Whether they were marching in the streets, running for office, or launching a movement against harassment and abuse, women spent 2017 pushing for change and insisting that their perspectives be heard.
Throughout this year, I’ve often thought about 1992, which had been dubbed the “Year of the Woman.” The sight of Anita Hill testifying about sexual harassment in front of an all-male committee highlighted the need for more women in positions of power. So women across the country spent 1992 campaigning for change — until that November, when four were elected to the U.S. Senate, tripling the number of female senators from two to six and paving the way for others to follow.
Many women in my generation tell our daughters about 1992. Looking back on this year, I bet our daughters will tell theirs about 2017. Here are some of the women whose bravery, talent, and grit made it a year to remember.
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who broke the story about Harvey Weinstein. Together, through tireless reporting, they took stories that had been whispered for years and amplified them for the world to hear. In doing so, they communicated to women across the country that their stories of harassment should be heard, too. Twohey says she’d sit with her daughter before work and tell her: “Mom is going to the office to do something really important. It will hopefully make the world a safer place for girls like you.”
Tarana Burke, whose work helped turn a story into a movement. A social activist, Burke has dedicated her life to helping victims of sexual harassment and assault. She created the #MeToo campaign over a decade ago — and this fall, she helped it sweep across the world. “I’ve been saying from the beginning it’s not just a moment, it’s a movement,” Burke told Time. “Now the work really begins.”
Freada Kapor Klein, who pushed Silicon Valley to take action. As early investors in Uber, Kapor Klein and her husband, Mitch, published an open letter warning about the company’s toxic work environment — and the way investors were ignoring similar problems all across the tech industry. Kapor has long shed light on sexism in the Valley and spoken out about the ways in which tech culture is “deeply flawed.” And through the Kapor Center for Social Impact, she’s dedicating investment dollars, research, and donations to help fix it.
Government leaders who advocated relentlessly for the women in their countries. When people ask me why we need more women in positions of power, I point to the incredible progress that women leaders are driving all over the world. Take Senegal’s minister of state, Dr. Awa Marie Coll-Seck: She worked with logistics experts to ensure that even her country’s most remote health clinics would always have contraceptives in stock for the women who rely on them. And then there’s Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s minister of finance, who has been vocal about the fact that “gender gaps in employment, business, and access to finance hold back not just individuals but whole economies.” She’s designing Indonesia’s budget to help close those gaps.
Amanda E. Johnson and KJ Miller, who paved the way for entrepreneurs who are women of color. Firms founded by women of color receive just 0.2 percent of all venture capital funding. Johnson and Miller defied the odds this year when they raised over $1 million to grow their business, Mented Cosmetics, a makeup line for women of color. I believe we’ll see a lot of other entrepreneurs following in their footsteps — and a world starting to recognize that many of tomorrow’s disruptive ideas will come from people who look nothing like yesterday’s founders.
Patty Jenkins, who gave aspiring young superheroes a woman to believe in. “New kinds of heroics need to be celebrated,” said the director of Wonder Woman, “like love, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, diplomacy.” Judging by the movie’s historic success at the box office, it’s clear that people worldwide feel the same way.
Women across the world who led grassroots movements for change. We saw it with the Women’s March at the year’s beginning, and again with #MeToo at the year’s end: Women who stand together are one of the world’s most powerful forces for progress. This is as true overseas as it is at home. Across the globe, there are women leading movements to end violence, empower people living with disabilities, expand workers’ rights, and so much more. As part of my work with the foundation, I’ve had the chance to meet some of those organizers. And when I think about all the incredible progress we saw in 2017, it’s those women who give me hope that there’s so much more to come.
Melinda Gates is a businesswoman and philanthropist and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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