From nuns to astronauts: 10 women cracking the glass ceiling in 2019

Countries around the world have promised gender equality by 2030, but in 2019 a new index showed that even the most advanced nations weren’t doing enough to reach that goal.

Women are still paid around 20% less than men and make up fewer than one-quarter of national parliamentarians, according to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization.

Female participation in the labor force has grown in recent decades, as has gender parity at the top level of management, but women are still underrepresented in the corporate world.

But where are the bright spots? As the year draws to a close, we take a look at which women managed firsts in their fields. Here’s a list of 10 from around the world:

  1. First all-female spacewalk completed

In October, a team of two women from U.S. space agency NASA completed the first all-female spacewalk. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made up the first all-female team to step into space. There had been female spacewalkers before, but this was the first time there was a team of two women.

  1. The first woman pilot flew in the Indian navy

Sub Lieutenant Shivangi became the first woman to fly a plane in India’s navy. The milestone came three years after the country’s air force recruited its first female pilots.

  1. The first Native American women were sworn into U.S. Congress

In January, Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids were sworn in as lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, a first for native American women.

  1. Sudan named first female head of the judiciary

Supreme Court Judge Nemat Abdullah Khair was nominated to run the country’s judiciary, the first woman to do so in the Muslim African nation.

  1. First female president of Slovakia took office

In June, former anti-corruption campaigner and LGBT-friendly lawyer Zuzana Caputova became Slovakia’s first female president. LGBT+ activists hope it could lead to positive changes for gay and transgender rights in the conservative country.

  1. Pope Francis named first women to key Vatican department

Four women – three nuns and one layperson – became councilors in the office of committees, which prepares major meetings of world bishops held every few years.

  1. First British jockey raced in a hijab

Khadijah Mellah became the first British jockey to compete in a major event wearing a hijab. To top it off, she won the race in what she described as a “fairytale” victory.

  1. First black African woman climbed Everest

After multiple setbacks, South African Saray N’kusi Khumalo completed the challenge on her fourth attempt and now wants to reach the top of the other Seven Summits.

  1. First indigenous Mexican woman nominated for an Oscar

Yalitza Aparicio, 26, became the first indigenous Mexican woman nominated for an Oscar. Aparicio had never acted before she was cast as a domestic worker in the film “Roma,” and she used her newfound fame as a platform to campaign for workers.

  1. Financial Times newspaper picked first female editor

Roula Khalaf was named as the next editor of Britain’s pink newspaper, the first woman to do so since it was founded in 1888. Khalaf, who was born in Lebanon, has been at the paper for more than 20 years.    


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