We may have far to go before gender equality is achieved worldwide, but 2018 was a year that proved positive progress is being made across the globe to balance the scales. While the previous year was characterised by headlines of harassment and gender bias, 2018 saw the momentum of the #MeToo movement spread across the world as many women came forward to speak out against their perpetrators.
Naturally, the last twelve months have not been without challenges. From the Kavanaugh hearings to the great gender pay gap revelation back in April, it doesn’t take an expert to see the struggle that women and girls still face in their fight for equality and their own career ambitions.
But with challenge came change. Whether it’s the numerous new laws on violence against women that were overturned or the first world leader taking maternity leave, certain undeniable strides made by women throughout the year helped to keep hope alive. To mark International Women’s Day, we’re looking at some of the amazing achievements from inspirational women in 2018:
Already, the rise of the #MeToo movement was a significant step in the right direction to expose the sexual harassment and abuse faced by women in the entertainment industry, but the new year brought a shift in focus away from identifying the problem to demanding solutions. As 2018 got underway, more than 300 women in Hollywood – actors, agents, directors, writers and producers – announced the formation of Time’s Up, a Legal Defence Fund created to counter systemic sexual abuse and gender-based injustices not only in the entertainment industry but in workplaces across the world.
Without Us the World Stops
International Women’s Day 2018 saw over 5 million workers take part in Spain’s first “feminist strike,” according to data from trade unions. Under the slogan ‘without us, the world stops,’ protesters congregated in cities including Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville and Pamplona as part of a two-hour walkout intended to highlight the rampant sexual discrimination, domestic violence and the persistent gender wage gap that still exists within workplaces across the country. Calling for change and equality, the strike called for end to Spain’s ‘machista’ culture.
The first world leader takes maternity leave
In June, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave birth to her first child and become one of few world leaders to give birth while in office. Not only is Arden the youngest female world leader, but she’s also the first to take six weeks of maternity leave during her time in office – a move intended to set an example not just for new mothers in workplaces in New Zealand, but the entire developed world. This is especially important in our current climate, where women constantly miss out of opportunities or are discriminated against for entering motherhood while in employment.
The New York Stock Exchange gets its first female president
It’s been 226 years since the formation of the New York Stock Exchange, and in all this time, there hasn’t been one female president – until now. In 2018, Stacey Cunningham, who began her career as a summer intern on the New York stock exchange 24 years ago, became the first ever female president of the NYSE, raising hopes that the glass ceiling in Wall Street might soon start to crack. In a symbolic gesture, city authorities led by New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, moved the Fearless Girl, a statue commissioned to stare down the 7,000lb Charging Bull of Wall Street, to a spot outside the exchange.
Activism encourages steps to end gender-based violence
In December, activists from across the globe came together to kick-off the UN-led campaign ’16 Days of Activism’ aimed at putting an end once and for all to gender-based violence. Between November 25th and December 10th, over 600 activities took place across 90 different countries in the world and iconic landmarks such as Mexico’s Angel of Independence and the majestic pyramids of Giza lit up orange in support of a violence-free future.
Women make unprecedented strides in politics
The 2018 US elections saw women playing a bigger role than they have in any other election in American history. Not only did two hundred and fifty-five women in total run for office across the two major parties, but Democratic women won nearly half of their races (47 per cent) while Republican women won 24 per cent of their races. Meanwhile in Mexico, gender parity has been achieved in its cabinet, bringing the country to fourth place for highest women’s legislative representation. In other notable leaps, Romania, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Ethiopia were of the several countries celebrating their first female leader.
From grassroots activism to legislative action, 2018 saw a fight on all fronts for feminism and gender equality. As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2019, we must recognise the contributions of our sisters so far and continue to fix our focus on focus on practical ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, whether it’s in the workplace or on the world stage.