(Or so) because there are so many to choose from, and definitely some we have missed.
Up until around 1960, there were still classified ads in the yellow pages posting jobs for women and men as separate lists. Much progress has been made for gender equality in the workplace since then, but with only 32 female CEOs in S&P500 companies and a very real gender pay gap in 2017, much work has still got to be done.
The achievements of the following women signal to us, if one could do the job, and do it well, who cares what their race, gender or sexual orientation is? And according to an important study of 7000+ leaders in various roles, women are seen as better leaders than men by people around them. More women in the workplace is not only better for women, it’s better for the world.
The future is female. And so was 2017… good parts of it. Here, we rounded up some of the greatest achievements by women in 2017.
1. Beyoncé became the world’s highest-paid woman in music
With the release of her 6th solo album Lemonade and the ensuing world tour, Queen Bey became the highest-paid woman in music, pulling in USD105 million in 2017.
Born in 1981 in Houston, Texas, Beyoncé Knowles started singing in her elementary school’s choir, but first captured the public's eye as lead vocalist of the R&B group Destiny's Child. She later established a solo career with her debut album Dangerously in Love. Throughout her career, Beyoncé has sold an estimated 100 million records as a solo artist, and a further 60 million records with the group Destiny's Child. She has won 22 Grammy Awards and is the most nominated woman in the award's history. She is also the most awarded artist at the MTV Video Music Awards, with 24 wins.
Beyoncé has not only achieved a lot in her career, she is also a self-described feminist, endorser of same-sex marriage and supporter of gender and racial equality, showing an example of success that is not only about the lifting oneself, but about lifting others along as well. Her achievements are a win for women – especially for women of color.
2. Mira Duma launched Future Tech Lab with USD50 million to invest in sustainable innovation in fashion
Mira Duma is not an unfamiliar face to the fashion industry. Known as the founder of hip media site Buro 24/7 and a burgeoning media mogul, Duma just added another company to her portfolio in 2017 – the founding of Future Tech Lab (formerly Fashion Tech Lab), a hybrid venture that is part investment fund with USD50m to invest, accelerator and experimental laboratory to commercialize new technologies and sustainable innovation for the fashion industry.
There are certainly other investment funds which support emerging technologies and startups that are both good businesses and socially conscious, but FTL is the first one that focuses particularly on fashion. This is an important turning point for the industry because as conversations on the importance of responsible, sustainability and ethical fashion become louder than ever, an influential voice such as Duma’s matters in pushing the conversation and movement of a sustainable future forward. This is especially true when advocacy is supplemented by tangible support in terms of funding and mentorship, showing that sustainable innovation isn’t just good for morals, but good for the bottom line as well.
3. Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person to be elected to American legislature
Danica Roem is an American journalist and politician of the Democratic Party from Northern Virginia. In the 2017 elections, she was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates - She is the first openly transgender person to be elected to the Virginia legislature.
But she is quick to prove that being transgender isn’t the whole of her identity and her only mission. In an article on New York times titled “Danica Roem is Really, Really Boring” – the writer recounts how he caught her on TV and she was talking about…. Traffic lights. He got disappointed for a moment before realizing that’s exactly what she is here to do – improve people’s lives – be it about gender equality or something as boring as their morning commute.
Roem is a brilliant example of a talented, caring individual who achieved a position of influence despite being a minority, but also of a community that elected her in spite of it. This is truly a heart-warming win in the fight for inclusiveness and gender equality.
Other female leaders to break the glass ceiling in politics include: Jacinda Ardern – youngest New Zealand Prime Minister in 150 years, 3rd ever woman PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir – Iceland’s newly elected Prime Minister, 2nd ever woman PM
4. Zhou Qunfei became richest self-made woman in the world with company Lens Technology
Worth USD9.9 billion, she is in fact one of the 21 women from China who make up the majority (37.5%) of the Forbes 2017 Self-made Female Billionaire list. She made her achievements through her company Lens Technology, which makes glass screens for iPhones.
The story of Zhou Qunfei is inspirational to say the very least. She grew up in a small village in central China. Her mother died when she was five and her father became partially blinded and lost a finger in an industrial accident. At age 16, she was forced to leave high school to provide for her family and she soon scored a job at a factory making watch lenses for about $1 a day.
At age 22, she struck out on her own. With only USD3,000 in her pocket, Zhou and a few relatives started a workshop, making watch lenses for customers. At the time, she lived and worked in a small apartment with her siblings, their partners and two cousins.
Though the company was steadily growing, it wasn't until she made the career-changing decision to begin making glass screens for mobile phones that her business took off. Lens Technology has grown tremendously and now employs over 74,000 people across 32 factories in seven different locations.
Money is not everything, but the highlight on financial achievements of women is important because income and gender equality are inherently linked. With higher levels of financial empowerment comes higher level of influence and access to opportunity, both at home and at work.
5. Reed Morano became the third woman ever to win an Emmy for Best Director
This year, Reed Morano won an Emmy for best director in a drama series for The Handmaid’s Tale. Morano is only the third woman ever to win the category — and the first in 22 years.
The Handmaid’s Tale follows the dystopian story of Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States of America. Because of dangerously low reproduction rates, fertile Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving.
This Emmy for Morano comes at a time when issues about women’s rights are discussed more urgently than ever, and when there is an increasing effort on part of the US TV industry to boost the number of female directors. Initiatives include Ryan Murphy’s Half, which aims to hire 50% female directors to work on all his television shows; and NBC’s Female Forward initiative, which, starting with the 2018-2019 season, will provide female directors with the opportunity to shadow episodes of an NBC series, followed by an in-season commitment to direct at least one episode.
It is important to get more women into directing and executive film industry roles because how else could the female side of the story be genuinely represented and told?
Another female worth mentioning in film is Patty Jenkins, who is to become the highest paid female director with Wonder Woman 2.
6. Hito Steyerl became the first female artist to top Art Review’s Power 100 List
Hito Steryerl is a German filmmaker, visual artist, writer, and innovator of the essay documentary, who deals primarily with topics such as media, technology, and the global circulation of images. This year, she became the first female artist to top the British magazine ArtReview’s Power100 list.
Oliver Basciano, ArtReview’s international editor, said Steyerl was a huge influence to other artists. “The way she works, not just her actual work but the way she runs her studio, is an influence and an inspiration to many younger artists. She looks to disrupt power networks that you can probably see run through the Power 100 and run though the art world.” The New York Times writes: “She illuminates the world’s power structures, inequalities, obscurities and delights. She pushes buttons as she spins parables.”
One of her most well-known pieces is a video work displayed at Tate Modern – 'How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File' (2013). Beneath layers of metaphors and satirical humor, she aims to how 'not being seen' has both oppressive and liberating possibilities. In it the narrator speaks: “There are 13 ways of becoming invisible by disappearing – living in a gated community, being fitted with an invisibility cloak, being a superhero…. Being female and over fifty.”
The irony is not lost that at age 51, Steyerl is anything but invisible.
7. Malala Yousafzai began her studies at Oxford 5 years after an attempted assassination on her for speaking out for girls’ education
Since a young age, Malala Yousafzai has been a high-profile advocate for the education of girls in Pakistan, and spoke out frequently about the Taliban edict that forbade girls from attending classes. But that outspokenness came at a price – on Oct. 9, 2012, when she was 15, a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus, asked for her by name and shot her in the head and neck.
Severely injured in the attack, Ms. Yousafzai was transferred to Britain for medical treatment. She soon settled with her family in Birmingham, England, and founded the Malala Fund with her father in 2013, where she continued her activism work, believing that girls are the best investment in the future peace and prosperity of our world. The next year, in 2014, she became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Fast forward to October, 2017, 5 years after the assassination attempt on her, she began her studies at University of Oxford in UK.
Malala stands as a shining example of bravery, persistence and compassion in the face of difficulty – another day that Malala Yousafzai is able to do her work is another day of victory for women everywhere.
Last but not least…
8. Women spoke out in #MeToo movement against sexual harassment
All the women of #metoo movement deserve a round of applause, from those whose names we know to those who remain anonymous. The movement actually started a decade ago before social media even existed. Tarana Burke listened to a 13-year-old girl who has been sexually abused in 1997, and ten years later, she started Just Be Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps victims of sexual harassment and assault - and committed herself to being there for girls and women who have been sexually abused, giving the movement a name – Me Too.
On Oct 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too.' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."- kicking off the wide spread sharing of women’s experiences with sexual harassment. We realized from the sudden appearing of #metoo posts from not just celebrities, but friends, colleagues and family members we know personally how much more common the problem is than we assumed. It also shows that unlike in the past, people who couldn’t’ speak up before now have the power to voice their opinion on a public platform and find a support community who share their experiences – powerful people can’t hide their abuses of power behind an opaque curtain that easily anymore – they would be held accountable for unjust behaviors.
The #metoo movement is another milestone for the advancement of gender equality, and everyone, men or women who has been brave enough to share their experiences or supported victims deserve to be applauded.
Barbara Kruger, “Your Comfort is my Silence” (1981)
These are just a few examples of women who have achieved amazing things in 2017. Did I miss any? Do you have anyone else’ story you’d like to share? Comment on my Instagram to let me know!