Malala Yousafzai Wins the Nobel
When Malala Yousafzai shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Indian child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi in October, it was a watershed moment for women and girls everywhere. The Pakistani crusader for women’s education survived a horrifying assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012 to become one of the world’s most powerful advocates for women’s equality and equal access to education. At 17, she’s the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Prize, but she knows her work isn’t done. “This is not the end of the campaign I have started,” she said in her acceptance speech. “This is really the beginning.”
Mary Barra Becomes GM's CEO
Mary Barra’s ascendence to the helm of General Motors in January was a great moment for women in business, but the months that followed weren’t so great for Barra and the company. She says she learned about the automaker’s ignition switch problem just two weeks after she got the job– a problem which has been blamed for 21 deaths, more than 500 injuries, the recall of 2.6 million GM cars, and a $400 million victim compensation fund. That’s why her tenure has led to wider discussion of the “glass cliff” phenomenon, which is when companies promote women in times of crisis, which can often leave women holding the bag when it comes to dealing the company’s problems.
Facebook and Apple Cover the Cost of Egg Freezing
We learned in October that Facebook and Apple will cover costs for employees to freeze their eggs, even if they don’t have health problems. This means that you don’t have to be infertile to have your IVF covered—and that female employees will have much more flexibility when it comes to managing their family planning in a way that works for their career. The practice is beginning to spread to other companies as a way to attract smart female employees—Google is reportedly considering offering the benefit in 2015.
Adm. Michelle J. Howard is Promoted to Four-Star Admiral in the Navy
In July, Adm. Michelle J. Howard made history as the first woman ever to become a four-star admiral —she’s now vice-chief of Naval Operations, the first woman and first African-American to get the number-two job in the Navy. Before her promotion, Adm. Howard was the first African-American woman to become a three-star officer in the U.S. Military, and the first to command her own Navy ship. And in October, three women passed the Marine Corps’ grueling combat endurance test for the first time ever.
Beyoncé Gets Feminist at the VMAs
Beyoncé’s performance at the Video Music Awards in August was one of the most explicitly feminist pop-culture moments of the year—nothing could be more obvious than the word “FEMINIST” spelled out in giant letters behind the superstar. She performed a medley of hits from her self-titled surprise album, but paused to feature an audio clip of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech on feminism and double standards for women. After the performance, her toddler Blue Ivy said her mom did a “good job,” which became its own viral meme.
Maryam Mirzakhani Wins World’s Biggest Math Prize
In August, Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman ever to win the Fields Medal, which is the most prestigious award in mathematics (akin to the Nobel Prize). “I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians,” the 37-year old Stanford professor said when she learned she had won. “I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years.” Her work involves the symmetry of curved surfaces, like spheres and doughnuts, which could lead to greater discoveries in physics and quantum field theory.
Mo'ne Davis Pitches a Shut-Out Little League Game
This was the summer of Mo’ne Davis. The 13-year old became the first girl to pitch a shut-out game in the Little League World series, and only the 6th girl to get a hit. She also became the first Little League player to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In September, she threw out the first pitch for the L.A. Dodgers, and donated her jersey to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Frozen Becomes the Highest-Grossing Animated Film Ever
Even though Frozen fever started when the Disney hit came out in 2013, it reached new heights in the early part of 2014. In March, the female-led mega-hit became the highest-grossing animated movie of all time with a gross of $1.072 billion, proving once and for all that viewers will buy tickets to movies with female leads. Audiences loved the story of two strong sisters in an icy kingdom, for whom “true love’s kiss” doesn’t have anything to do with a Prince. And the money just kept rolling in—in May, Frozen reached a $1.219 billion gross to become fifth-highest-grossing movie of all time.
Female Superheroes Get Their Due
Marvel Comics announced in July that a woman would be taking up Thor’s hammer, and in October, Marvel Studios announced that Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) will get her own movie in 2018, the first female-led film from the studio. Meanwhile, DC announced the Wonder Woman movie is actually happening, but it won’t be until 2017. CBS just gave a series commitment to Supergirl, about Superman’s cousin. With all these new additions, the comic book universe is looking a lot less male.
Emma Watson Praises Male Feminists at the UN
In her new role as a goodwill ambassador for UN Women, the Harry Potter star gave a groundbreaking speech at the United Nations’ “He for She” event in September, calling on men to join women in the fight for gender equality. “I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” she said. “If there’s one thing I know for certain it is that this has to stop.” The speech quickly went viral, and was praised by fellow feminists like Taylor Swift as an excellent example for younger women.