EIGHT WOMEN WHO HAVE MADE CRACKS IN THE GLASS CEILING

14.11.16

The events of last week’s U.S. Presidential Election had a much more profound effect on twenty-something’s in New Zealand than we thought it would, perhaps because none of us truly believed that Donald Trump could, or would, actually win.

We believed that if voters opened their eyes to his bullying, his racism, his sexism and his belittling, then there would be no way they would trust him as the leader of the free world. So when we woke on Thursday morning and realised it hadn’t all been some twisted dream, we couldn’t help but feel, well, just sad.

Not surprised. But sad.

I mean, we can hardly act surprised when professional women have been enduring this kind of sexist bullshit for decades. There is nothing shocking about a highly experienced, balanced, prepared and intelligent women losing a job position to a man with a highly limited vocabulary and the emotional intelligence of Angelica Pickles. But if there is one small silver lining to this dark grey cloud that is looming over all of us, it’s that when people are truly sad, when they feel devastated, angry, and defeated, that is usually when they feel most compelled to stand up and take action. To be the change they wish to see in the world.

So I’ve come to this conclusion: We shouldn’t be sad because Hillary lost. We should be grateful because she tried.

“I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will – and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.” – Hillary Rodham Clinton

Here are eight inspiring women who have made cracks in that ever-present glass ceiling.


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Kathryn Bigelow made history in 2010 when she became the first female to win the Oscar for Best Director for her film The Hurt Locker. She said, “If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.”

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Hillary Clinton is the only First Lady to ever run for public office, serving as the first-ever female Senator from New York and the U.S. Secretary of State. She was also the first female presidential candidate of a major party. She may not have won the election but young girls will still grow up knowing that running for president is always an option for them.

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Coco Chanel revolutionised the way women wore clothes. She was the first couture fashion designer to cater to the independent women – she rejected the corset and instead re-imagined men’s designs like blazers and trousers that were far more practical and comfortable. Chanel formed the look in a way that would be acceptable rather than radical, for a post-war woman looking to keep her newfound freedom.

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Barbara Walters was a pioneer in broadcasting and journalism for many reasons. She was one of the first people to bring journalism and celebrity together, in the form of her, often ground-breaking, interviews. But she also fought the big fights to allow women to merely exist in the world of hard hitting journalism and television. She became the first female co-host of the Today Show in 1974 before being offered a huge salary to move to the role of co-host of ABC Evening News – even though the male host had expressed that he would rather host the show alone than present with a woman.

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Diane Von Furstenberg created her iconic ‘wrap dress’ in 1974 and it quickly became a symbol of power and independence for an entire generation of women. Diane’s commitment to empowering women is expressed not only through fashion but also philanthropy and mentorship. She sits on the board of Vital Voices, a non-governmental organization that supports female leaders and entrepreneurs around the world. In 2010 she established the DVF Awards to honor and provide grants to women who have displayed leadership, strength and courage in their commitment to their causes.

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Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook COO, is credited with pioneering the “Lean In” movement and changing the conversation about women in the workplace. She also co-founded the “Ban Bossy” Campaign which encourages schools to ban the term “bossy” among students and help young girls feel more confident about being leaders. The campaign, which was famously endorsed by Queen Bey, states that by the time children reach middle school more boys than girls want to be leaders and this is because girls are afraid they will be called “bossy” or will be disliked if they choose to lead.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 12: Actress Lena Dunham attends the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 12, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Lena Dunham challenged pop-culture’s representation of women by creating four highly-flawed and highly-relatable female characters for her show Girls. Hannah, Jessa, Marnie and Shoshanna navigated their twenties, relationships, dating and jobs in much the same way as the rest of us. They messed up, made life-changing mistakes and experienced the joy and sadness that comes with being in such a defining decade – our twenties.

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Emma Watson delivered a game-changing speech in 2014 at the United Nations Headquarters about her HeForShe campaign and in doing so ignited a global discussion on feminism and gender-equality. HeForShe focuses on getting men involved in the issues of gender equality because feminism is just as much a responsibility for men as it is for women. Emma believes that we won’t see true change in the world until men and boys join the movement as well. She said, “I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too …”.


Header image via Google