the reasons I got into politics.” Women now make up 47 percent of the Finnish Parliament.
12-13-19 She's a woman. She's a superhero. Get over it.
During a pivotal moment in episode four of Watchmen, three characters who are arguably out of central casting for any comic book adaptation — the brooding masked avenger, the jaded yet noble FBI agent, and the eccentric trillionaire genius with mysterious motives — gather to discuss a key development in the case that the masked avenger and the FBI agent are working (separately, of course, though they'd do far more good working together) and that the genius clearly knows more about than they're letting on. The scene is paradoxically remarkable for its seeming banality: Each of these characters is a woman. Two of them are women of color. One of them is nearly 70 years old — though all three of them are at least 40. The rarity of seeing women — let alone women over 35, and let alone women of color — as co-leads on any series, especially a many-chambered puzzle-box of a superhero thriller, makes Watchmen downright radical. Yet the show never calls attention to its approach to gender, it just allows these women to be exactly who they are — which may be the most radical element of all. These women — Angela Abar, aka Sister Night (Regina King), Laurie Blake (Jean Smart), and Lady Trieu (Hong Chau) — form a triumvirate that will propel showrunner Damon Lindelof's intense, operatic story of trauma and justice, love and vengeance, violence and redemption. The series is more openly preoccupied with questions of race in America, particularly the vicious insidiousness of white supremacy and the heroic tenacity required to survive, let alone thwart, it. Still, it does powerful — if subtler — work with gender, in ways that aren't just unique for primetime, premium cable, but in how women can lead superhero franchises.
12-12-19 What are beauty pageants really like for black women?
When Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday, it marked the first time black women have simultaneously held the top titles of four major beauty pageants. Media outlets jumped on the news and many on social media celebrated. Some said that Ms Tunzi, Cheslie Kryst (Miss USA), Kaliegh Garris (Miss Teen USA) and Nia Franklin (Miss America) represent a new age for beauty pageants, one of diversity and inclusion. Ms Tunzi has been especially praised, with her dark black skin and short natural hair. Even Miss USA 2016 Deshauna Barber shared a video on Instagram of her reaction the moment Ms Tunzi won. "Miss Universe looks like me!" she shouted to the camera over and over. But Ms Barber also told the BBC that black women still faced discrimination when competing, and that representation could be the first step towards fixing it. "If you come from a group that's rarely under-represented, it's hard to understand what representation means," she said. Gabriela Taveras - the first black woman to win Miss Massachusetts - said one issue was that black women often didn't fit the traditional pageant definitions of beauty. "There's this idea of what beautiful is," she said. "And in the past that ideal was white women." Ms Taveras was crowned in 2018 and went on to compete in Miss America, making the top five. One of the most challenging decisions she had to make was a seemingly small one - how to wear her hair. "I remember the war of straight vs curly," she said, "It was so bad." "I was afraid to wear my hair curly because I knew it didn't fit the European standard of beauty." She decided to compete with her natural curly hair. When young girls told her they were "so excited Miss Massachusetts looked like them" she said she knew it was the right move. "I knew that I looked and felt like myself," she said. "I knew I was being myself and I wasn't pretending to be anyone else."
12-11-19 Greta Thunberg named Time Person of the Year for 2019
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who inspired a global movement to fight climate change, has been named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2019. The 16-year-old is the youngest person to be chosen by the magazine in a tradition that started in 1927. Shortly before the announcement, she told a UN climate change summit in Madrid that the next decade would define the planet's future. She urged world leaders to stop using "creative PR" to avoid real action. Last year, the teenager started an environmental protest outside the Swedish parliament building, sparking a worldwide movement that became popular with the hashtag #FridaysForFuture. Announcing Time's decision on NBC, editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said: "She became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year, coming from essentially nowhere to lead a worldwide movement." The magazine's tradition, which started as Man of the Year, recognises the person who "for better or for worse... has done the most to influence the events of the year". Last year, it named killed and imprisoned journalists, calling them "The Guardians". At the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid, Greta Thunberg accused world powers of making constant attempts to find loopholes to avoid making substantial changes. "The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when, in fact, almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR," she said, drawing applause. Summits on climate change seemed "to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition", she added. The clock was ticking as the decade comes to a close, she said. "In just three weeks we will enter a new decade, a decade that will define our future. Right now, we are desperate for any sign of hope."
12-10-19 Sanna Marin: The rising star who leads Finland's 5.5 million
Sanna Marin has been a rising star on Finland's political scene for some years now. At 34 she has become the world's youngest prime minister, and her country's youngest ever, at a difficult time - as Finland is hit by strikes and populist nationalism looms over its politics. Her new finance minister is even younger. Katri Kulmuni, 32, is one of four other female party leaders in the five-party ruling centre-left coalition. Only one of them is over 35. Their appointments are an attempt to inject some new blood into a demanding body politic as their parties flounder in the polls, just six months after election victory. "Politics is getting harder," says Kristiina Tolkki, a political journalist from Finland's national broadcaster YLE. "We need some younger people who can be there 24/7, some fresh faces, always ready to react and not say anything stupid." The new government is also set to have 12 female and seven male ministers, a high gender ratio even for a country which in 1907 became the first in the world to elect women to parliament. Sanna Marin comes from a modest background. Her parents split up when she was very young and in her early years her mother raised her alone. The family faced financial problems. In a blog, Ms Marin describes how she got a job in a bakery at 15 and distributed magazines for pocket money during high school. In an interview for the Menaiset website (in Finnish) in 2015 she spoke about the stigma she encountered when her mother was in a same-sex relationship. She said that a she felt "invisible" because she was unable to talk openly about her family. But her mother had always been supportive and made her believe she could do anything she wanted, she said. She was the first person in her family to finish high school and go to university.
12-9-19 Miss Universe 2019: 'May every little girl see their faces reflected in mine'
"I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me, with my kind of skin and my kind of hair, was never considered to be beautiful. "I think that it is time that that stops today." That's the message from newly-crowned Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi, who is from South Africa. More than 90 women from across the world took part in the pageant which was held in Atlanta in the US on Sunday. Zozibini beat Puerto Rico's Madison Anderson and Mexico's Sofia Aragon in the final three to take the tiara. Finalists in the competition were In her final question, 26-year-old Zozibini was asked what we should be teaching young girls today. Her answer was leadership. "It's something that has been lacking in young girls and women for a very long time - not because we don't want to, but because of what society has labelled women to be," she said. "I think we are the most powerful beings on the world, and that we should be given every opportunity. "And that is what we should be teaching these young girls - to take up space." Zozibini is the first black woman to win the competition since Leila Lopes in 2011. The Angolan former winner congratulated her in a post on Instagram, writing: "Congrats girl you did us very proud." Relfecting on her win, Zozibini wrote: "Tonight a door was opened and I could not be more grateful to have been the one to have walked through it. "May every little girl who witnessed this moment forever believe in the power of her dreams and may they see their faces reflected in mine. "I proudly state my name Zozibini Tunzi, Miss Universe 2019!" The hashtag #MissUniverse was trending on Twitter and she even got a shout-out from Oprah Winfrey. Several people highlighted the importance of a black woman with natural hair winning a beauty pageant.
12-9-19 Finnish minister Sanna Marin, 34, to become world's youngest PM
Finland's Sanna Marin is to become the world's youngest prime minister at the age of 34. The transport minister was picked by her Social Democratic party after its leader, Antti Rinne, quit as PM. She will be sworn in this week. She will lead a centre-left coalition with four other parties, all headed by women, three of whom are under 35. Mr Rinne stepped down after losing the confidence of a coalition member over his handling of a postal strike. When she takes office, Ms Marin will be the world's youngest sitting prime minister. New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is 39, while Ukrainian premier Oleksiy Honcharuk is 35. She will be the third female prime minister in the Nordic country. Media reports say Sanna Marin was raised in a "rainbow family", living in a rented apartment with her mother and her mother's female partner. She told the Menaiset website (in Finnish) in 2015 that as a child she felt "invisible" because she was unable to talk openly about her family. But she said her mother had always been supportive and made her believe she could do anything she wanted. She was the first person in her family to go to university. Ms Marin rose quickly through the ranks of the Social Democrats, heading the city administration in Tampere at the age of 27 and becoming an MP in 2015. She has been transport and communications minister since June and has a 22-month-old daughter. Analysts say it may be a coincidence that Finland now has a female prime minister and four party leaders in the ruling coalition who are women, but gender equality is a big issue in Finland and women in Finnish politics have been bubbling under for a long time. A couple of decades ago, researchers noticed that many parties had young women in prominent positions, either second or third in command, Reetta Siukola, development manager at the Centre for Gender Equality Information, told the BBC.
12-6-19 The African-American aviator who found freedom in the sky
As one of the first African-American women to qualify as a pilot, Azellia White discovered a sense of freedom in the air that was routinely denied to her on the ground. The Texan received her pilot’s license in 1946, overcoming the then widespread belief that neither women nor blacks had what it took to become aviators. Together with her husband and two black airmen, White then founded Sky Ranch Flying Service outside Houston, providing flight training, delivery, and charter services—mostly for African-Americans in the region. Flying, she said, “gave me the freedom to travel, which I often didn’t have on land. We lived in the highly segregated South, where going on foot from town to town could be dangerous.” She was born Azellia Jones in Gonzales, Texas, to a sharecropper father and a midwife mother. The young Azellia “excelled at high school,” said The Daily Telegraph (U.K.), and in 1941 she moved with her husband, Hulon White, to Tuskegee, Ala. Hulon would work there as a mechanic for Army Air Forces’ all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron—“better known to history as the Tuskegee Airmen.” Inspired by these groundbreaking aviators, “White decided to try her hand in the cockpit,” said The Washington Post. By her telling, flying was a cinch. You just listen to the instructor, she said, and “first thing you know, you’re flying.” After World War II, White trained returning veterans to become pilots, often shocking her passengers with aerial stunts. “Their expressions floored me every time,” she said. The Sky Ranch closed in 1948, in part because changes to the G.I. Bill cut funding for flight training, but White kept flying into her 80s. “I lost myself up in the clouds,” she recalled. “It was breathtaking.”
11-22-19 How Julia Robinson helped define the limits of mathematical knowledge
Born 100 years ago, she was key in solving Hilbert’s 10th problem. Every December 8 for years, Julia Robinson blew out the candles on her birthday cake and made the same wish: that someday she would know the answer to Hilbert’s 10th problem. Though she worked on the problem, she did not care about crossing the finish line herself. “I felt that I couldn’t bear to die without knowing the answer,” she told her sister. In early 1970, just a couple of months after her 50th birthday, Robinson’s wish came true. Soviet mathematician Yuri Matiyasevich announced that he had solved the problem, one of 23 challenges posed in 1900 by the influential German mathematician David Hilbert. Matiyasevich was 22 years old, born around the time Robinson had started thinking about the 10th problem. Though the two had not yet met, she wrote to Matiyasevich shortly after learning of his solution, “I am especially pleased to think that when I first made the conjecture you were a baby and I just had to wait for you to grow up!” The conjecture Robinson was referring to was one of her contributions to the solution to Hilbert’s 10th problem. Matiyasevich put the last piece into the puzzle, but Robinson and two other American mathematicians did crucial work that led him there. Despite the three weeks it took for their letters to reach each other, Robinson and Matiyasevich started working together through the mail in the fall of 1970. “The name of Julia Robinson cannot be separated from Hilbert’s 10th problem,” Matiyasevich wrote in an article about their collaboration. Robinson was the first woman to be elected to the mathematics section of the National Academy of Sciences, the first woman to serve as president of the American Mathematical Society and a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She achieved all of this despite not being granted an official faculty position until about a decade before her death in 1985.
11-7-19 The Tenth Muse review: A story in which the women count
In her new historical novel, Catherine Chung celebrates the women who shaped modern mathematics - and wonders why they weren't paid. “A mathematical proof is absolute once it has been written and verified,” says Katherine, the narrator of Catherine Chung’s novel The Tenth Muse. “If the internal logic of a proof holds, it is considered unassailable and true.” The book contrasts the axioms of mathematics with the mutability and complexities of life. This is historical rather than speculative fiction, reaching from the present back to World War II and the mid-20th century. As a child in 1950s America, Katherine is intrigued by nature and space. She annoys a primary school teacher by doing sums in her head, using a time-saving technique used by the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss as a child. (What is the sum of the numbers 1 through 9? 45, Katherine answers quickly, having added up pairs of numbers on opposite sides to give four sets of 10 – 1+9, 2+8 and so on – and the unpaired 5 in the middle.) She becomes a mathematician, working on the Riemann hypothesis. Proposed by Bernhard Riemann in 1859, it is one of the most significant unsolved problems in pure mathematics – one of seven millennium problems with a $1 million prize on offer from the Clay Mathematics Institute. The problem, as Katherine puts it, “predicts a meaningful pattern hidden deep within the seemingly chaotic distribution of prime numbers”. It also becomes inextricable from the unravelling mystery of Katherine’s own family history. The search takes her to the University of Göttingen in Germany, once a powerhouse of maths at the turn of the 20th century, and later, less salubriously, known for its “great purge” of Jewish researchers in the 1930s. The novel is extensively researched, replete with the lives and work of luminaries such as Srinivasa Ramanujan, Alan Turing, and David Hilbert; the maths and physics it comprises range from the accessible to the esoteric. The characters’ dialogue tends towards the novelistic: on occasion, their style of recounting stories is implausibly similar to that of the book’s narration.
11-6-19 'I do my engineering in high heels not a hard hat'
The clichéd image of an engineer is of a man in a hard hat, but one female engineer says she is more likely to wear high heels to work. Pavlina Akritas is a lighting designer at multinational firm Arup, and she has been helping to highlight the lack of women in engineering. The Royal Academy of Engineering says many young people think of the work as technical and boring. It says that has left a skills shortage of about 50,000 people a year. At present just 12% of engineers are women, and 9% from an ethnic minority background. That is why the academy launched its This is Engineering Day to change stereotypes. "If you google 'engineer' you only see these hard hats, but personally if I was asked how many times I wear a hard hat, it's probably two weeks per year," says Ms Akritas. "On other occasions, I wear my heels - I like my heels - and my dresses." The globetrotter, who grew up in Cyprus before studying in the US and UK, says her job "gives me an opportunity to work in many different countries". She has also featured in the 100 Influential Women in Engineering list, drawn up by Inclusive Boards. The academy is now working with lots of big brands in the media, in advertising and recruitment to encourage "more representative" images of engineers. Hayaatun Sillem, chief executive of the academy, says the role is varied and that it is a "well-paid profession". "Engineering is a great foundation," she says. "You're really employable if you're an engineer, so it's not surprising that people who study engineering go on to work in other areas. "That's great, we need people with those skills right across our economy," she adds. "We also need enough of them going into engineering." One of the main barriers to young people pursuing a career in engineering is a deeply-rooted cultural perception of the profession as mechanical, too technical and boring, an outdated view that is being reinforced online. But Michelle Hicks, a rollercoaster designer at Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey, said the industry's grimy reputation was undeserved. "That's one of the biggest misconceptions. The role of an engineer is so varied," she said. "For me, it can be from going to design team meetings, complex problem-solving, to being out on site. "But when you're on site as an engineer, it's very much looking at what's going on, is it built to specification. It's not [about] getting dirty at all."
10-25-19 Giant leap for womankind
NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch took a giant leap for womankind last week when they stepped out of the International Space Station and embarked on the first all-female spacewalk. Meir, 42, and Koch, 40, spent nearly eight hours outside the ISS, removing and replacing a malfunctioning power controller as they orbited 260 miles above Earth. This was Koch’s fourth spacewalk and the first for Meir, who is the 15th woman to walk in space. “What we’re doing now shows all the work that went in [to] the decades prior,” Meir said, “all of the women that worked to get us where we are today.”
10-21-19 Female astronauts answer questions from orbit
US astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch answered questions from reporters and members of the public in a press conference from the International Space Station.The two astronauts made history on Friday, becoming the first to complete an all-female spacewalk.
10-21-19 Black hole scientist Dr Katie Bouman on trolling and teamwork
Scientist Dr Katie Bouman, 29, was a key leader on the team that captured the first ever image of a black hole earlier this year. The celebratory image she posted online ended up on the receiving end of misogynistic trolling - but her team rallied round to support her.
10-19-19 This 11-year-old skateboard prodigy is looking to inspire girls around the world
Sky Brown at a skate park in Santa Monica, California. July 2016. A cloudless Southern California sky looms over the Pro Park Course for the Vans Pro Skate Park Series. Here to compete in the final Global Qualifier competition are some of the top female skaters in the world. There's Lizzie Armanto, the first female skater ever to complete a full circuit on a 360-degree ramp. Kisa Nakamura, X Games gold medalist. Brighton Zeuner, the youngest champion in X Games history. The past, present, and future of women's skateboarding have assembled at Huntington Beach. At stake is a spot in the Vans Park Series Pro Finals event, skating with the best of the best. The skaters range in age from early adolescence to early 30s, but in a sport that embraces youth, there is one who stands out beyond the fresh-faced potential of her peers. At 8 years old, Sky Brown, half-British, half-Japanese phenom, would be the youngest skater, male or female, ever to compete at the Vans U.S. Open Pro Series. She is a known quantity to some — a minor star of the viral age. Still, the question remains: Is she truly ready, or will this be another case where reality comes crashing down hard on all the hype? Sky first gained a modicum of internet fame as a precocious 4-year-old, when she starred in a series of skate videos posted to YouTube, the first of which sees the pint-sized prodigy ripping it up on a backyard quarter pipe. "Hi, my name is Sky!" she says brightly toward the camera in the first of many videos to come. She stumbles a bit, then, "I'm … check me out!" From there she drops in like a pro, pulling off grinds, stalls, switching stances in the flat. It quickly becomes clear. Skateboarding has seen young stars before. It was started by adolescents. Young guns are nothing new. But skateboarding hasn't seen anything like Sky yet.
10-19-19 Nasa Mars 2020 Mission's MiMi Aung on women in space
Next year, Nasa will send a mission to Mars. The woman in charge of making the helicopter that will be sent there – which is set to become the first aircraft to fly on another planet – is MiMi Aung. At 16, MiMi travelled alone from Myanmar to the US for access to education. She is now one of the lead engineers at Nasa. We find out what it's like being a woman in space exploration, and why her mum is her biggest inspiration.
10-18-19 US astronauts complete first all-women spacewalk
US astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history after completing the first all-women spacewalk. They spent over seven hours outside the International Space Station (ISS) replacing a failed power control unit.
10-18-19 Simone Biles has made history, again.
Simone Biles has made history, again. The American gymnast became an international sensation after her dominant performance in the 2016 Olympics, and she’s continued to improve, landing an unprecedented “triple-double” flip in August. And following her five gold wins at the world championships in Germany last week, Biles is now the most decorated gymnast in the event’s history. Biles won the top of the podium in team competition, all-around, and vault as well as floor and beam. That brings her career medal total in the championships to 25, two more than the previous record. “It’s [higher] than my age,” Biles said of her tally, “so I’m pretty thrilled with it.”
10-18-19 She’s a two-time Ironman champ
Retired Illinois schoolteacher Bobbe Greenberg only learned how to swim in her late 50s. Now, at age 73, she’s a two-time Ironman champ. At the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii last week, Greenberg swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and then ran 26.2 miles in an impressive 14 hours, 7 minutes, and 11 seconds. For the second year running, she was faster than anyone else in the women ages 70–74 bracket. “It’s like a drug,” Greenberg, who has completed 17 triathlons this year, says of racing. “[I’m in] a positive state the whole time.”
10-18-19 Nasa astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir in all-women spacewalk
Two Nasa astronauts are making the first ever all-female spacewalk. Christina Koch and Jessica Meir left the International Space Station's Quest airlock on Friday to replace a failed power control unit. They were expected to spend five and a half hours replacing the power regulator with a spare. Ms Koch had already carried out four spacewalks but it was the first for MS Meir, who became the 15th woman to walk in space, Nasa said. Ms Koch, an electrical engineer, and Ms Meir, who has a doctorate in marine biology, stepped outside in their Nasa spacesuits at 11:38 GMT (07:38 EDT). They made their way to a location called the Port 6 truss structure to replace the a battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). Once the task is complete, Ms Koch and Ms Meir will return to the airlock with the failed BCDU. The device will subsequently be loaded on to the next SpaceX Dragon resupply ship for inspection on Earth. Nasa had announced in March that Ms Koch would take part in the first all-female "extra-vehicular activity" (EVA) with colleague Anne McClain. But the spacewalk was called off because a medium-sized suit wasn't available in the near-term for McClain. The first woman to spacewalk was the Russian Svetlana Savitskaya, who went outside the USSR's Salyut 7 space station for three hours, 35 minutes on 25 July 1984.
10-14-19 Nobel economics prize winner: I want to inspire women
Esther Duflo has said she is "humbled" by her success in winning this year's Nobel prize for economics and hopes it will "inspire many, many other women". Prof Duflo was part of a trio, alongside her husband Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer, to win the prize. Their work had "dramatically improved our ability to fight poverty in practice", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize, said. Prof Duflo is only the second woman to win the prize since it began in 1969. At 46 years old, she is also the youngest recipient of the prize. "Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognised for success I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect that they deserve like every single human being," she said. Prof Duflo's husband was her PhD supervisor and their work, alongside that of Prof Kremer's, has focused on poor communities in India and Africa. Their research helps show which investments are worth making and also what has the biggest impact on the lives of the poorest people. For example, their research in India found a high level of absenteeism among teachers. They found employing them on short-term contracts, which would be extended if they had good results, led to significantly better test results for students. Another project looked at how the demand for de-worming pills for parasitic infections was affected by price. They found that three quarters of parents gave their children these pills when the medicine was free, compared to just 18% when they cost less than a US dollar, which was still heavily subsidised. The research has helped inform decisions on whether medicine and healthcare should be charged for and, if so, at what price.
9-13-19 Ronstadt’s life on the border
Linda Ronstadt is a child of the borderlands, said Michael Schulman in The New Yorker. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer was raised in Tucson, just north of the U.S. border with Mexico. Her grandfather was a Mexican bandleader, and Ronstadt’s parents had friends on both sides of the border. In her childhood, Mexicans and Americans would cross freely back and forth to eat and shop and go to each other’s weddings, baptisms, and parties. She’s horrified by the region’s militarization. “I feel filled with impotent rage,” says Ronstadt. “I grew up in the Sonoran Desert, and the Sonoran Desert is on both sides of the border. There’s a fence that runs through it now, but it’s still the same culture. The same food, the same clothes, the same traditional life of ranching and farming.” Ronstadt, who now lives in San Francisco, had to give up singing a decade ago because of a debilitating form of Parkinson’s disease. When she was still able, she worked with the Samaritans, supplying food and water to migrants crossing the border. “You meet some guy stumbling through the desert trying to cross, and he’s dehydrated, his feet are full of thorns, cactus,” she says. “Then you see this Minute Man sitting with his cooler, with all of his water and food and beer, and his automatic weapon sitting on his lap, wearing full camouflage. It’s so cruel.”
9-9-19 YouTuber Nikita Dragun faces backlash over hairstyle
How many times in the past few years have we read about the online backlash faced by celebrities who wear their hair in a particular way? Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Little Mix's Jesy Nelson have all been accused of cultural appropriation for wearing some form of braids, cornrows or dreadlocks. Model Nikita Dragun is the latest person to come in for criticism, after she attended New York Fashion Week with braided hair. The beauty YouTuber was accused of "cultural appropriation" by some and even of being "anti black" by others for wearing a hairstyle not associated with her own race. Cultural appropriation is broadly defined as the adoption of elements of a minority culture - typically by members of a dominant culture. Dragun has not apologised, but has since made an Instagram post to her five million followers stating that she wore the hair "to show my love and appreciation for all the gorgeous black women in my life". But the response to her post has been divided. Some people deemed it satisfactory, as they simply wanted their community to be acknowledged. Ikonicmickey wrote: "Thank you, credit is all we want." But others have not accepted this, claiming that the post skirts around the criticism of cultural appropriation altogether. The hair is not the only thing that Dragun came under fire for online, as in an Instagram story she mentioned her heritage while defending her choice of hair. "This is a protective hairstyle used to protect the hair," she said. "I would never want to offend anybody. "Being part Native American, we also have braids and stuff like that." This video sparked a lot of criticism online, with people refuting the conflation of Native American and black ancestries. "Claiming Native ancestry still doesn't give you a pass to appropriate Black hairstyles," wrote one person, while another said they were "tired" of people using affiliation as an excuse. (Webmaster's comment: Nuts! No race owns a hairstyle. Wear whatever hairstyle you want.)
9-7-19 The maid who inspired a lineage of American women in astronomy
Williamina Paton Fleming had a choice. She could let the laughter die down and allow herself to be the butt of the joke, or she could stand up, turning the joke on its head and using the moment to her advantage. Her employer, Edward Charles Pickering, director of the Harvard College Observatory, had become so exasperated with the sloppy work of his male assistants — "computers," as they were called in those days — he'd quipped that his "Scotch maid" could do a better job. It was true: Fleming was his housemaid. It was also true that she had come to America from Scotland, where she'd been an excellent math student and then, beginning at 14, a student teacher. And it was true, she believed: She could do a better job. While the personal circumstances that had led her to take on domestic work had been less than ideal, she had been thrilled to be working in the house of the Observatory director, in proximity to the most productive and groundbreaking astronomy research lab in the country. During the past two years of Mina's employment, Pickering, noting her aptitude for numbers and her quick mind, had even allowed her to do a little clerical work at the Observatory, outside of the housecleaning and other domestic work she performed. But she was ready for something more. We don't know what the 24-year-old single mother's actual response was in that moment after the laughter subsided, whether it was a serious and bold, "Yes, I can do a better job," whether she met his frustrated, sarcastic suggestion with wit, whether she waited until later and approached him privately, quietly, after the workday was over; we don't even know for sure whether the "so easy my maid could do it" story of Pickering's reported pique is a faithful account or mere Harvard legend. What we do know is that in 1881, Mina Fleming took the opening her boss offered. It may have been suggested as a joke, but to her it was the opportunity of a lifetime, and in taking it she helped Pickering change the history of astronomy in America — and the opportunities available for women in that discipline — forever.
9-6-19 The woman who dares to run a feminist radio station in Afghanistan
The northern Afghan city of Kunduz is not the kind of place you'd expect to find a radio station run by women, promoting women's rights. But this is precisely what Radio Roshani is, and it's broadcasting today despite several attempts by the Taliban to kill its founder and editor, Sediqa Sherzai. Radio Roshani broadcasts to a man's world. In most of Afghanistan, tradition has long dictated that women and girls are rarely seen or heard outside the home. Amazingly, many men actually consider them their property. In 2008, Sediqa set up Radio Roshani to challenge such attitudes but quickly found herself at loggerheads with the Taliban. Although no longer in government, it has remained a force to be reckoned with in many parts of the country. At first it warned Sediqa to stop broadcasting. Then, in 2009, rockets were fired at the station. Briefly Sediqa halted broadcasts. She asked the Afghan government for protection, but it became clear that none was forthcoming. So after a few days she went back on air, "because we just couldn't give in to threats". There has continued to be much local resistance. Men have often told Sediqa that she is leading local women astray, and promoting conflict between men and women in the home. "These actions are so bad that you deserve to be killed - even more than an American does," they told her. So it was with particular horror that Sediqa watched Taliban sweep into Kunduz in September 2015, taking complete control of the city. Very soon her phone rang. "Someone speaking in the Pashtu language asked me where I was, wanting me to give my exact location," says Sediqa, who mostly speaks Dari (an Afghan version of Persian). "I wasn't sure who this person was and was suspicious. After that I turned off my phone and did my best to get away." This was a wise precaution. After finding the radio station's staff had fled, Taliban fighters destroyed the station's archives, stole its equipment and planted mines in the building.
8-7-19 Olga Misik: Russia’s ‘Tiananmen teen’ protester on front line
Wearing a protective vest, a young woman sat in front of Russia's riot police. On her lap was a copy of the Russian constitution, which she began reading to the heavily armoured police around her. Behind them was a demonstration calling for transparent Moscow elections, in which several people were injured. The photo went viral within minutes and Olga Misik, 17, became a symbol of Russia's pro-democracy movement. Some compared the image to Tiananmen Square's Tank Man, who stood in a tank's path in Beijing in 1989. "The situation in Russia is currently extremely unstable," Olga told the BBC. "The authorities are clearly getting very scared if they are consolidating armed forces from different parts of the country to chase peaceful protesters. And people's mentality has changed, as I can see." Moscow has seen regular weekend protests against the disqualification of independent candidates in September elections to the city assembly (Duma). The authorities, loyal to President Vladimir Putin, allege that opposition candidates failed to collect enough genuine signatures to register. Olga - who hopes to attend Moscow State University to study journalism in September - says her protest was not just about the upcoming elections: it was to highlight a drift away from the post-Soviet constitution, which valued the rights of Russian people. Olga says she doesn't support any particular political party. "I am only for myself and for the people. I have a neutral attitude towards [Alexei] Navalny and other opposition leaders, but I support what they are trying to do." Olga Misik was born and grew up in a Moscow suburb. The middle child in her family, she loved reading. Authors who spoke of dystopian futures and authoritarian regimes, like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, were particular favourites. She excelled at school, getting straight As, and had an interest in current affairs. But her interest in politics sharpened last autumn.
7-24-19 Women in space: How having more female astronauts benefits us all
Getting more women into space is essential if we're ever to run longer missions or even set up colonies off-planet. To do so we need a better understanding of how human bodies will cope in outer space. IN MARCH, the International Space Station was set to strike a blow for gender parity. NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were scheduled to perform the station’s first all-women spacewalk, a mere 20 years and 214 spacewalks after the first pair of men stepped off the ISS into the starry darkness. In the end, the long-anticipated spacewalk didn’t take place for an entirely trivial reason: the only spacesuit available for McClain to wear was a large, and she was a medium. The history of space travel is full of such incidents. An industry predominantly designed for and tested by men, it has always struggled to understand and accommodate the different needs of women. In the early years of space travel, one group of researchers said women were advised not to operate any complicated machines while on their period. When the US’s first female astronaut, Sally Ride, was going on a seven-day stay in space, she was offered 100 tampons along with a make-up bag. Even today, space radiation shields designed for women struggle to fit the female body. There have recently been signs that things are getting better. Space agencies are accepting more women onto their astronaut training programmes, and are starting to learn from the experiences of those who have already visited space. The first all-women spacewalks are coming. The role of women in crewed space exploration goes all the way back to its beginnings. On 16 June 1963, only two years after Yuri Gagarin became the first human to leave Earth’s atmosphere, the Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova replicated his feat with a solo trip on Vostok 6. Her mission proved that women could join men as equals in this burgeoning field, their roles not relegated to that of passengers or, in the words of one NASA report, “improving crew morale”.
7-21-19 Women in science: Smashing glass ceilings and glass walls
A woman engineer who worked on the moon landing spoke this week of how she was once told the control room was no place for women. Things have changed a lot in 50 years, but not as fast as some had hoped. BBC News spoke to five scientists from different generations who are breaking barriers in their field.
- The Pioneer: Prof Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Famous for discovering the first pulsar more than 50 years ago, Prof Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell has also been a lifelong advocate of women in science.
- The research leader: Dr Nicola Beer: Dr Nicola Beer's interest in science developed at an early age; one of her earliest memories is of watching her teacher demonstrate the concept of sound waves using a paper plate filled with rice and a portable speaker at primary school.
- The trailblazer: Gladys Ngetich: When Gladys Ngetich was told in a meeting, 'You don't look like an engineer,' she went home wondering what an engineer was supposed to look like.
- Pushing boundaries: Dr Megan Wheeler: How do you solve the big challenges facing the world? Science holds the solutions, but only if you look at problems through multiple lenses. That's the view of Dr Megan Wheeler, who, as executive director of the HSchmidt Science Fellows programme, is on a mission to train the next generation of science leaders.
- The rising star: Elina Aino Johanna Pörsti: The daughter of a physics teacher and a medical doctor, Elina Aino Johanna Pörsti grew up in Finland in a family where scientific dialogue was second nature. When there was thunder, her father would explain the physics behind it, while her mother would explain the human body.
7-14-19 Megan Rapinoe: Why is America's newest hero so polarising?
She won the World Cup, was player of the tournament and top scorer, then stole the show at the ticker tape parade with both her swagger and her speech - but Megan Rapinoe is also a polarising figure who inspires anger as well as adoration. Why? The summer so far has belonged to the 33-year-old co-captain of the US women's soccer team who scored six goals as the reigning world champions retained their crown. She's been on talk shows and magazine covers, and children across America - girls and boys alike - are out practicing their football skills, dreaming of becoming the next Megan Rapinoe. But just a day after that triumph in France, while Rapinoe and her teammates were probably still partying, public posters of the star back in her homeland were being vandalised. Homophobic slurs were scrawled across them, and New York police say they are investigating a possible hate crime. Online, where her goal celebrations and dance moves sparked joyous memes, you will also find comments denigrating her attitude and activism, some even questioning her patriotism. One conservative commentator insists she is actually a bad role model for girls. "They look up to her and see not a disciplined, respectful sports icon, but a groundlessly bitter, petulant celebrity who is totally ungrateful for the opportunities she's had," wrote Brad Polumbo. While most critics say their dislike for the athlete has nothing to do with her sexuality, the kind of American hero that Rapinoe represents - strong, gay and female - is clearly triggering to some. In a viral video filmed by a teammate, Rapinoe was seen yelling "I deserve this" into the camera before taking a swig of champagne aboard the open-top bus driving through Manhattan. Such a display of unabashed confidence is not customary for women, says University of California Berkeley history professor Bonnie Morris. Women are traditionally expected to "put themselves down and be modest". (Webmaster's comment: Well to hell with that!) "Women are very careful not to seem too assertive or knowledgeable because it's taken as a kind of cockiness that is a turn-off to men," she explains. However, the openly gay athlete does not appear fussed about how she comes across to men. When Rapinoe posed confidently with her head held high after one of her World Cup goals, the image took off on the internet with many people praising her confidence. Others, though, called her egotistical. "Nobody knows what to do with Megan because she's attractive, smart and a fantastic athlete," says Ms Morris. "She's earned the right to present herself as capable, but still people don't want to let her show pride." There is a double standard, she says. Male athletes can be brash and pound their chests without being criticised, adds Ms Morris, but because Rapinoe is a pink-haired lesbian willing to take on President Trump, she is startling people who haven't encountered anyone like her before. (Webmaster's comment: One hell of a hero!)
7-8-19 Women's World Cup 2019: Fans react to US vs Netherlands final
The US celebrated its fourth Women's World Cup victory by defeating the Netherlands. For fans of both teams, it was about more than just the game - it was a chance to highlight equal rights in women's sports. There were also celebrations for USA striker Megan Rapinoe who won the Golden Boot by helping her side beat the Netherlands 2-0. The 34-year-old scored a second-half penalty to finish the tournament with six goals and three assists.
6-23-19 The women fighting for Lapland
As climate change affects the livelihoods of Finland's indigenous Sami people, a proposed new Arctic railway, forestry and mining could change Lapland forever. Climate change affects the Arctic more than any other part of the Earth, and it's been damaging reindeer-herding and fishing - the traditional livelihoods of the indigenous Sami people.
6-4-19 How America's richest women made their fortunes
Forbes has released its list of America's richest self-made women. While there are a number of celebrities named there are also a host of others who have built successful recognisable business empires. We've been looking at some of the wealthy over-achieving women and the industries that have helped them accumulate their riches.If you want to be rich you should perhaps consider starting your own make-up line. The make-up and skincare industries have helped promote 10 of the 80 women on the list to both millionaire and billionaire status. You may be surprised to hear the richest make-up entrepreneur, according to Forbes, is not in fact Kylie Jenner but Romanian-born Anastasia Soare. The businesswoman is the name behind the Anastasia Beverly Hills cosmetics line. Ms Soare moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and in 2000 started a line of eyebrow products. Forbes now values her cosmetics brand at $1.2bn (£950m), slightly ahead of Kylie Jenner's Kylie Cosmetics range, Kim Kardashian West's KKW Beauty, and Fenty Beauty by Rihanna. Huda Kattan also makes the list. Born to Iraqi parents, Kattan quit her job in finance to become a make-up artist. She founded Huda Beauty in 2013 and Forbes values her company at $610m."I'm not financially motivated," Huda told the BBC in an interview last year. "I'm here for a purpose, I'm not here because I want to make a lot of money, I'm never like, 'oh my God, this is going to make a lot of money, let's do this.'" Other millionaires who can thank make-up for their fortunes include two women whose cosmetics ranges were bought by L'Oreal. Toni Ko sold her NYX Cosmetics brand in 2014 in a deal thought to be worth $500m. Jamie Kern Lima, a former news anchor, also sold her It Cosmetics range to L'Oreal and went on to become the firm's first female chief executive. Tennis superstar Serena Williams appears as the only female self-made millionaire sportswoman. Explaining why Serena made the list, Forbes says: "She has invested in 34 start-ups over the past five years through Serena Ventures in a portfolio worth at least $10m. "She launched a self-funded, direct-to-consumer clothing line, S by Serena, in 2018. She also owns stakes in the Miami Dolphins and UFC. "She has more than a dozen corporate partners, and her $89m in career prize money is twice as much as any other female athlete."
5-23-19 What happens when women lawmakers are the majority?
Nevada is the first US state with more women legislators than men. Teresa Benitez Thompson, the assembly's floor leader, says it's affecting the state's policy-making.
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.”