Sure, 2018 was a battle for women, but we got shit done — and made history, too. From speaking out to help take down a system built to keep men in powerful positions to a record-breaking number of women elected to Congress following the 2018 midterms, females are ever closer to smashing through that seemingly impenetrable glass ceiling. Here’s a look back at all the top moments for women in this past year. Expect us in 2019 and beyond.
In January, Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to Michelle Obama, and civil rights lawyer Roberta Kaplan founded the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund to combat sexual harassment and the retaliation often associated with it in the entertainment industry and other workplaces. “Earning a living should not come at the cost of anyone’s safety, dignity or morale,” said Shonda Rhimes, one of the fund’s founding donors, in a press release. “Every person should get to work in an environment free from abuse, assault and discrimination.”
More than 150 women, including Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, provided scorching testimony detailing the physical and mental abuse they suffered at the January sentencing hearing of Larry Nassar, a former doctor for the USA Gymnastics, who pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and child pornography. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina delivered the final blow when she declared, “I just signed your death warrant,” after imposing a prison sentence of up to 175 years. In August, Simone Biles became the first woman to win five national all-around titles at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. Her uniform was teal, the color adopted for sexual assault awareness and prevention.
After the death of 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, dozens of students rose up to protest the lack of gun control policies and the National Rifle Association. Among the loudest voices was from Parkland student Emma Gonzalez, 19, whose passionate speech at an anti-gun rally in Ft. Lauderdale in February had the crowd shouting, “We call B.S.,” after every argument she’d heard being made by opponents of tightening gun laws. It spurred the March for Our Lives movement. She, along with fellow activists, was honored as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People.
“Thank you for allowing me to be the first black woman to headline Coachella,” Beyoncé told the crowd as she took the stage at the Indio, California-based music festival in April. Her historic 27-song set, which included appearances by her former Destiny’s Child bandmates and sister, Solange, brought down the house and got #Beychella trending — rightly so. It was the most-watched live-streamed performance to date.
New York Times investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey were the first to drop a bombshell about one of Hollywood’s tightly held secrets — the years of alleged sexual harassment and assault of women by famed film producer Harvey Weinstein. It sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry and brought to light thousands of #MeToo stories on social media from women everywhere. In April, Kantor and Twohey received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their exposé. Dana Canedy, notably the Pulitzer’s first woman administrator, said the Times team and The New Yorker contributing reporter Ronan Farrow produced “explosive, impactful journalism that exposed wealthy and powerful sexual predators.”
Some of the biggest blockbusters of 2018 included Ocean’s 8, Black Panther, A Star Is Born, A Wrinkle In Time, and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, to name a few. What’s the one thing they all have in common? A fierce cast of women. According to a recent study by the Creative Arts Agency and Shift7, the top movies from 2014 to 2017 starring women earned more than those led by their male counterparts, and considering this year’s movies with strong female leads made bank, we can anticipate similar results. Hollywood is stepping up in other ways, too. The cast of Black Panther recently introduced a scholarship to mentor women in entertainment, which funds a full grant to Loyola Marymount University worth $250,000. “We know that if we want to live in a world that looks more like Wakanda, the first step is you invest in women and girls,” Danai Gurira said at The Hollywood Reporter’s 2018 Women in Entertainment event.
In May, Stacey Cunningham became the first female president of the New York Stock Exchange, after working her way up the ranks and having launched her career as a trading floor intern in 1994. Women now lead two of the largest global exchanges in this male-dominated field (Adena Friedman was named CEO of the Nasdaq last year).
In brave, compelling public testimony that glued thousands of viewers to their screens in late September, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to speak on allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It was a flashback to the 1992 Anita Hill allegations against Justice Clarence Thomas 27 years prior, with gender dynamics in full display. Back then, women rose up and a record number ran for office after Thomas was confirmed (the so-called Year of the Woman), and the same can be said of the 2018 midterms, which saw a wave of women win seats in Congress after Kavanaugh got his place on the bench.
About that aforementioned women’s wave, records were shattered following the Nov. 6 election. A grand total of 125 women were elected to Congress and as heads of state — 102 in the U.S. House of Representatives, 14 in the U.S. Senate, and nine governors across the country. Among them were Deb Haaland, the first Native American woman in Congress; Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim women elected to Congress; Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts’ first black female representative; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the social media queen who ousted a 10-term incumbent in New York’s Democratic primary. Upward and onward, ladies!