2020 was the year of the woman…but not in the way we hoped it to be. She-cession, domestic violence, caretaking, essential workers. What do these words have in common? They were all the challenges women faced (and continue to face) because of COVID-19. It seemed like everywhere you looked women were dealing with one pandemic-related problem after another!
Mind you, it is not that these issues were new. They are the same problems that cause the insecurity and instability that women and girls face every day (abuse, financial insecurity, inequality). The pandemic amplified them for all to see, especially for black and brown women. It’s no wonder studies show women had higher stress levels than men and were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
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Yet despite these challenges, women did not abandon their responsibilities to make their families and communities better. They showed up, showed out, and came through in ways that reminded us that when you uplift one woman you uplift not only her family but also, her community.
Their efforts were felt in politics, finance, philanthropy, and much more. They returned our political landscape to some form of normalcy by helping to win the election in swing states, educated women on how to stay afloat during the pandemic with sound and free financial advice, gave women resources to help their businesses survive, and demonstrated what leadership at the highest level should look like. 11 women stood out the most to us for their resilience, leadership, and compassion during such a difficult year.
Here are 11 women who inspired us the most and whose profiles in resilience, leadership, and compassion we can mirror in 2021:
Who can ever forget the moment Georgia turned blue during the 2020 elections! Stacey Abrams showed us how to go high when others go low. She proved that you can take a negative outcome and turn it to your advantage by putting in the work, grit, and courage, and by empowering and mobilizing others to join you with your actions.
Like most who are underestimated, I have learned to over-perform and find soft but key ways to take credit. Because ultimately, leadership and power require the confidence to effectively wield both. ” – Stacey Abrams
She’s the epitome of smarts, tenacity, assertiveness, and fearlessness in the face of dealing with powerful (and sometimes not so nice – I’m being kind) people, and corrupt and unjust institutions.
When we think of Abby Phillip, the words “poise,” “grace,” “intelligence,” and “professionalism” come to mind. Those of us who have watched her rise at CNN are excited to see her rewarded for her impeccable talent with a promotion to senior political correspondent and her own show, Inside Politics Sunday With Abby Phillip. Frankly, it was a long time coming and well deserved.
Vice President, Kamala Harris
We couldn’t stop smiling the day Kamala Harris was selected to run as Vice President of the United States on the Biden/Harris ticket. By the time she gave her historic speech, we were literally beside ourselves! Never in a million years (yes even for this diehard feminist and optimist) did I believe that the United States would have its first female Vice President, let alone, one of African American and Southeast Asian descent in my lifetime.
Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before. And we will applaud you every step of the way,” – Vice President Kamala Harris
As I watched her subsequent inauguration with my girls, I couldn’t help but become emotional thinking how important this moment in history would be for them, their future, and all future generations of girls and boys.
No one, and we mean, no one understands the importance of financial freedom for women more than Sallie Krawcheck. What sets her apart from everyone else is her commitment to doing something about it. She does not just talk about it, she’s actually doing something about it through Ellevest, the financial company she founded to help women manage their financial investments.
Do everything possible to get more money in the hands of more women, so they can pay their own debt down, Krawcheck said. “Meanwhile, buy the damn latte — and don’t feel guilty about it.” – Sallie Krawcheck
She gives women the confidence to manage their finances with resources, coaching, and community.
If you don’t know the Sarah Blakely story, you’ve been hiding under a cave (just kidding!) But seriously, the story of Spanks and how Sarah Blakely created a product that revolutionized women’s undergarments is phenomenal! Even I, who had sworn never to wear anything that resembled a girdle now spots a few spanks in my collection. Those things actually hold sh*t together and most importantly, are not uncomfortable!
“I think my story says that, when women are given the chance and the opportunity, that we can achieve a lot. We deliver.” – Sarah Blakely
But that’s not even the best of it! Sarah’s commitment to uplift other women is exceptional. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 devastating many women-owned businesses, she pledged to give $5 million through The Red Backpack Fund to help women entrepreneurs survive. That was the equivalent of $5,000 each for 1,000 women!
If we told you we knew Mackenzie Scott before 2020, ahem…we would be lying! She came to our attention only after her divorce from Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, her role in helping him build the company in the early days of their marriage (hello, give credit where credit is due), and her newfound wealth from the separation. But what really made us pay attention to her was what she was doing with that wealth. Get this! In the last 4 months of 2020, this amazing woman gave away a whopping $4 billion to help fight climate change, historically black colleges (HBCUs), people hardest hit by the pandemic, and women and LGBT equity organizations.
“Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.” – Mackenzie Scott
Five Women Presidents/Prime Ministers: Angela Merkel, Jacinda Arden, Mette Frederiksen, Tsai Ing-wen, and Sana Marin
It’s time to flip the script! Stop telling women and girls to lead like men! Instead, we should be encouraging women to embrace their leadership style and telling men and boys to emulate it. As these magnificent women presidents/prime ministers demonstrated in the way their handling of COVID-19, it will make for a safer, more transparent, compassionate, and empathetic world. Most importantly, it will improve our lives. Now, who wouldn’t sign up for that!
The “think manager, think male” stereotype no longer stands alone. As 2021 unfolds, we can add a new one: “Think leader, think lady.” – Stephanie K. Johnson, Boomberg
2020 was a terrible year for everyone, but especially for women. It amplified the inequities and issues that continue to plague us and brought attention to the value we bring to our society as primary caretakers and essential workers. As I write this post, the U.S. surpassed a somber 500,000 million lives lost and 2.5 million deaths globally. Our hearts go out to all the families who have lost loved ones due to this horrible pandemic. It would be easy for us to be discouraged and disenfranchised by our situation but we choose to remain optimistic for a brighter future. As these 11 exceptional women demonstrated, we can rise above our problems even during the worst of times to care for one another and to do whatever it takes to ensure a safe, just, and better world for all of us.
Which women inspired you in 2021? Please share in comments below.