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Women in the News: Highlights November 10, 2009
by Julie Norwell

A Texas police woman is a national hero for ending the Fort Hood massacre; Nordic countries are the world’s most egalitarian; 50 women become the first female police officers in Iraq; The new Women’s Leadership Fund will focus investment in companies whose boards include women; A well-behaved woman makes history. Here are highlights of recent women-related news our readers should note:

American police woman, Sgt Kim Munley, is hailed a hero after stopping the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. Munley, 34, responded within minutes to the sound of the gunfire. She raced to find gunman Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and fired on him as he sprayed unarmed soldiers with bullets. Hasan reportedly wheeled around and began targeting Munley. Despite begin hit herself, twice in both legs and once in her wrist, she continued shooting, hitting Hasan four times, including in the upper torso, and bringing an end to the massacre. Hasan is reportedly paralyzed from his injuries.

The event is being called the worst massacre on an Army base in U.S. history – 13 people were killed and about three dozen were wounded – but authorities have said the death toll would have been far worse if not for the heroic actions of Munley. The mother of two girls is a former soldier who became a member of Fort Hood’s civilian police department. She is also a firearms instructor, a weapons and marksman expert, and a member of the base’s SWAT team.


A group of 50 women became the first female graduates of Iraq’s police officer training academy. Women have worked in the lower ranks of the police force in Iraq for a long time, but this year the government changed the rules that had previously barred them from the elite officers’ corps. The coveted jobs of officer in the national police force are among the highest paying jobs in Iraq, albeit one of the most dangerous. The women graduates, who call themselves the Lioness group, joined 1,050 male classmates at the graduating ceremony. As women, the new officers will likely face threats from disapproving men. But that doesn’t appear to deter more women from joining the ranks; reportedly next year’s class will have twice the number of this year’s group. For more information go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/world/middleeast/10iraq.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print.


Nordic countries are the world’s most egalitarian according to a recently released report by the World Economic Forum. The annual Global Gender Gap Report assesses how well countries “are dividing their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources and opportunities." This year, Iceland claimed the top spot from Norway in the ranking. The top four spots went to Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden in that order. South Africa and Lesotho impressively closed their gender gaps to enter the top 10, at sixth and 10th position, respectively. New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and the Philippines rounded out the rest of the top 10 list. The United States came in much further down the list in 31st place, three spots lower than it was last year. The Global Gender Gap Report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four critical areas:
1) Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment.
2) Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher-level education.
3) Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures.
4) Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio.

The index scores are meant to indicate the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed, so a higher score on the index represents a more gender-equal society. For more information go to: http://www.weforum.org/en/Communities/Women%20Leaders%20and%20Gender%20Parity/GenderGapNetwork/index.htm.

A Swiss investment company will start a fund that will invest specifically in companies whose boards include women. Naissance Capital will also take minority stakes in companies without women on their boards in order to encourage changes. The new fund, called the Women’s Leadership Fund, will begin in January. R. James Breiding, a co-founder of Naissance Capital, explained that the fund was created after several studies showed a correlation between the number of female directors and a company’s performance. The fund’s board will include an impressive roster of professional women, including Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada; Cherie Blair, a lawyer and the wife of Tony Blair, former minister of Great Britain; and Jenny Shipley, former prime minister of New Zealand.


Naissance is just the latest of several firms over the past three years to invest in companies with female senior executives. The decision to do so came on the heels of two different studies in 2007, by business research firms McKinsey and Catalyst, that showed that the companies in Europe and the United States with the most women on their boards were more profitable than others. For more information go to: http://www.naissancecapital.com/NC/?id=35.

“Well-behaved women seldom make history,apostrophe but the woman who coined that phrase has. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Harvard’s 300th Anniversary University Professor and current president of the American Historical Association recently received the John F. Kennedy Medal of the Massachusetts Historical Society – the first woman ever to do so. The Kennedy Medal is the society’s highest honor and is awarded to people who have rendered distinguished service to the cause of history. Ulrich won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1991 for her book A Midwifeapostrophes Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, which became the basis of a PBS documentary. Her 2007 book, “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History," tells the story behind the “accidental slogan" that she used first in one of her scholarly articles and which has become popularized on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and so on. For more information go to: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/10/ulrich-receives-kennedy-medal/.