In just two years, the pandemic has threatened decades worth of progress towards gender equality. As of December 2020, women suffered a net loss of over 5 million jobs due to COVID-19; in 2021, one in three women reported that they may end up downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely if conditions don’t improve in the United States.
Worldwide, changes in employment patterns and social service disruptions have enabled a “shadow pandemic” of violence against women to take root. According to the World Economic Forum, the average time it will take for the global gender gap to close has grown from 99.5 to 135.6 years because of COVID-19.
The gendered impacts of the pandemic help to show that progress for women is difficult to sustain when structural inequalities are present. In order to remedy this, women need to be at the center of pandemic response and recovery efforts; advancing women’s political leadership is a step in the right direction.
While the United States has a long way to go to achieve intersectional, gender-balanced governance, progress was still made in 2021. From historic appointments to record-breaking elections, women reached new milestones at every level of government this year. So as difficult as it may be to find cause to celebrate in challenging times, here are 10 reasons to have hope for a more gender-inclusive future.
The year ahead does not promise a milestone to match the end of German Chancellor Merkel’s unprecedented run of 16 consecutive years as an elected female head of government. Nor does it tempt with history to match Harris’s ascendency as the first woman to reach the second highest job in American politics.
And a lot can happen in a volatile world, so it would be foolish to rule anything out.
I’ve led FairVote since it launched in 1992, grounded in a vision of lifting up structural reform nationally while advancing change locally. Today’s increasingly fierce partisan divisions and deterioration of our core democratic institutions have energized volunteers, fostered national debate, unlocked resources and earned attention from policymakers as never before.
For FairVote, it’s always been important to ensure that every voter can cast a meaningful vote in every election, to embrace representing Americans’ diversity of thought and identity fairly, and to reward leaders for collaborative policymaking. What has broadened our movement is a sense of urgency about the problem and the promise of viable solutions. Major grantmakers like Unite America and the Hewlett and Arnold foundations deserve great credit, as do the many Americans who make a difference with their dollars and time.
FairVote already has catalyzed impactful major voting improvements. We’ve helped advance Electoral College reforms to ensure the candidate with the most votes always wins, curbs on partisan gerrymandering, voter registration for all eligible Americans, and state and local wins that have made ranked-choice voting today’s fastest-growing nonpartisan electoral reform in the country.
We have decided to zero in on a campaign to win our original reform priorities: normalizing the RCV ballot across the nation and changing winner-take-all elections for Congress. While deeply appreciative of those seeking other reforms and upholding voting rights, we see the congressional Fair Representation Act as the single most important long-term change to stabilize and strengthen our democracy. At the same time there’s much we must win along the way in states and cities.
From the swearing in of our first woman vice president, Kamala Harris, to the severe restrictions on reproductive rights, 2021 has been a mixed bag for feminism. Of course, popular culture—ever a pulse from which to measure the present moment—served as a guide this year for feminist expression.
Here is a list of what got us thinking and talking about feminism in popular culture.
Filled with grace, standing on the shoulders of previous Black women inaugural poets like Maya Angelou—Gorman dazzled us with her spoken word. It wasn’t long before her as-yet-to-be-published book of poems sold out, and she even performed at this year’s Super Bowl, an NFL first for a poet. She has graced the covers of Vogue and Time, walked the red carpet of the Met Gala and she’s just getting started. Here’s to making Black women’s poetry cool again!