Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, from September 2 to September 8, was compiled by Valerie Wirtschafter and Ariella Rotenberg.
Restrictions permanently lifted on women in Army Ranger School
Last month, Captain Kristen Griest and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate from Army Ranger School. They began Ranger School as part of a one-time, trial class of 19 women and 381 men. Following their success, the Army announced last week that it would move to open Ranger School to women permanently. The Army’s decision to open the doors to Ranger School comes at a time when military leaders are debating how and to what extent they will integrate women into certain combat positions that remain closed to female soldiers. By January 1, 2016, the secretary of defense will decide if all positions will open to women or provide justification for seeking an exemption.
Japanese government passes bill to promote the role of women in the workplace
The Japanese government recently passed legislation requiring any company with more than 300 employees to set numerical targets for the employment and promotion of women. Those same companies will be required to disclose their targets and progress publicly. As part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promotion of “womenomics,” the law aims to address significant gender disparities in the workplace, including in management positions. There are no specific numerical requirements written into the law itself, but companies are asked to determine their own targets. Some experts say the lack of concrete targets softens the impact of the new law, while others argue that allowing companies to set their own goals will be more effective. The government has incentivized the success of the program by offering preferential bids for government contracts to companies that achieve their goals. The law will go into effect on April 1, 2016.
Twentieth anniversary of the landmark United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women
Last week marked the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, where then-U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton famously proclaimed that “women’s rights are human rights,” and one hundred and eighty-nine nations adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Two decades later, the world has seen significant progress in removing barriers to gender equality, but serious gaps still remain. To commemorate this anniversary, the Chinese government—despite its recent actions against women’s rights activists in China—plans to co-host a UN summit on gender equality and women’s empowerment with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in New York City. In the lead up to this event, high profile figures in the U.S. government, including U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, are drawing attention to women around the world who are held unjustly as political prisoners through the “FreeThe20 Campaign.”