From milestones in traditionally male-dominated careers, to legalisation of marriage equality and voting rights, 2015 and 2016 have been full of leaps and bounds for women.
1. Angela Merkel honoured.
Angela Merkel, the first female chancellor of Germany, continues to rack up the accolades; in 2015, she was named the Most Powerful Women in the World (for the 9th time) and the second-Most Powerful Person by Forbes magazine. Time Magazine also named her person of the year, and for good reason. Merkel has continued to support Germany’s economy; avoid national recessions; and welcome and aid a refugee influx.
2. Sarah Thomas was hired as the first full-time line official for the NFL.
In April, Sarah Thomas – a former college football official – became the first full-time female official in the history of the National Football League. Prior to that, she was also the first female to officiate in a Big Ten stadium and the first to officiate a post-season college bowl game. She officiated her first regular season game in September.
3. It was confirmed that a woman will appear on the American $10 bill by 2020.
The US Treasury Department announced that, come 2020, the American $10 note will be redesigned to feature a woman. As of yet, the woman to appear has not been decided but there are suggestions that it could be anyone from Harriet Tubman or Eleanor Roosevelt, to Rosa Parks or Wilma Mankiller. The decision will be announced at the end of 2016 and the changeover in 2020 will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment of the US Constitution (which gave women the right to vote).
4. Same-sex marriage was legalised in the United States, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg leading the Supreme Court decision.
On June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage was legalised in the United States. The decision was due, in large part, to the women justices of the Supreme Court and, in particular, the actions of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg was a vocal activist whose reason resonated in debates and hearings, and as the officiator of a same-sex wedding in New York City. Ginsburg’s firm support of the belief that same-sex couples should be free to marry in all 50 states made it so.
5. Saudi Arabian women voted for the first time ever.
In the Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there have long been restrictions on women disabling them from enjoying the same privileges as men. In the lead up to the most recent election (only the third in Saudi history), 130,000 women registered to vote for municipal councils in Saudi Arabia, and 18 women from across the country were elected into office.
6. Barbie introduced dolls of various body shapes and sizes, with Mattel shifting focus to diverse representation of the modern woman.
With an active focus to better represent their audience and consumers, Mattel launched the Fashionista line of Barbies. The new line features four body types, seven skin tones, 22 eye colours, 24 hairstyles and “countless on-trend fashions and accessories,” according to Mattel. From 2016 onwards, Barbie will also have moveable ankles, marking a change in the expectation of style for dolls and young girls alike. Some dolls are available online now, with more to come soon.
7. Viola Davis became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for the Best Actress in a Drama.
Viola Davis, who has featured in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, United States of Tara and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close among others, won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the 67th Emmy Awards for her role on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder. It was the first time the Emmy was awarded to an African-American actress. Her acceptance speech spoke to a greater need for equality in the industry, and marked a call to redefine what a “leading woman” looks like in modern American television with more roles for African-American women: “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
8. The #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement took gender equality in STEM fields to new heights.
After her photograph was used on an advertising billboard for an engineering company, full-stack engineer Isis Anchalee was thrust into the spotlight. Photos of the billboard circled the internet with claims that her image didn’t represent what female engineers looked like. In response, Anchalee wrote a piece on Medium.com and posted a photograph with the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer. A community of women in STEM joined the conversation, posting photographs of themselves with the same hashtag, raising awareness of sexism and gender bias and shifting expectations in the industry.
More recently, in Australia, the federal government announced a national STEM strategy for primary and secondary school students to implement better teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.