The year 2020 has arrived, and I can hardly contain myself. Not only is it the dawn of a new decade, but I think it has the potential of being so much more. I think we’re looking at the Year of the Woman. The Me Too Movement sparked not only a call to end sexual harassment and assault, but also a call for women’s voices to be heard.
Already, I look around me and see more women in prominent positions once the exclusive territory of white males. As I write this, four women are in the race for Democratic candidate in the next presidential election. Another woman leads the House of Representatives with a dignity that seems to have escaped current politics. The leader of New Zealand is another example of a woman leading with poise and grace.
In media, women like Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon call the shots. A number of female-led television shows have debuted to join trend setters like Pretty Little Liars, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Madam Secretary. According to Variety, women make up 54% of key roles in network TV. And 2018 had the highest percentage of female-driven movies in 12 years.
Women have won 53 Nobel prizes, starting with Marie Curie. Recently, Esther Duflo won the Nobel in Economics. The numbers of female technology leaders has never been higher, leading companies like Oracle, IBM, Space X, YouTube, and more. In October, astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made the first all-female spacewalk. And it wasn’t just for show. They also replaced a failed power charging unit and installed a frame on the Columbus module in preparation for a new European Space Agency payload platform in 2020.
Coincidentally, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. In terms of history, a century is a drop in a bucket. While my mother and I have both voted proudly since we came of age, her grandmothers—my great-grandmothers—were not born with that right.
Women picketing outside the White House in the early 20th century.
Understandably, some readers will have to go back further in their family tree to locate women not allowed to vote. I am young enough to have never questioned my right to vote or to be anything I wanted to be. However, I’m old enough to have not received encouragement nor opportunities to explore science, math, and technology as a girl. While there is still a ways to go, I believe it’s changing for today’s girls. And it’s about time.
I certainly never saw female role models. My dad was the engineer, not my mother. Doctors, school principals, scientists, and politicians were men. History class focused on the men. With the exception of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time, I can’t think of any other female writers I was exposed to until college. Now, books by J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins lead the way. Yet before the 1997 release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Joanne Rowling’s publisher suggested that she use initials instead of her first name because boys might not want to read a book written by a woman.
I regularly write about fascinating females for children’s books. I’m always amazed at what I learn during my research. I often ask how is it that I did not know this? Why didn’t I learn about Ada Lovelace, Mary Anning, or Grace Hopper in school?
I understand that a movie about famed fossil finder Mary Anning will be released in 2020. Ammonite stars Kate Winslet as the woman who made it possible for the science of paleontology to grow exponentially in the 1800s.
I can think of dozens more stories featuring women that are worthy of being on the small or big screen. Hundreds of women with interesting stories. My hope is that the Year of the Woman brings us more of these stories.