We may have only just passed the half-way mark, but already 2018 is shaping up to be a fiercely empowering year for women.
From Saudi Arabia's removal of the female drivers ban to Hollywood's powerful Time's Up movement and frank discussions around equal pay, it's been a standout year so far.
In Australia, for the first time ever, more women than men were appointed to ASX 200 boards and, over the weekend, the Federal government acknowledged the unfairness and frustration behind the tampon tax.
To celebrate, we've rounded up seven of 2018's most defining moments for women so far — stay tuned for more to come.
In an historic first, female appointments to the boards of Australia's top 200 publicly listed companies exceeded male appointments in January to March. Last year, during the same period, only 33 per cent of appointments were women.
Of course, the goal is for this to be seen as the norm, not news, but here's to working in the right direction.
After last year's Yes vote, same-sex couples were legally able to exchange vows in Australia on January 9th 2018. As of June 1st 2018, 2490 same-sex weddings have taken place, with NSW leading the count..
While the long-overdue change in Australia's constitution has been celebrated throughout the year, there's a long way to go in ensuring equality and respect within the LGBTI+ community. Recognising the ongoing discrimination the Australian LGBTI+ community faces and prioritising the protection of their human rights is an issue many businesses and initiatives are continuing to strive toward.
Energy provider AGL is one large Australian business that publicly got behind the Yes campaign and are continuing their support of the LGBTI+ community through Mardi Gras and Pride Cup sponsorship, as well as the company's internal LGBTI+ initiatives. Implementing an LGBTI inclusion strategy in 2014, AGL operates on a business model that is specifically designed to respect, value and celebrate their employees.
Few can command a room like Oprah Winfrey. The iconic talk show host delivered an impassioned and heartfelt speech, while collecting the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement at this year's Golden Globes:
"So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'Me too' again."
In June, Saudi Arabian women were officially given the right to drive after the driving ban was lifted. Female Saudi racing car driver Aseel al-Hamad was overcome with emotion: Despite being a board member of the country's motoring foundation and driving a Formula One car at the French Grand Prix, the change in laws meant al-Hamad — along with the rest of the female Saudi population — was able to drive in her home country.
"I have loved racing and motor sport from a very young age and to drive a Formula One car goes even beyond my dreams and what I thought was possible," she said. "The most important thing I am looking forward to is to start seeing the next generation, young girls, trying [motor sport]. I want to watch them training and taking the sport very seriously as a career. This is going to be really my biggest achievement."
For the last 18 years Australian women have been paying a GST on their sanitary items. Branded as 'luxury goods', tampons and pads have been classed into the same category as designer handbags, while other items like Viagra and condoms remain exempt. After almost two decades of protesting, Federal and state governments have finally shown their support for scrapping the tampon tax, with Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison branding it an 'anomaly' and source of frustration for women.
Each year, the government makes $30 million in revenue from the GST on tampons and pads, with the average woman paying around $1,000 of tampon tax over the course of her lifetime. With women earning on average 15.3 per cent less than men, the tax is both unfair and unjust. While it's not officially removed as yet — all states will need to agree later this year — we're closer than we have been before.
Hollywood's plight for gender equality has continued following on from 2017's #MeToo movement. At the very beginning of the year, some of cinema's biggest names, including Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams, Emma Watson and Shailene Woodley, unveiled the anti-harassment plan and legal fund Time's Up. The initiative aims at helping women fight sexual harassment in the workplace, along with the backlash that can often come with reporting it.
Celebrities went on to show their support of the movement, wearing all-black ensembles to the Golden Globes, with a number of powerful actresses choosing to bring along a female activist as their date for the evening. By the end of February, the Time's Up legal defense fund had raised more than $20 million.
Prior to her wedding, the Duchess of Sussex spoke out in support of the movement, saying "There is no better time than to really continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered and people really helping to support them."
More than 150 women read their testimonies aloud to the court at the sentencing of former physician of the American gymnastics team, Larry Nassar. Over the course of a few days, each woman detailed their horrific experiences, their bravery leading to Nassar's 40 to 175 year prison sentencing, as well as the later resignation of the entire USA Gymnastics board.
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