Visible Women

From Icelandic protesters to Meghan Markle: the women making waves this week

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Moya Crockett
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Dropping every Friday, Women Making Waves is a series highlighting the women who rocked the boat, pushed for change and made history around the world this week.      

Women in Japan demand compensation for university exam discrimination


Tokyo Medical School, which admitted deliberately keeping out female applicants

Earlier this year, one of Japan’s most prestigious medical schools admitted that it had been deliberately changing the entrance exam marks of prospective female students, in a bid to keep women out of the university.

The blatant acknowledgement of gender discrimination sent shockwaves around the world. Now, women who applied unsuccessfully to Tokyo Medical School over the last 12 years have announced plans to demand compensation from the school.

Lawyers for over 20 female former applicants said on Tuesday (23 October) that the women plan to file a request demanding that the university pay ¥100,000 (£697) in damages for every year an applicant took its entrance exams.

They will also demand that the university reveal their real exam scores, refund their exam fees and cover other costs such as travelling expenses.

Yukiko Tsunoda, the head of the lawyers’ group, told The Japan Times that she was “appalled by the large number of people who were rejected” as a result of the rigging.

“It is terrifying to think this would have been shrouded in darkness if it wasn’t exposed.”

Meghan Markle champions importance of female education

megan markle

Meghan Markle delivers her first royal tour speech in Fiji 

Also on Tuesday, Meghan Markle delivered her first royal tour speech – which she used to highlight the importance of education for women and girls.

Addressing an audience of students and staff at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, the Duchess of Sussex said that education was an essential part of women’s empowerment.

“Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to receive the education they want, but more importantly the education they have the right to receive,” she said. “And for women and girls in developing countries, this is vital.

“When girls are given the right tools to succeed, they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves but for all of those around them.”

Read more of Meghan’s speech here

Women in Iceland – including the Prime Minister – leave work to protest the gender pay gap 

Katrín Jakobsdottir

Icelandic PM Katrín Jakobsdottir participated in the walkout 

Iceland is ranked the best country in the world for gender equality, but there is still a significant gender pay gap.

On Wednesday (24 October), women all over the country walked out of their workplaces to protest pay inequality. They downed tools at exactly 2.55pm, 74% of the way through the traditional 9-5 working day – a reference to the fact that Icelandic women earn on average 26% less than men.

It was the sixth time that women in Iceland have taken part in such a protest, with the first of its kind taking place in 1975.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdottir, the leader of the country’s Left-Green movement and an avowed feminist, was one of the women to leave work early on Wednesday. Writing in Icelandic newspaper Frettabladid ahead of the walkout, she said that the country has “not been successful in eliminating the wage gap between men and women, and women in addition continue to take on the biggest proportion of unpaid work, such as childcare and housework.”

One day after women in Iceland walked out over pay inequality, the UK’s Office of National Statistics revealed that our gender pay gap is the lowest it’s ever been – but things aren’t quite as positive as they might seem

Sahle-Work Zewde becomes Ethiopia’s first female president 

Sahle Work Zewde

Sahle-Work Zewde (right) is sworn in as Ethiopia’s first female president 

On Thursday (25 October), the Ethiopian parliament elected its first female president: Sahle-Work Zewde, a former diplomat and UN representative.

President Sahle-Work, 68, previously served as the Ethiopian ambassador to Senegal, Djibouti and France. Until earlier this year, she was also the director-general of the United Nations Office at Nairobi and the under-secretary-general of the United Nations to the African Union.

Now, she is Africa’s only female head of state. The presidency in Ethiopia is a largely ceremonial position, but her election comes shortly after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed filled half the posts in the cabinet with women politicians.

In a speech after being sworn in, President Sahle-Work promised to promote peace and women’s rights. And she had a message for people who thought she was focusing too much on gender equality: “If you thought I spoke a lot about women already, know that I am just getting started.”

Women Making Waves is part of Stylist’s Visible Women campaign to raise awareness of women who’ve made a difference to society. See more Visible Women stories here.  

Images: Getty Images