In 2020, women led change in the face of turbulent times. Here are six defining moments for women in the last year.

By Olivia Huntley

The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of COVID-19. However, our society also made notable strides for women’s rights and gender equality. From groundbreaking wins in government to critical leadership during the global pandemic, we wanted to highlight some of the amazing accomplishments of women over the past year. 

Kamala Harris makes history as the first woman of color to serve as VP of the United States.

“Kamala Goes to Kindergarten” by by Phil Roeder

“My mother would look at me and she’d say, ‘Kamala you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.’”

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris’s election as vice president has decisively shattered the glass ceiling above the Oval Office. She is the first woman, first Black woman and first South Asian woman to serve as vice president of the United States. Vice President Harris also holds the distinction of being the highest ranking elected female official in the United States.

A record number of women and women of color are elected as state and federal representatives. 

“When we face unprecedented challenges, we must respond with bold solutions and fearless leadership.”

Congresswoman Cori Bush, first Black Missouri congresswoman

The 2020 state-wide elections led to the highest proportion of women elected as state representatives (29.3%). Nevada, notable for its 51% female-majority legislature as of 2018, now has over 60% of its seats filled by women. At the federal level, women represent 26% of the 535 members of congress. And of those, 35% are women of color. 

Female leaders stepped up to the challenge of COVID-19.

Image by EU2017EE

“…the pandemic can’t be fought with lies and disinformation, and neither can it be with hatred and agitation.”

Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Germany

While the world worked to respond to COVID-19, research suggests that in countries with women leaders, governments were able to respond more quickly and more effectively. In countries including New Zealand, Germany and Bangladesh, the quick and decisive actions of women in charge led to lower cases and lower deaths.

Two women receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

“Embrace your interests, your passions, and really give it your all!”

Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer A. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work to turn molecules made by microbes into a tool for customizing genes called Crispr-Cas9. Their joint win marks the first time in history that the prize has gone to two women. And they are only the sixth and seventh women to win the Prize in Chemistry.

Katie Sowers is the first openly gay female coach in Super Bowl history.

“Be proud of what you’ve done; and when someone brags about you, acknowledge the credit you’ve been given.”

Katie Sowers

Katie Sowers became the first openly gay woman and first female to coach in the NFL when she joined the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. In Super Bowl LV, Sowers made history. She was the first woman to coach in the Super Bowl. Sowers has since paved the way for more women to join the NFL coaching ranks. 

TIME’s first-ever kid of the year is a girl.

“Do not give up, and always remember the bigger goal of making a difference.”

Gitanjali Rao

TIME’s inaugural Kid of the Year recognizes contributions of positivity and community in the world. The first recipient, fifteen-year-old inventor Gitanjali Rao, developed an app called Kindly that uses artificial intelligence to recognize and prevent cyberbullying at an early stage. Rao is currently working on a way to determine the presence of biocontaminants in water using DNA amplification.


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